When I was still fairly new to drama school, I was going through a rough patch. This was bound to happen; I was in a new (and, in some respects, completely alien) environment, and I didn’t have the cocoon of my family and friends around me.
I don’t remember how or why, exactly, but one of my seniors – she had graduated a year or two before I started – took a shine to me. And she was one of those lovely women who are so polished and graceful, you’re a little frightened of them.. and they don’t take to everyone, if you know what I mean.
So even after she moved to Mumbai aka Bollywood (our teachers would gnash their teeth when graduates did that, telling them they were betraying the hallowed proscenium stage, but I suspect they secretly hoped to be able to say about the next big star, “I knew him when…”) we stayed in touch, for a while at least.
At some point I wrote a letter (no email in those days, at least in India) to her where I, er, unburdened myself of whatever woes I had at the time. I don’t remember how long the letter was (but believe me, I could write long letters), and in it I must have asked her how she made it through.
I don’t remember the entire letter I received in reply, but I do remember her writing, in the kindest way possible, “I had to figure it out. It was my choice, you see.”
I have never, and probably will never, forget that sentiment.
She didn’t hit me over the head with it, but answered my question with honesty, gracefully pointing out what I really should have known by the age of 24.
Life’s all about choices. Sometimes we make good choices, sometimes bad. But whichever kind, they take us down a road where inevitably, we have to make more choices.
And so on and so on and so on.
It’s not always easy to remember this, particularly when we’re going through a dark period. It’s so much easier to moan and groan.
But it was choice that got us there in the first place, wasn’t it?
So not to get all new-agey or holier-than-thou on you, but for some reason – I really don’t know why – that written interchange from all those years ago has been playing itself over and over in my head, and I had to get it out.
I’ve been trying really hard over the last few years, and especially over the last year or so, to make the choices that don’t just seem right, but that feel right.
It’s not always easy to know which is which, even if I work out the pros and cons of each (which I can’t help doing, sometimes I even use an Excel spreadsheet to do so… yea, that gave you a laugh, didn’t it?).
So if I’m really stuck, I go with how my stomach feels. I visualize Choice A and note how my stomach feels. And then I do the same with Choice B.
And whichever one leaves my tummy feeling not-nauseous, not-butterflyish, not-thumpy-and-lumpy… that’s the one I go with.
Not a very scientific method, but it seems to work for me.
How do you make choices? Do you think you’ve made mostly the right ones? Have you chosen to be where you are today?
Image: Richard Elzey via Flickr, CC 2.0
[…] Because if my tummy is anything to go by, this is a good choice. […]
Lovely and timeless, Shonali.
[…] Because if my tummy is anything to go by, this is a good choice. […]
Choices and decisions- so easy to get caught up in paralysis of analysis. When I am at my best I use a combination of my gut, the Magic 8 Ball and logic.
That isn’t me being insouciant or trying to be clever. The hardest decisions I have made have always been things that fell into take your best guess because sometimes that is all you can do.
Seventeen years ago I was preparing to move to Israel. I figured that within 18 months I would be in the army doing my mandatory service and figured that at some point after that I’d figure out whether I was staying or coming back to the states.
I couldn’t have predicted that I would be where I am now. Heck, go back five years and I couldn’t have predicted this either. But the most important thing I have learned from all of this is the need and necessity for choice to be a part of my life.
Good or bad decisions, I do better when I feel like I made the choice to put myself somewhere.
@TheJackB I think you’re right; sometimes you just have to make a decision, even when the road ahead is not clear, and hopefully it works out. If it doesn’t, you just have to start over, right?
@shonali Given my current circumstances this was such a great post to read and consider. All I can say is that moving over to NY to pursue my dream continues to be the most exhilarating and terrifying experience. I made the decision based not only on my dream, but on the wider circumstances in my life and the field of communication. That is, I am in a position where I am not tied to any financial assets, debts or a personal relationship. Moreover, never has there been a more dynamic interplay between media, technology and communication. This is the time to try and work with and learn from the best of the best in the Big Apple (well, that’s my ambition anyways). I don’t know which is more scary – trying and failing, or trying and succeeding! Either way, I found that whichever way I played out scenarios in my mind, there was no scenario in which I didn’t try going to New York that I wouldn’t feel regret. That’s how I knew in my heart it was the right choice and one I had to make. Will it be a good one … I sure hope so!
@JGarant The thing with you is that you did take a risk, but you also really weighed every side of the decision, at least those you could foresee, before jumping in. I think it’s really great that you did this, and I’m rooting for it to work out. That’s a terrific question to ask yourself, btw, Jamie – “If I don’t do this, will I regret it?”
Asking, and answering, that question, has often been the deciding factor for me. That way, even if things don’t work out, you know you tried, which is the main thing.
@Shonali Couldn’t agree more. While there are still risks with my journey – at least I know that I can say after the next three months that I gave it a shot – no regrets. I will never sit down in the future and have to ask myself ‘What if…?’
@jocmbarnett Thanks so much for sharing.
