I planned to write about dealing with conflict this week. How we handle conflict is important - especially when it comes to having healthy relationships I will get to it in a future post. But first I want to talk about inner conflict. You know that anxiety you feel when you need to make a decision or take action in your life? When you feel conflicted internally it can keep you stuck and stop you from moving forward in your life.
Recently I was trying to decide whether or not to order a Kindle reader. I was back and forth on the decision. For some reason, I found it surprisingly difficult to order the reader. I finally did order it and then I immediately wanted to send it back. I felt like I needed therapy (an option I find very helpful at times in my life). I was frustrated with so much internal conflict on a purchase that was less than $100.
I’ve been exploring why I felt so much internal angst in this situation. I’ve made bigger decisions with far less anxiety. In fact, I was with a friend this week and she was putting in an offer on a house and she quipped, “You’ve probably spent more time worrying about your reader than I have on buying a house.” And she was absolutely right!
Have you ever spent way more time than feels reasonable thinking about a decision you want to make? Angonized over whether or not to have a conversation with someone? Stood in a store debating whether or not to buy a pair of shoes? Or felt paralyzed looking in your closet trying to decide what to wear out for dinner with some friends? Read on!
One thing I know for sure whatever you are feeling is a result of what you are thinking about the situation. So if you want to understand indecision or internal conflict you need to start with understanding what you are thinking.
1. Are you experiencing a values clash? I’ve been trying to simplify my life and spend less money. The value of simplifying my life (using an eReader) was in direct opposition with my value of not purchasing any non-essentials. When I thought about it from a values perspective I realized that ultimately I would spend less on books with the reader. I would simplify my life and spend less money. When you are vacillating on a decision consider what values might be at odds in the situation. You may need to choose one over the other.
2. Are you afraid of making the wrong choice? When I'm feeling stuck I remind myself that very few things in life can’t be reversed. I can sell the e-reader. I can give it away. I don’t have to use it exclusively. I can test it out. I can use it for six months and if it wasn’t a good purchase SO WHAT? I can have a learner’s mindset. I'm not looking for a perfect solution. There probably isn’t a right or wrong decision. It doesn’t matter if you buy the shoes or not. It’s not the end of the world. Be loving and compassionate with yourself. Allow yourself to change your mind or to try things out. And if you decide it wasn’t a great decision - move on. As Courtney Carver said on a Reframe Your Life interview, “Let it go. You paid for it once don’t keep paying for it.” Internal conflict can be rooted in fear of making the wrong choice. Are you thinking you need to make a perfect choice or that you can't change your mind later if it doesn't work out?
3. Are you worried about disappointing people or what someone might think? Stop and think about this when you are feeling conflicted in your life. So many people say smugly, “I don’t care what anyone thinks!” I think that is BS. I think we all care what someone thinks. Maybe you don’t care what your neighbour thinks but you might care very deeply about what your partner or a good friend thinks. There is more wisdom in having a small group of people whose opinion matters to you than the false bravado of ‘not carrying what anyone thinks.’ So, if you are afraid of what someone specific will think and that is causing you internal conflict in a decision, pay attention and have a conversation with them. If your fear is more vague about what people, in general, will think it will keep you stuck.
4. Are you feeling pressured to make a decision? Sometimes timing is an issue and we have to make a decision quickly. Usually, you can give yourself some space. The store will hold the item while you think about it. The reader will be there tomorrow. You don’t need to decide today. Your relationship can probably wait another day or two before you confront a concern or issue. Internal conflict can come from putting pressure on ourselves to resolve an issue before we are ready or have the clarity we need to make a good (not perfect) choice.
When your are feeling internal conflict, step back. Listen to what is happening in your head and consider how your thoughts about having to make a perfect choice, say the right thing or decide now are keeping you from feeling peace in the situation. And you know who can help you? I’m here.