What if You’re Right where You’re Supposed to Be?

I tell ya, I’ve been the queen of self-doubt.  Seriously.  Which has made decision making, well, something of a challenge . . .

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Amor Fati

For a good part of my life, I’d find myself somewhat paralyzed when faced with a major decision.  Because you know, rarely is a choice about either this or that.  Usually, five (maybe more!) paths line out before us, and which is the correct road to take?

Of course, sometimes a decision is about turning right or left.  And even then, I’d vacillate.  Because I pretty much always had a fear that I was damned if I did, and damned if I didn’t.

Worse, once a decision was made, I’d feel as though I made the wrong one.  That I shoulda zigged when I zagged . . .

Yikes!  That’s no way to live, is it?

Nope.

Trust me, it wasn’t much fun.

And yep, I’d also delved deeply into the whys of this.  And while this is helpful, here’s the rub: It doesn’t fix anything.

Just knowing why isn’t enough to change the behavior.

And to be completely honest, I’m not sure understanding the roots of it even matters, in the end.

Then it finally hit me: What matters is figuring out how to do things differently.

We see this a lot with the protagonists in books.  When faced with the call to adventure, our character will give a laundry list of why he can’t do whatever.  How he’s not the man for the job.  How she’s just not up to the task.

Keeps said protagonist safe, no?

As I once thought it would do for me (even though I wasn’t always aware of that motivation).

But staying in the safe zone is about fear, at its core.  And the characters in our books can’t stay there, or there would be no book!

I found that to be the same for my actual life—not deciding, which is a decision in and of itself, kept me from taking challenges and risks that were required to follow my dreams.

Hate when I realize those sorts of truths!

But love them too.  Because they kick me in the butt to go on.  Just as something or someone kicked that protagonist over the bridge from Act I to Act II, and the fictional story got going.

Deeper for me was the fear that I’d made the wrong choice.  This was so pervasive, that little enjoyment was to be found in whatever I did decide, because I had this gnawing doubt that the other would have been better . . . .

Now, that’s a recipe for insanity if ever I could devise one!

So what was a girl to do?

Yep, I’ve had lots of therapy.  Lol.  And it can be helpful.  But for me, the answers came through a deeper understanding via mythology, which is just the story of who we are, as humans.  The public dream, so to speak.

Because myths come from the very essence of what it is to be human.

In so many stories I found myself—reluctant to take whatever plunge.  And in those same stories I gleaned deeper insights into what it would mean if I did jump on for the ride.

It’s easy in hindsight to look back and go, well, I should have gone there instead of here; should have chosen that profession over this one; should have married the one I released back into the big wide sea.

But what if, just what if, life unfolded as it was supposed to?  What if by making the choices in the past, it’s led to today, and to where I am and most importantly, who I am, and had other choices been made, well, what if I wouldn’t be me?

What if that’s true?

How inspired was I when stumbling upon Nietzsche’s Amor Fati—the love of your fate.  In its essence, the term means that you look back on your life and say, this was worth living.  And it’s still worth living.  Over and again.

For me, anyway, this means that if you say no to anything in your life—past or present—you’ve just caused the whole thing to crumble.

So what if, just what if, you have done the right thing?  You have made the right choices?  Whether they look exactly right in this moment or not.

And what if, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing?

Doesn’t mean you can’t change it or make a different decision next time.  But what if every stepping stone has led you to where you are now?

Would that make a difference in how you saw your life today?  Would it make a difference about how you chose tomorrow?

It certainly has for me.

Now, I make a decision, stick to it, and be happy with what I’ve chosen.  I go with it, follow it.

Most importantly, don’t beat myself up for it.

And it’s made all the difference.

