Forrest Gump’s wise mama said, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”
She wanted him to understand that life can be unpredictable, unreliable and fickle. Indeed, it is often said there is nothing sure in life except death and taxes. Yet, to feel powerful, we like to believe we can control everything in our world and that we are in charge of our destiny. Is that true? Well, yes and no.
As it’s impossible to know for certain that the outcome of what we want will turn out right, we avoid making decisions. We often need to act without knowing the outcome, but find it impossible as we prefer to live in a safe bubble of boring and repetitive indecision.
We care too much what others think of us and our choices and before we know it we’re putting their views before our own personal needs and desires.
In coaching, we help our clients work towards goals and visions, definable and measureable outcomes; towards specific results that they desire to achieve. But, sometimes in life, we are faced with too many choices, or maybe two choices at polar opposites to each other. That’s when we fall apart, our resolve weakens and we eventually lose our sense of power.
Often, a client will say they want the ‘right’ outcome to a dilemma, or the ‘correct’ result to a problem. But the sooner they understand there is no right or correct answer, only a result that may or may not turn out well, the sooner they’ll be on the road to empowerment.
It’s true that Coaching is all about finding, stepping onto and following a path that leads towards something that makes us happy. But life experience shows us that we create this path ourselves each time we put one foot down and walk forward, rather than following someone else’s well-trodden way.
As any entrepreneur will tell you, it’s usually necessary to fail many times before success is achieved. Mistakes have to be made, wrong turns taken, and uncertain decisions acted on before a ‘hallelujah’ moment presents itself.
It’s also true that the key to success is not only to take chances and informed risks, but to do so with a sense of passion; a sense of joy at actually being on a path of choice, excitement at being in an emotional position to give it one’s best shot.
Growing up in 50s/60s England gave me the courage and confidence to take chances and do things my way, with little fear of what was round the next corner. I was fortunate to be born at a time when children could take themselves off to school and back without fear of abduction, or worse.
I remember the thrill of purposefully jumping on and off buses and getting lost in unfamiliar places, knowing that all I had to do was trust my internal compass and ask people the way. Occasionally, and always under protest, I was accompanied home by a concerned adult who had come across me hovering alone by a bus stop or in a train station.
I felt I had little to fear, so taking chances and daily risks became a way of life. Saying ‘yes’ to most things on offer became my default. Sure, I had some narrow squeaks, and sure, I sometimes found myself in situations that my mother never got to hear about. But I survived, as most of us did back then. Our parents allowed us our freedom, so we lived our lives without fear.
Nowadays, people have lost the capacity to simply make a choice, bite the bullet and accept whatever the result may bring. We need assurances that we’ve made the right decision, taken the right job or married the right partner.
Through technology, we’ve become so accustomed to depending on reliable outcomes that we live in fear of even connecting to our own intuition, let alone listening to it.
Counsellors, coaches and therapists often say that the way to achieve anything worthwhile is to stop passing the buck and playing life’s victim. That the best way to empower ourselves is by taking responsibility for our actions, taking a stand, making a decision – sometimes any decision – and stop aiming for ‘right’ all the time.
As soon as we stop thinking of mistakes as mistakes, but simply as lessons on the way, they lose their power. Even if an action turns out ‘wrong’, we’ll have learned something, hopefully about ourselves as well as about the decision we took.
There are no guarantees in life, only possibilities dressed up as outcomes. I still get hopelessly lost in a strange city or country, so then I take a different route and find myself on a different ‘path’, but always eventually get to where I want to go.
As the words of a song go, “Who knows where the road may lead us…” but, to quote Forrest himself, “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But I, I think maybe it’s both.”