My school friends and I have just booked our annual weekend away, going to Center Parcs next March. It’ll be our second trip there. Before that we went to a couple of 1990s weekends at Butlin’s holiday camps. These were lots of fun but after two of them I felt I’d had my fill of reliving my youth. When the subject of the next group getaway came up one lunch together, I seized the chance to say I didn’t want to go there again. Turns out some of the others felt the same so changing the destination was really painless but when I raised my objection I didn’t know that would be the case. There were no signs that the others felt as I did so I was taking the risk that they would all simply go to Butlin’s without me – in fact I even encouraged them to do that if they were still enjoying the events.
In this instance the situation worked out really well but rarely can we be sure of this when we speak out about a difficult decision we’ve made. Although we may hope that our choice will be welcomed, we have to accept that others may not react as we want them to. We may fear the response of our parents or friends or children. We might be so worried about what others will say that we are deterred from taking the path we wish to follow, whether that’s emigrating or separating or abstaining.
For all of us, there are occasions when we make a decision that is hard enough in itself then find that the response we get makes it worse still. Even when the change is positive for us (getting fit, a new job which we love and pays more) – or perhaps especially when the change is positive for us – the new situation may seem like a threat to our nearest and dearest, triggering a defensive stance from them.
In such circumstances, we are perhaps breaking a rule, whether stated or unwritten. Maybe we’ve always enjoyed a boozy Friday night with a friend which they’ve assumed is a never changing fixture in our diaries yet suddenly you’re cutting out early so you’re fresh for a run on Saturday mornings. Maybe splitting up with your partner challenges your family’s treasured determination to stick relationships out no matter what the cost. Maybe quitting your job to pursue your dream breaks the complicit understanding between you and your husband that work has to be a source of unhappiness which you can moan about together.
Even more insidiously, friends and family can make the right noises about changes we make yet in reality strive to undermine or sabotage our efforts. We all know people like this: the parent who seems to encourage weight loss but sulks when we refuse second helpings, the friend who says they’re pleased we’re in a romantic relationship then proceeds to dig for the new beau’s flaws, the sibling who remembers all our previous failed attempts at habit change (“The only thing you could run is a bath!” – please say I’m not the only person whose younger brother has said that to them?!).
This time of year is often a crisis point in terms of trying to make changes or instigate a significant new choice as we find ourselves spending more time than usual with our loved ones. It’s tempting to just take the path of least resistance and stick to the status quo…tempting except that while this is easier for those around you, it may be considerably harder for you. Maybe you just can’t bite your lip any longer. Maybe you simply cannot tolerate the bad behaviour of another or the condoning behaviour of yourself. Maybe the prospect of waking up in the same situation in twelve months’ time makes you feel sick.
Perhaps you’re a lucky one and you don’t have any such big decisions to face. If there’s no painful choice that you deep down know you have to face sooner or later then I envy you. I wish I could say it were so for me or indeed many others. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are more of us who have a tough decision decision lurking near. I suspect this because over the last six months I’ve heard many telling me I’m brave for doing the things I’ve done, such as walking away from a seemingly enviable career, and saying they’d love to do something similar only someone in their life is holding them back from it. Any time you wonder “But what would X say?”, you’ve touched on this.
I wish I could tell you that making big, hard choices actually works out really well and you’ll be supported in the end, only this is not true. You might run the risk of ruining a relationship. Things might never be the same again. But I can tell you that if you don’t do what’s right for you then you’ll end up hurting yourself far more than your choice will hurt others. You will always suffer for this sacrifice.
The other thing I feel sure in saying is that there is rarely, if ever, a right time. Sometimes we think that by leaving things a while longer that it’ll get easier or the situation will change enough that our decision is redundant. This is simply not true. How it is now is how it is. You could be waiting your whole life for better circumstances and they may never come. Accept what is and act now. Step towards your decision today, tomorrow, over the weekend, in the next week. Act before the end of the year. Start 2017 having taken the decision you know you need to face. It may not be easy but it will be done.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate it if you could share it on social media using the buttons below. And if you find yourself regularly coming back here, how about signing up to my mailing list? You get a monthly letter from that comes complete with links to all my writing (blog posts, Sunday Suggestions and articles elsewhere) as well as a creativity prompt for you to try.