Have you ever made a decision, then realized afterwards it didn’t feel right? And then when you realized that the decision you made didn’t feel right, you went ahead with it anyway because you had a) already committed to it, b) didn’t want to disappoint someone or c) felt like it was too late to change your mind…?
On one hand, it seems that to commit to do something and not follow through is flaky and irresponsible. On the other hand, what is the right thing to do when the commitment you have made is clearly not in your best interest? What if you are presented with new information after you have committed?
What’s the difference between being irresponsible and deciding to change your mind?
I’ve tried really hard to do the things I commit to do, to follow through with the things I say I am going to do partly because I don’t like to admit I made a mistake and partly because I don’t like to disappoint people. For that reason, I’ve followed through with things at certain points in my life that I wish I hadn’t. Big things.
This week has presented a wide variety of situations where to be honest meant to disappoint people, change my mind, change my terms, or say no to things I don’t want. This unique set of challenges has taught me two things. First, you have the right to say you need time to think things over before making up your mind. Second, sometimes not changing your mind is betraying yourself. Sometimes not changing your mind IS the wrong choice.
If you ever find yourself struggling with a similar inner dilemma, here is a list of thoughts I have when you are trying to figure out when it’s important to disappoint people and change your mind…
1. Will you feel like you betrayed yourself if you follow through with it? Does the plan you committed to make you feel sick and unwell when you think about it? If so, it’s probably best to change your mind.
2. Would you rather not follow through because what you committed to is inconvenient or not what you feel like doing today? Changing your mind at the last minute because you aren’t in the mood on a regular basis will wear down your relationships so only you can decide whether the benefit outweighs the cost in this particular relationship.
3. Are you trading short-term embarrassment for long term suffering? If so, it’s time to be honest.
4. Did you commit to something and then the terms of the commitment changed? What if you learn something you did not know, something that makes you uncomfortable? You have a right to change your mind if the terms have changed or new information does not work for you. A commitment asked for without all pertinent information available is not a fair agreement to ask for in the first place.
The long and the short of it is, like most things in life, there is a lot of gray area. What’s right in one situation is not always right in another. The important thing to remember in these situations is trust your instincts (note I didn’t moods and feelings: there have been plenty of times when I didn’t feel like doing something that was actually in my best interest, and was very glad I did it anyway) and remember that even though respecting others is important, your main responsibility is taking care of yourself. Ironically, taking good care of yourself usually ends up benefiting everyone the most in the long run.