@kdillabough Thanks for sharing, Kaarina!
@shonali You’re welcome:) Thanks for commenting over on my blog post today. We’re birds of a feather on bzzzzzz:)
@voxoptima Thanks so much for sharing.
Ah, the condundrum of choice. Lord knows I’ve made some spectacularly bad decisions in my life but I’m the stronger for them.
@jasonkonopinski We all have. Props to you for choosing to be stronger for them (because you could have just laid down and let ’em walk all over you).
@Shonali @jasonkonopinski Jason I told you not to do beer bongs with @ginidietrich very bad choice.
“Choice, not chance, determines our destiny.” Cheers! Kaarina
@KDillabough Love it!
@shonali My Pleasure – Good Stuff There
Nice Post, Shonali!
For Me, This Sounds Like Paying Attention to Your Instincts. The Last Time I Really Used This to My Advantage Was When I Was Doing Some Improv…Something I Can Safely Safely Say That I’m Quite Skilled. I Think It’s Mostly b/c I Don’t Really Care How Foolish I May Look When I ‘Just Go With It’ in Improv – I Just Follow-Through and Be in the Moment.
In PR, I Can’t Say I’ve ‘Just Gone With It’ As Much As I’d Like To. ‘Working Through The Gut’ Certainly Has Some Challenges – Epsecially in Today’s Business Environment. People (and Clients) Like to Hear That Decisions Have Been Made Through Careful Research and Strategic Planning, Leveraging Some Real-World Expertise for Their Benefit (and, Of Course, With the Smart Use of Excel Spreadsheets).
However, I’ve Found That When You (Wisely) Set Aisde a Little Bit fo Time to ‘Work Through the Gut’ for a Variety of Decisions, More Often Than Not, You Actually Come Out Ahead. I Just Have to Remember That Every Now and Then.
Thanks for The Reminder, Shonali :)
Big Noise Communications
@Narciso17 The tough part about listening to one’s guts in professional situations, I think, is when money is attached to it. Choosing to work with clients for the wrong reasons, for example (need the money but hate the work/client) – I’m not saying you did that (because obviously I don’t know), but that’s the kind of thing that can happen.
Setting time aside to just think it through, or feel it through, is really wonderful. It’s frightening too, isn’t it? Because who knows what you start thinking and realizing once you actually start listening to your gut!
The key to this great post @shonali is to live with our choices. We all must be accountable. When I joke that I am banned from a G20 country, which is true, it obviously is due to a choice I made at some point…in fact two choices. One sadly was being honest when I should of lied. See what honesty get’s you!? (for the record I never broke any law in that country)
But I made choices and I accept them and they are what make us who we are. And btw I am trying out for a Bollywood version of Gigli.
@HowieSPM Absolutely – and recognizing before we even make them that whatever our decision, we must live with them, is really important.
You’re banned from a G20 country? Really?! OMG, I so want to know that story!
Re: Gigli – go for it. You’ll rock their world!
Alien environment? Was @HowieSPM there? I’ll bet that was a real trip…..did he teach you proscenium?
I don’t think I have really thought about how I make choices, but maybe gut check is the closest thing to describing it. Sometimes you want those butterflies, shortness of breath however, right?
Somehow, I have made some very ‘right’ choices along the way. If you would have seen me coming out of high school, I assure you I was not on anybody’s ‘most likely to succeed’ list. I was a very indifferent student at best and ill prepared to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Through divine intervention or something I can honestly say I have exceeded my expectations.
I would say it appears you have made some pretty ‘right’ life rewarding choices along the way as well.
Hope you are well fit niche or Grant Hill or whoever; I hurt my back so I’ve been toading it out the last few days. What a lump, huh?
@bdorman264 I was there. On stilts.
@HowieSPM Invisible stilts.
@bdorman264 How horrid that you hurt your back. Were you trying to lift @HowieSPM on his stilts? Tsk tsk. You really should know better!
Thank you, Bill; believe me, I made a LOT of bad decisions before I started learning to make the right ones. I still do, but hopefully (fingers crossed) the bad ones are fewer and further between than the good. And yes, sometimes those butterflies can be terrific ( @aishazoe reminded me of that).
Bootcamp is going great! We did a ton of stuff today including reverse crunches using the TRX. Did you see the pix on Facebook? Dude, I am KILLING it!
@Shonali I did see pics, you are killing it. I was helping my sons move a chair this weekend and thought I was lifting w/ my legs but apparently not. It’s not severe, but it sure is a pain in the ass….er, uh back.
@bdorman264 Are you feeling better today?
@bdorman264 @Shonali Did you say you’re a pain in the ass?…oh, my bad…misread that, haha! Seriously, I hope you’re feeling better
@KDillabough @bdorman264 @Shonali I so have a comment but can’t share it.
