So we’ve all come to crossroads in our lifetime and had to make decisions about what to do, whether it’s about taking a new job, moving on from a relationship or making a new start on life… but how do we choose what to do?
Is it a sign, a test or a lesson?
I recently experienced what it is like to be at that crossroads point of life; two paths and a decision to make, or so I thought.
I chose one path and it filled me with excitement – this is what I wanted. But something changed; the world began to look a little different in just a day. The feeling of ‘I’m on the right path’ was beginning to wane and my gut instinct kicked in. You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when your gut constricts and contorts? We call it gut instinct for a reason; our gut has as many neurons as a cat’s brain, so this was information not to be dismissed.
I sat with the feeling for a while and asked myself what this was about. My first reaction had been that it was a sign that I was meant to follow the path that had been presented to me.
I turned to a friend who I trust and they asked me this ‘will this add to your life now or will it take away?’ I suddenly realised this was not a sign at all, but a test to see whether I had learnt to value myself and not follow my same old pattern.
We all look for signs to guide us through life whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Our unconscious directs our attention towards our focus at the time. So for example, we might have just learnt a new word and then we can’t stop seeing that word wherever we go. My lovely NLP tutor tells me this is called the reticular activating system at work, which filters out the familiar for us. We’ve all heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy; well this is also linked to looking for the familiar, looking for all the evidence to prove something to ourselves (usually bad in this case). Some of us might use signs as a reason to make a decision, for example about taking a job, without stopping to question if the job might even be something that fits with our values.
So messages or signs aren’t always that easy to decode and perhaps there is no set meaning other than what it is we feel and think at that particular time. What we choose to do with that comes down to our free will and choice and our decision will determine the outcome.
Signs are external factors, they are separate from ourselves but it is our internal mechanisms that interpret this data for us and our gut instinct is the key to guiding us through life. We often already know the answer, we just need something to confirm it for us and that is more often than not our trusty old gut instinct. Look to your internal self for the answers to see if something really is a sign, a test or just a lesson in life.
What makes us decide to do something?
There are many reasons why I have chosen to do something whether it is money driven; a new job with a pay rise, or security in the form of a house, comfort in a relationship or instant gratification in the form of a cake! We all have a feedback loop for decision making. Should I really have eaten that last chocolate éclair? However, we don’t always take note of that useful feedback system and sometimes our reasons for making a decision don’t really add value to our lives. For example, a new job with a pay rise may well give me more money, but will I be more stressed and have less time for myself? What is more valuable to me?
How do our past, present and future affect our decision-making processes?
Sometimes we let crossroad decisions be dictated by what has happened in the past or what we want to happen in the future. Something may have added value in the past but that does not mean it will add value right now or in the future and vice versa.
If we keep going back to something, maybe it is because there isn’t enough of something else. What is missing that would be more valuable than the thing we kept going back to?
Just as letting go of physical objects can be a good thing, so too can letting go of patterns that we have created in our lives. Letting go of physical things can have a profound effect on our mental capacity to let things go.
In terms of holding onto things in the future, it’s like all those shiny tempting things that we think we want but sometimes it is accepting that what we have is enough or that something else, less material will add far more value.
Want some cheese?
Here’s the somewhat cheesy part, but something I have truly come to believe and whether it is true or not, it makes life a whole lot simpler to understand. I believe we are sent lessons and tests throughout our lifetime to guide us on our journey but it’s whether we take the time to notice them and what decisions we make that really count. Life will keep sending messages until we catch on to them.
So what now?
I’ve hit a few crossroads this year and I’m still learning everyday; here are some of my insights.
- Ask questions – will this add to my life or take away? These are no different from the questions I would ask about the material stuff in my life. If this were sent as a lesson or a test, what would be the thing I need to learn from this?
- Take time to re-root and remind yourself of what your path is, what do you want in your life RIGHT NOW and what are you not prepared to give up that is currently serving you well.
- Go with your gut and heart – what is your gut instinct and what is your heartfelt feeling about it? This makes sure you are truly honest with yourself and not resisting your very being.
- Look at your patterns in life What have been the patterns of your decisions in the past and is it time to question our default behaviours and take a different approach? Is it time to change our learnt behaviours, the things that worked as a child, that don’t work for us anymore as adults?
- Turn to a friend or counsellor – Friends are great and know you well enough to offer some great insights. Be mindful that friends, even though they may have your best interests at heart, have their own ideas about what you should do and sometimes counselling/coaching might be a great way to chat things through.
- Remember the impermanence of life – nothing is permanent in life and it’s easy to think that it will stay the same but be ready and open to receive new lessons, tests and signs.