What If I Choose Wrong?


Parenting Coach & Writer

Dear Reader,

Part of why I’m thinking about courage right now is because I’m parenting another child through the process of figuring out what she’s going to do with her next step. She’s finished high school, and she’s got a whole world of possibilities open to her for what she decides to do next, literally. There are schools and jobs and possibilities everywhere she looks. The hard part is deciding what she wants. Actually, the hard part is deciding between the many things she wants and picking just one.

Making choices is scary. We have to live with the outcome, and we don’t know how it will turn out.

“What if I choose wrong?”

We can be so afraid of making the wrong choice that we delay making any choice at all.

I know how she feels.

It requires courage to make choices about important things, instead of deferring them, or asking someone else to make them for us. Sometimes I just want someone to tell me exactly what to do, and how to do it, and guarantee that if I do it I will get the desired result.

But this is the real world. There is no guaranteed outcome my friend.

The fear is real, because the stakes are real. You don’t know how any of your choices will turn out, and you have to make a choice anyway.

This is terrifying.

This is also liberating.

It depends on how I think about it.

You see, if there is no way to know how things will turn out, if life isn’t a true and false test where there is only one right answer, and if we get that answer wrong we’ve blown it, then that frees us to experiment.

In fact, that’s what I find most helpful when I’m afraid to make any decisions.

This isn’t a test, this is an experiment.

There are so many different ways that life can be good and our choices can turn out well.

To think about.

Does the idea that there is no single right answer scare you?

Or does it comfort you?

Once I free myself from the story in my head of life as a test that I have to get all the questions right on, that frees me to make the best choice I can with what I already know.

I will make mistakes. It’s inevitable.

The mindset of experimenting accepts mistakes, embraces them even. Mistakes are a useful results. They teach us something we didn’t know before about what we're trying to understand, our experiment. With the knowledge gleaned from "mistakes" we can adjust and try another approach.

The more we try, take action, test our theories in real life situations, the closer we get to understanding what we we want, what we are capable of, and what we should do next. Mistakes are helpful and instructive. We don’t need to fear them.

Do your best with what you know, and when you know better, you can do better.

Fear can be paralyzing. It can keep us from taking any kind of action at all.

We sit, afraid to move, afraid to take that first step in a new direction, and life passes by. We make up all sorts of reasonable excuses for why we won’t move, (because we are very good at rationalizing our fear based responses,) but in the end, it’s because we’re afraid.

Fear is not a good decision making matrix. We have to get out of it to move forward.

(I’m not saying we have to stop feeling afraid in order to make a decision, because often that’s impossible. I’m saying that we have to acknowledge that the fear is there and recognize that it’s making up reasons why we shouldn’t try something in order to hide itself from us. Once we are looking fear straight in the face, we can remind it, and ourselves, that this isn’t a test with only one right answer. This is an experiment, and we get to try things and learn from them.)

I tell my teenager, the one who the world laid out at her feet, and endless possibility in front of her, “The only wrong choice would be to not make a choice at all, to just drift along and let things happen to you, instead of choosing a direction and committing to it long enough to find out if it’s a good one.

There is no wrong answer. We don’t know what will happen.

But you have to take action and try things in order to learn to make better choices over time. Just like courage is something we can practice, making decisions is also something we can practice and become more confident in.

So whether it’s choosing a university in Switzerland, or getting a job in the US and doing an online degree, either choice will help her get better at understanding herself, what she wants, what she’s good at, and what she will do next.

Almost everyone has that one thing that they would do, that they know they should do even, if they were less afraid. What is yours?

What would happen if you just tried it anyway?

Remember, there's more than one way to get it right.

I get it. I really do. I know what I know about fear because of how often I've had to confront it.

I know what it is to struggle with the fear of getting it wrong. I’ve been that way my whole life.

So it is not with any amount of flippancy that I tell you how freeing it is to shift over to the attitude of “We’re going to try this, and see what happens.”

It makes everything lighter. It’s almost playful.

“Let’s just try, and see how it goes.”

This mindset allows our best, most whole, and bravest self to come forward and decide what our next steps will be.

Love, Carrien

PS. I've started a Substack. I'm writing completely different things over there.
That's the space where I am publishing my more creative, story telling content. Check it out if you like.

Thanks for reading. If you liked this, please share it with a friend.

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Hi! I'm Carrien.

I'm a writer, parent mentor, and resilience coach. My passion for helping parents to protect their children and raise them to be resilient has extended to creating resources that have helped thousands of refugee and migrant families on the Thailand/Myanmar border through my work with The Charis Project. - I am also the mother of 6 amazing and rather resilient humans, who have managed to thrive in spite of their unconventional upbringing and being dragged around the world by their parents. - Join me here for words to heal and fill your parent heart and shape the words you give to your children.

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