@HowieSPM @bdorman264 @Shonali Now that’s just not fair Howie. You pique our curiosity only to leave us hanging? :)
@KDillabough Typical. @HowieSPM @bdorman264
@shonali I loved the post !! Your post reminds me of the endless amount of thinking I go through to make “the” choice and still be confused (LoL). I guess I should try out the excel sheet bit from now on to get my thoughts in place :) :)
@Ancita @shonali spin the bottle works too
@HowieSPM @Ancita Well, if I can get everyone using Excel, my work will be done. :p
Great post Shonali. It’s taken me the sum of the experience of my more than 40 years on this planet to learn to trust my gut. I had a tendency in the past–both personally and professionally–to talk myself into “rational” choices that looked good on paper but weren’t quite right. There’s a balance to be struck, of course. Analyze, but don’t ignore it if something doesn’t feel right.
And, of course, know that even bad choices aren’t usually even that bad, if you can learn from them!
@jenzings That is very true! Even the bad choices have made us who we are today, right?
@pasmithjr Yes it is. Thank you, my friend!
@adamtoporek Thanks for sharing & commenting! Um, do you use Excel sheets too? :p
@shonali excel sheets… never. :)
@adamtoporek Yea, right. <snort>
@rachaelseda Thank you for sharing and commenting!
I love that you mentioned using Excel spreadsheets…why does this not surprise me? hehe.
Aww, what a timely post Shonali. I typically rationalize the pros and cons, dig back into what I’ve learned – whether it be from failure, success or from others and ultimately listen to what my gut instinct is telling me (because typically it’s right). Of course, not every decision or choice you make carries the same weight, so it’s important to know the difference and think more carefully according to the weight carried by your decision.
The wonderful thing about choices though is you’re going to make bad ones and you’re going to make good ones. If you learn from both and move forward that’s what’s important because ultimately at any point in life, no matter the circumstance, you can make a different choice, you can decide not to do something and figure out how to make that happen…all you need is the courage and determination to do so.
@rachaelseda So joining WUL blogteam left you unable to sleep or eat or drive for a week wondering if you made the right choice. Then you created a spreadsheet, called your friends, consulted the Dahli Lama, and the I-Ching, had the tarot cards laid out then went on a 4 week drinking binger…and in the end you were ok with that choice?
@HowieSPM I want to know how many margaritas you had to come up with that one! :p
@rachaelseda You are pretty good about listening to your gut; I’ve seen that with you. I think the other thing we have to be careful of is doing something that might be wrong for us (and our gut tells us so), but that we want really REALLY badly. Whenever I’ve done that, it’s never ended well!
Great post Shonali. We are where we are and what we are, because of our choices. wow. Thanks for that reminder. Ha. It is so true. I used to make all the wrong ones and still do occasionally, but i try and think things through and use my gut instinct. that is usually the right one. Love this. Thanks again.
@Al Smith I think we all make the wrong choices every now and then – it’s human nature. After all, if we always made the right choices, we’d probably be playing harps on a cloud somewhere…! Thanks so much for stopping by, Al.
Hi Shonali – we met ages ago at an Ignite event with my friend Tracy Viselli. Thank you for writing this post – it’s true that we are the sum of our choices.
I have to wonder though about that “gut feeling.” When I think about some gut feeling, I also go with whatever makes me the most nervous because I know it’s the thing that’s going to challenge me. Sometimes those butterflies need to stomped to death with a humiliating experience so we can go through the next nerve-wracking experience with less stress and more confidence.
@aishazoe Yes, I remember meeting you! Thanks so much for stopping by today.
That’s interesting about going with what makes you the most nervous. For me, it’s how my gut feels as well as the overall mood I get into when I think of the different options. I’ve definitely had “gut” feelings that have made me nervous, but it’s more a nervous exhilaration… if that’s the feeling I get, then I’m more prone to go with it. But if the feeling is nervous, leaving me filled with dread, then I don’t… and the times I have, it’s been horrid.
Thank you so much for this! I really needed this post today, and at this point in my career. You are so right!
@mattlacasse Thank you, Matt!
@shonali You bet! Really enjoyed it. Then again, I always enjoy the soul-bearing posts the most. I’m an emotional guy. :)
@mattlacasse Softie. :p
@shonali You have NO idea! :)
Did someone say excel sheet? :)
It’s definitely better when the gut and the analytical align. Most people say “go with your gut” and I think that is fairly well the Gladwell hypothesis from Blink. For me, I think my gut is more accurate as a negative/warning signal — i.e. something doesn’t feel right, something is off. It’s almost always right about that stuff. I’m not sure it’s as accurate in the other direction.
@adamtoporek I use open office because I am so 2009 vs 2002.
@HowieSPM Did you mean 2002 vs 2009? :p @adamtoporek That’s a really good point. I mean, sometimes you just don’t know what is going to be really good for you, right? But you almost always do know when something will be really bad for you, and that’s when my gut comes in most handy.
@HowieSPM That’s because the code is written in alien. I love open source but have to say that I tried to move to OpenOffice a couple of years ago with my management team — complete mess. So many problems with compatibility, formatting, etc. Went running back to Microsoft…
2012 instead of 2009. :)