Retreating to Truth

People often ask me to help them make decisions. Sometimes these are situations where consciously weighing the pros and cons may be prudent. But more often than not, when the options are presented, it’s reasonably clear what the person would like to do. They’ve already decided. What they’re really asking is how to get aligned with the decision they’ve already made.

When someone asks me if they should quit their job, they’ve usually made the decision to quit already, even if they’re still showing up to work.

When someone asks me if they should leave their relationship partner, they’ve usually left already, even if they’re still living together.

Is this true all of the time? No, not always, but it’s pretty common.

How can you tell if you’ve already decided and you’re just blocking yourself from following through? One way is to ask yourself this: If you could snap your fingers and be on the other side of your pending transition, would you feel relieved?

Would your preferred option be relatively clear then? If so, that’s a hint that you’ve already decided, and you’re just working on coming to terms with that decision.

When people haven’t figured out the how, such as how to transition, they often frame their challenge as if it’s still about the what, such as what decision to make.

When the power aspect of a given path looks scary, we frequently go back and question the truth aspect. We tell ourselves that we’re still trying to decide. Saying “I’m not sure” is easier than saying “I don’t feel strong enough to do this.” But saying “I’m not sure” keeps us stuck while the other approach helps us progress.

Retreating to truth is a socially acceptable pause button. We can devise endless justifications for indecision. We can claim to need more research, more advice, or more analysis. But when we retreat to truth in the face of a power challenge, we’re applying the brakes instead of advancing.

If a challenge scares us and we know that we can delay it by retreating to truth-based questions, we’ll behave like a computer stuck in an infinite loop. Should I stay or move on? Do I quit or recommit? We use ambivalence as a delay tactic. Ambivalence keeps us safe from the monstrous power challenge ahead.

How can we advance against power challenges that feel too big for our current level of strength?

We probe the challenge to find out how much strength is really needed. If we need more strength and skill, we acquire it. And if the challenge is too big to handle alone, we enlist the help of others. Then if the challenge is still too big, we accept that it’s a big challenge, and we work on becoming strong enough to face it.

What we don’t want to do is retreat back to truth by pretending that we haven’t decided. We admit that we’ve decided, and we work on summoning the courage to face the challenge, even when we don’t feel strong enough to face it yet. We step up.

Be wary of the trap of retreating to truth when you’re facing a power challenge. Learn to say to yourself, “I know what I need to do, but right now I lack the strength to do it. I’ll accept the truth of this decision, even though it’s difficult to do so, and now I’ll work on becoming strong enough to act in alignment with my truth.”

When a power challenge arises in your life, honor it as such. Don’t retreat back to truth. Be willing to say, “This is a power challenge, but right now I don’t feel strong enough to deal with it.” Then you can work on becoming stronger. But if you retreat back to truth, you won’t build your strength; you’ll just stay stuck.

Avoiding a power challenge brings confusion. Facing and accepting a power challenge brings clarity, even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to tackle the challenge yet.

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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