Fear the Third: Mistakes and Bad Decisions

“You know how every now and then, you have a moment where your whole life stretches out ahead of you like a forked road, and even as you choose one gritty path you’ve got your eyes on the other the whole time, certain that you’re making a mistake.”
— Jodi Picoult

Much is said about the value in making mistakes.

You learn from mistakes, its how you gain experience, its how you, eventually become a better person.  Your mistakes are the checks and balances in life to help nudge you on the path you should be on.

Most times, in retrospect, mistakes show you the weakness of where you were at some point.  Whether you were selfish, or insecure, or just not good at being a friend or lover that day.

What about when the stakes are higher?

What about making a mistake when everything depends on you making the right decision?

When I have choice in front of me, something big, something that matters, I always feel that this decision, this large or small decision is the be all, end all moment.  That what I decide here will decide, not just my life, but other lives, and, to continue the exaggeration, the course of human history.

But it all comes down to a moment “Is it a mistake for me to say this?”

“Is it a mistake for me to stay another hour?”

“Is this date a mistake?”

“Is this job a mistake?”

I don’t have stage fright, I don’t have a fear of improvisation, but when it comes to making a decision that seems to have long reaching ramifications…when the moment comes, briefly, I am paralyzed.

Anxiety starts in the pit of my stomach.  A sort of unexpected elevator drop that seems to feel like a ball of ice suddenly and heavily appeared within me.  Almost instantly, my temperature drops.  I feel like I can’t get warm, not for anything.  Lastly, I start to shake uncontrollably, from my core.

The more I try to NOT make a mistake, the more I ponder and wonder what the ramifications of this decision might be…the worse it gets.

Because I am afraid that this moment, this decision…will be the worst mistake I’ve made.  And I’ll feel like a fool, or I’ll betray someone’s trust or lead them astray with bad advice, or it’ll be something I can’t fix and I’ll change everything for the worse.

But in that moment.

I make a decision anyway.

I say my peace.

I decide where I’m going.

I do…what I feel like I have to do.

The anxiety doesn’t always stop…sometimes, it does, and quickly…other times it lingers for days…coming back to haunt me if, in fact, the decision I made was a mistake.

And I fear making those big mistakes you can’t come back from.

But still…I decide.  For good or ill, I make a choice and decide.  Because this terror, this fear of making a mistake…is temporary.  Generally, the world is not in the balance, and the mistake i’m afraid of making will be something handled with a heartfelt apology(which it will be) or something fixable…

Oh if its truly a mistake, it’ll be terrible.  It might only be terrible for a day…or a week…or forever…but the other option is never trying, never leaving your comfort zone, and being stagnant.

Which, really, is something to fear even more.

-C

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