The freedom to explore, change course and back-track

This post is a bit of a muddled reflection of how conditioning in childhood to ‘never give up’ can impact how we exercise our ability (and right) to change our mind in adulthood (of course, these days we like to call it ‘pivoting’ or some other inane descriptor in an attempt to make the fact that we changed our mind more palatable). In any case, the ‘muddlement’ below no doubt reflects the inner turmoil I’m currently working through as I execute my own ‘pivot’!

‘Better the unknown, one man told me, than the certainty of the disaster that awaits us here.’

DA Bell (1995)

One of the things I remember being taught as a child is how important it is to ‘finish what one starts’. Following your choices through to the end was the only way—quitting was simply not allowed.

I wasn’t aware of how this conditioning as a child had permeated my adult self until a few years ago when we engaged a coach to help us work through some changes we wanted to make in our business. Umpteen challenging sessions and numerous drafts later, we agreed on a plan to move our business from A to B.

It was at that point, amid hearty celebrations and self-congratulations that our coach quietly said, ‘Of course, you can change your mind at any time. That is your right to do that. Makes no difference to me.’

My first thought was, what the hell? What sort of business coach isn’t going to hold his coachees to account? (I’ve done a certificate in workplace coaching and providing an escape hatch was not part of the coach’s toolkit). But then I became confused. Something bothered me about the idea of being given permission.

It took a long time to jostle the idea around but eventually I realised that it wasn’t about being given permission; it was the unconditional respect for whatever decision I took. No justification required. No judgement passed.  

Intellectually I understood that I could change my mind at any time, but (as much as I am loathe to admit it) there was still a part of me that expected to seek permission from others in doing so—external validation that I was doing the right thing, that my rationale was sound.

The question was, why did I allow the perspectives of others to take precedence over what I think and know of myself?

I’ve since made an effort to care less about what others might think about my so-called pivots (unless I am specifically seeking their wise counsel). And while it is sometimes hard to put aside thoughts of how I will explain that I’m not doing that anymore, I’m doing this, it is liberating to make decisions without that pressure.

No pressure translates to a freedom to follow my whims and satisfy my curiosity. To explore, to change course, to back-track. To try things, to change my mind, to discard them.

This blog is part of my pivot. It’s not perfect or fully formed, and quite possibly it makes sense to nobody but me, but I’m here having a go. And for now, that’s all that matters.

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