In an early scene from the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy reaches a crossroads on the yellow brick road and is faced with a decision of how to proceed. Her directions as she was leaving the Land of the Munchkins was to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” and now it has split in two.
She wonders, “Now which way do we go?”
The Scarecrow on the side of the road points to his left and replies, “Pardon me. That way is a very nice way.”
Dorothy looks around, puzzled, and asks, “Who said that?”
Toto begins to bark at the scarecrow, as if to say, “He did!”
Dorothy replies sensibly, “Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk.”
The Scarecrow points to his right and adds, “It’s pleasant down that way, too.”
Puzzled, Dorothy comments again to Toto, “That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?”
The Scarecrow suggests his sage conclusion, “Of course, people do go both ways.”
Dorothy, now questioning what is becoming more clear, comments to the Scarecrow, “Why, you did say something, didn’t you?”
The Scarecrow shakes his head “no”, then “yes,” obviously displaying his confusion.
Dorothy curiously asks, “Are you doing that on purpose, or can’t you make up your mind?
The Scarecrow confesses, “That’s the trouble. I can’t make up my mind. I haven’t got a brain. Only straw.”
Ever the skeptic, Dorothy inquires, “How can you talk if you haven’t got a brain?”
Innocently, the Scarecrow replies, “I don’t know. But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking.”
Making Up Our Minds
This intersection in Dorothy’s journey provides a wonderful analogy of our experience with decision making. We find ourselves unable to “make up our minds,” much as the Scarecrow does. We can do “an awful lot of talking” as we attempt to reach a decision.
While we rely on our brains to guide us through choices, there may be times that feel like a head full of straw is keeping us from coming to a conclusion.
Ah, the dilemma of decisions.
How do we move past the indecision brought on by our attempts to choose right versus wrong, and move into the process of seeing decisions as opportunity?
The Past Decision Hangover
We’ve been taught to “be careful” so we don’t make the WRONG decision, as Susan Jeffers explains in her book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.
What is a decision you made in the past that you continue to revisit and scrutinize?
Are there decisions that you continue to beat yourself up for making?
What is the cost of looking back at those decisions and questioning if you should have chosen differently?
When faced with wanting to make the “right” decision, our fear of a negative outcome can paralyze us from making any decision.
One of the biggest fears that keeps us from moving ahead with our lives is our difficulty in making decisions. The irony, of course, is that by not choosing, we are choosing…!Susan Jeffers
Were My Past Decisions “Wrong?”
I have seven grandchildren. The youngest recently had his first birthday. During his first year, my business schedule allowed me to care for him when his parents’ schedules required them to both work.
I cherished these hours I spent with him, and I’m grateful for having the opportunity to watch him learn to sit up, play with Lego blocks, and explore feeding himself.
These wondrous moments often remind me that my two sons were in daycare when they were my grandson’s age. My oldest son took his first steps at his day care home.
I was a working Mom and I wanted to pursue my career. My husband was a small business owner working long hours to service his customers.
My sons were in day care possibly as early as six weeks after they were born (the typical maternity leave allowance at the time). As a result, I shudder now to think these babies were in someone else’s care at such a young age while I worked.
During most of their first year, my seven grandchildren were cared for at home by both their mothers and their fathers with the benefit of flexible work schedules.
The mother of six of these grandchildren is a dedicated, stay at home mom. As I admire and appreciate her natural gifts for raising her children, I again catch myself questioning my decisions to have my sons in day care as infants.
Will my future decisions be “wrong?”
When we judge past decisions as being “wrong,” we create a fear that future decisions will also be wrong! We may fear that we are not good enough or smart enough to make the “right” decisions.
Our attempts to manage and control issues from a place of fear can be exhausting!
We are afraid to leave our job or a relationship. We resist leaving our church, a community, or a friend because we don’t want to hurt or disappointment someone else.
This may result from these earlier life events when we experienced hurt, sadness, or disappointment.
We avoid making a decision in the present to make sure we’re not hurt or disappointed again in the future.
As Peter Crone explains in his podcast, Redesign and Free Your Mind, our brains create this fearful future!
Most people are trying to avoid a bad future that hasn’t even happened yet.Peter Crone
We may come to believe that at some point, in a perfect future, we can make the right decisions.
When I have…
- a perfect relationship
- the perfect weight
- a perfect marriage
- the perfect job, friends, house, children…
…then my fear will be gone and I’ll make the right decision.
Peter Crone reminds us that we create these concerns. Circumstances are what they are. We choose how to respond to circumstances and we create our perception of life.
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.Eckhart Tolle
The No-Win Decision
We’ve been taught to face decisions using a “No-Win” model of decision making. We fear imaginary negative consequences and the “what if” questions creep into our analysis. We attempt to predict the outcome, grasping to “control” it. Paralysis can set in and the decision is batted back and forth like a ping pong ball.
When we finally make a decision, we may begin to second guess it. We are looking in the rear view mirror and asking ourselves, “What if I had decided differently?”
Even as the outcome of your decision seems to be working out, you may begin to worry that this is temporary or could change in the future because you MADE THE WRONG DECISION.
What if there is nothing to “fix?”
