How big does a big problem have to be?

Carla's Call - a monthly contribution by Carla Marshall of Marshall and Associates

Carla Marshall is a monthly contributor to the Castlegar News

Carla Marshall is a monthly contributor to the Castlegar News

For many of us, September is the real New Year. Those many years of school programming, which once had us concerned with new outfits, pencil cases, and 24-packs of brightly coloured felt-tipped markers has, in adult life, turned to thoughts of achievement, accomplishment, and fresh starts.

And so it is with this ‘new year’ that many of us, though less overtly and perhaps more realistically than we did in January, plan our goals for the next months of cool weather as we work, parent, study, love, and live through another two seasons before the warmth returns. And how we create those plans is through decisions, choices, and actions, large and small.

This week I sat with a friend on her deck enjoying the lazy September sun, eating the largest and sweetest fresh-picked blackberries I’ve ever had. We discussed some of the big choices each of us had made, recently and over the years, and how we came to understand those choices, their value, their unpredictable outcomes, and their necessity.

Big choices can have lasting and sometimes spectacularly explosive effects on our lives. And these types of choices can create in us the most angst, deliberation, fear, or worry, and on the other side, exhilaration, joy, accomplishment and freedom that a decision about whether to make curried chicken and or pasta Bolognese for dinner cannot.

We often have a sense of knowing about our choices, even when we say we don’t know what we want. Yet why is it, when confronted by a daunting and challenging decision that calls for reserves of courage, that we say, “I can’t make a choice (take action) because I just don’t know what I want?”

Coaches are trained to challenge their clients to move from indecision to knowing. The reality is most of us spend so much time thinking about a particular problem we are confronting we can’t possibly imagine knowing the solution. Sometimes we may feel it would take a miracle to change the situation.

One technique to help get through this stuck and indecisive feeling is a mind experiment. Set aside a quiet time, and give yourself the freedom to play with this a bit. Decide not to limit yourself by excuses that can pop into mind when you start anticipating change: I’m too old, too broke, too young, not smart enough, it will upset my boss, my family… and the list goes on.

Suppose for a moment that I asked you to envision a strange, extraordinary situation that requires a bit of imagination. Suppose that tonight you go home to do something you normally do, perhaps watch a favourite television program, prepare dinner, walk the dog, or do some laundry. But tonight, in the middle of the night, while you are fast asleep, a miracle happens. And the miracle is that everything that is weighing on you, in particular this big problem or big decision, is solved. Just like that.

You wake up the next morning. You don’t know the miracle has happened because you were fast asleep and nobody told you a miracle had happened. Now here is the key: when you wake up, how would you begin to discover that the miracle had actually happened? What would be different in your life the day after the miracle? What would your life now look like? Recording your thoughts about how life looks and feels the morning of the miracle should help provide you some clarity whatever decision, choice, or action you are deliberating over.

And, with that, Happy New Year.