Wrestling With Truth

Last week I wrote that I was torn.  About what to do about a possible consulting opportunity.  Now in the past I would have left the decision to the hiring manager.  If we could work out the terms, I’d do it.  Though I’d put some parameters around it, I’d otherwise abdicate my responsibility and let someone else decide for me.  Or I’d consider only the financial impact.

(c) AdobeStock Photo

(c) AdobeStock Photo

Not this time.  This time I wanted to decide myself – was I truly interested or not – even before we discussed terms.  And I was torn.

I used my decision matrices.  I started with the Pugh Matrix.  There wasn’t enough specific information with which to make a decision using that.  Too much was yet to be negotiated.  OK – now for the Outcome-driven Matrix.  That one yielded mixed results.  An almost tie between yes and no.

Now I’m looking in my Essentialism book for the chapter about “What’s your highest calling?”  There Greg McKeown says that unless we can say an enthusiastic “yes”, we should say “no”.  He says “okay-enough” isn’t our highest and best calling.

I’ve gotta stop right here and say this: if financial stability is your #1 priority right now, then by all means make decisions based on that.  If the thing you’re looking at offers that, it may be your highest and best calling – at least for now.

But that’s not where I’m at.  Money’s a consideration, but at this point it’s one among many.  And not the most important.

So….based on my analysis, I couldn’t give this opportunity an enthusiastic yes.  Yet I couldn’t say no.  And I couldn’t figure out why not.

I told you in my last post I was going to meet with a trusted friend, and I did.  She’s not only a friend; she’s also a skilled coach.  We met at a coffee shop.  I walked her through what I’d done thus far, and told her I couldn’t say no.  And I couldn’t say yes, either.  I knew why I wanted to say no, but didn’t know why I felt so compelled to say yes.

Now we’re wrestling together with this tension between yes and no.  Trying to uncover what’s so deep that it’s tearing at me.  We explore.  She probes.  I talk.  She listens.  She talks.  I listen.

And then I see.  Two deeply-held beliefs or characteristics about myself that appear to result in decisions that directly conflict with one another.  “Yes” comes from the truth I believe that says “If I know I can help, I must do it.”  Even if it costs me personally.  I am the one who solves problems.  Picks up broken pieces.  Steps in where others don’t want to go.  When it’s hard.  Confusing.  Complicated.  I rally people around the cause and we get it done.  Make the impossible possible.  And while it’s happening, I don’t let others see me sweat. Then I get to do it again; and feel that I must.

On the other hand, there’s the reason for “no”.  The belief that our most creative and impactful work is done when we take care of ourselves.  When we put on our own oxygen mask, so to speak.  Yet, I’ve been starving to oxygen for so long that I’m gasping for breath.  I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to take anything on right now, except for Project Kathleen. Also known as focusing on healing and restoration.

What do you do when two foundational beliefs are duking it out?  When the desire (and possibly even compulsion) to help is wrestling with the desire (and even need) for deep healing?  My body feels whipsawed as it attempts some kind of resolution.

“This is a gift.  This is your sweet spot.  Go for it.”

“This is a test.  To see if you’re strong enough to hold your ground when tempted with something that strokes your identity.”

“This is an opportunity to use your expertise in a different way.  To structure something in a way that works.”

“This is a trap.  To get you to follow the status quo.”

See what I mean?  Back and forth it went.  And I realized I could use facts to support any decision I made.  In a sense, I guess there was no bad decision.  They could both work.  But I wanted to establish a pattern in my new life to decide what was right for me.  Not just what would help the other guy.

What did I decide?  I’ll let you know tomorrow.  And there’s still more to come.  In the meantime, you better believe I added a tab to my decision spreadsheet.  One that tries to get at the hidden beliefs that may be preventing us from making a decision.  If you want a copy of this template, send an email to kathleen@kathleenannthompson.com, or leave a comment.

Have you found yourself wrestling with competing priorities or conflicting truths while making a decision?  If so, how did you resolve it?  Tell your story in the comments.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Virginia Thompson Wynne

    There is a middle ground between no and yes and that is “not right now”. If someone is willing to wait or starts their project without you but still needs you later on down the road and the time is then right – great for both parties. If they don’t need input when you are ready then maybe it wasn’t worth your personal sacrifice anyway. Taking on a project less than whole heartedly is probably in no ones best interest. Things are rarely now or never even though it seems that way.

    • Really good point – if they don’t need input when you are ready then maybe it wasn’t worth your personal sacrifice anyway. Thanks!