In early 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, I encountered this quote:
What happened, happened, and couldn’t have happened any other way, because it didn’t.Peter Crone
If what happened could not have happened differently, then how can decisions be right or wrong?
The No-Lose Decision Model
In Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers offers a shift in the way we look at how we make decisions. When our lizard brain inserts itself to alert us to the danger of making a wrong decision, Jeffers proposes her “No-Lose Model” to counteract our fear.
The No-Lose Model changes our focus, with our choices becoming opportunities to “Experience life in a new way, to learn and grow, to find out who you are and how you would really like to be and what you would like to do in life,” according to Jane Taylor in Decision Making: No-Win and No-Lose.
Taylor suggests, “Which ever choice you make, you trust yourself to be able to handle it and both choices are right.
What if the “what ifs…” resurface again after making a decision? The No-Lose model suggests that if our decision does not work out as anticipated, there are always benefits that we don’t necessarily see in the present moment.
Making a No-Lose Decision
Consider this example of a No-Lose Model decision. You choose to accept one of two job opportunities after struggling with which one is best for you. After you have joined the new company, there is a change in management and your position is suddenly eliminated. You admonish yourself by thinking, “I made the wrong choice!”
Equally as sudden, your new employer who has recognized your skills and strengths then creates a new position for you with elements of your dream job, which didn’t even exist when you accepted the position that was just eliminated.
Why would we choose the No-Win approach and put ourselves through torment, doubt, and pain?
Our programming about being perfect sets us up to choose “safe” decisions, possibly missing the opportunities that can come our way when we follow our instinct, quiet the voice of fear, and trust the decision making process.
As we learn to embrace the No-Lose approach to life, Jeffers suggests that our self-esteem increases. Ultimately, our fears and paralysis around making decisions are diminished as we learn to trust ourselves and our ability to survive regardless of the outcome.
No-Lose Decisions Have Positive Outcomes
I am a strong believer in Silver Linings, or unexpected detours. I chose divorce and learned to fully support myself and live independently.
Choosing to support my former husband through his journey with cancer, and eventually his death, I learned the meaning of Grace.
Faced with financial difficulty, I made a regret filled decision to sell my home. The experience taught me that I was a survivor and that I could create a financial position stronger than any I had in my earlier life.
Returning to work after maternity leave, I became part of a culture that had shifted significantly in one generation from stay at home Moms (like mine) to mothers entering the workforce and pursuing careers, like myself.
Every Scenario Has A Variety of Solutions
My husband and I found caring women who had well run in-home day care businesses. I was confident that my children were safe, well fed, and were in the best environment other than being at home. These day care providers orchestrated wonderful opportunities for learning and socialization.
In contrast, my six grandchildren with their stay at home mom learn about life through their home school curriculum and their backyard garden. They are receiving a well rounded education. My daughter-in-law’s gifts and talents are showcased in being a full time Mom at home with her children.
Early in my relationship with this daughter-in-law, I would find myself comparing my choice to pursue a career and place my children in day care with her choice to remain at home with her children. At the time my children went to day care, I also believed there was an attitude of superiority among women who chose to work out side the home regarding those moms who chose to stay at home. Were we trying to justify a nagging question of “Did I make the right choice?”
My seventh grandchild recently began day care after his first birthday and I felt anxious about this new chapter in his young life. Couldn’t he just stay at home with his parents a few more years? Did he have to take that step into the unknown and unfamiliar so young? Doubts about my past decisions for my children were influencing my thoughts about my grandson’s future.
The “What If” Game
I once again began to question the decision I made years earlier to work outside the home! So many years had passed and I was still wondering “What if?”
Were my children negatively impacted by spending their youngest years in a day care instead of at home?
My career offered me the opportunity to grow a business and make connections with people who are still part of my life today. I gained in-depth knowledge about the world of real estate and lending. I believe my choice to work outside the home expanded my skills and insights as a person.
And what were the benefits for my children? They learned how to interact with other children and adults, and how to adapt to new environments.
I choose to believe that my finding fulfillment as a small business owner contributed to my sons’ beliefs that they could also find fulfillment in their future choice of careers. And the bottom line is that they have.
Thirty plus years ago, Moms working outside the home opened the door for the next generation of women that followed. Today, the options have expanded for both parents as technology provides greater flexibility for them to combine staying home with children while continuing to work.
Do I have a lingering bias about stay at home Moms? Absolutely not. I know that my grandchildren benefit and learn from a mother who is completely fulfilled by her role as a stay at home mom who chose not to pursue a career outside the home.
I remind myself that what happened, happened, and could not have happened any other way because it didn’t. Thank you, Peter Crone.
Practice the No-Lose Decision Model
Try this exercise suggested by Susan Jeffers. Consider a decision you are exploring. List all the positive outcomes that could happen for every choice your are considering.
Then try out this suggestion to help with your decision.
Which path in life will make you grow? That is the path to take.Susan Jeffers
As for Dorothy, she chose a path and adopted the Scarecrow. She met her new friends, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. She encountered witches, flying monkeys and a wizard, and eventually found her way home. People do “go both way,” as the Scarecrow reminds us, with successful outcomes!
Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.Wayne Dyer
Speaking of change, check out my blog, Change is the New Normal. And Always Has Been.