What if, just what if, the philosopher was right:

“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it — all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity — , but to love it…”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

 

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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43 comments
Joan Potter says July 20, 2016

Susan – boy, have you stirred up a lot of different thoughts! How we learn to do things differently … how to change … are we where we’re supposed to be. Your vacillation on things is probably, I think, the result of actually being well rounded and intelligent. This is why studies have shown that some of the most well-rounded college students have troubles deciding on a major! Marilyn Vos Savant – with one of the highest I.Q.s ever recorded, was once asked why intelligent people often seem to doubt themselves and seem stupid. Her answer was simply that intelligent people know that they don’t know everything – so they keep weighing their options, and want to be thorough in what they say. Consequently, they sound wishy-washy, qualifying every little thought they have, sounding like Mr. Haney on the old show ‘Green Acres’: “Good Morning, Mr. Douglas. Well, I guess it’s not really a GOOD morning, and actually, it’s not MORNING everywhere …”
Alas, I think you’re right, and our decisions have probably been correct the great majority of the time, and we’re probably on the correct path.

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    Susan Malone says July 20, 2016

    Oh, I love that, Joan! And part of my problem in making decisions is in seeing so many options. Even when in a restaurant–if the menu is extensive, I consider all the different taste sensations, and find so many that look pleasing! LOL. But great info–thank you!

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Beth Niebuhr says July 20, 2016

I really enjoyed your post, Susan. Yes, we usually wonder if we’re taking the right path. I’m glad that your odyssey has brought you to the conclusion that you should go with your decisions and not beat yourself up about them. It makes life so much simpler.

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Colleen M. Story says July 20, 2016

Oooo, great quote, Susan. I haven’t seen that one. Love that “all idealism is false in the face of necessity…” I’m with you on decisions—always difficult and so easy to doubt ourselves. Like the idea that though we could have lived different lives, there’s nothing wrong with embracing the one we’re in.

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    Susan Malone says July 20, 2016

    You hit the core, Colleen. Embracing this life makes it rich and meaningful!

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Sabrina Quairoli says July 20, 2016

Great post! I do just that. To help me not get frustrated or judge myself for not being where I want to be, I tell myself this is where i need to be to get to where I want to be. Thanks for the reminder.

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Tamuria says July 20, 2016

I too am a queen of self-doubt, Susan, even though I truly believe we are all exactly where we should be right now. When I remember to focus on this belief, and not my fear, I find I can make choices without too much stress.Great post, love the quote.

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    Susan Malone says July 22, 2016

    That’s so key, Tamuria–to focus on the belief rather than the fear. Love that!

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Beverley Golden says July 20, 2016

Reading this piece, I was scanning my own history to see when I had trouble make decisions for myself. As I learned to trust my intuition more, I know that if I am not 100% certain, I often will now err on the side of “no”. In all my biography studies, I’ve learned that we all have a destiny path, (and that we actually choose it), but we also have free will which means we have the freedom to make a choice in all situations. I believe in no regrets, so like you Susan, I do look at my life and say that each choice was the right one, as it led me to where I am today. I learned this lesson from my mother, as having regrets or wondering ‘what if’, I had chosen something different than I did, really doesn’t serve us. One are about making decisions or choices that I still question, is when we have to make a choice for someone else. I often wondered if my having to choose to have my daughter by C-section two months early, changed her destiny. Or if I was an equal partner in ensuring that her destiny would be fulfilled, as she had to be born two months early, to be who she was meant to be. Interesting questions. I also have to believe that each choice, is the right choice. It would be so difficult otherwise. We’d constantly be second guessing everything we did..or didn’t do.

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    Susan Malone says July 22, 2016

    We all have things that catch us up, don’t we, Beverley! And I’m not surprised you learned to let go of ‘what if’ from your mother–there’s a reason she’s a happy centurion! And what I used to do was exactly to second guess everything. How exhausting. Lol! Isn’t following your intuition just a marvelous thing!

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Leslie says July 20, 2016

I am horrible at making decisions. Which is why I’m currently dealing with the consequences of a few of them. I get really anxious when it comes to big decisions, I’ve got a few coming up.

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Emilee says July 20, 2016

I can definitely relate. You’re so right, though, that it really could mean we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be.

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Teresa says July 20, 2016

Guilty, been there, done that. I’ve also been known to just make a decision one way or another to avoid the agony of NOT! I’ve even said this to my team members…just make a decision and move on!! You cannot move forward, learn from, have a celebration or new perception, clarity, or anything really until you just do it. 🙂 Ha! Easier said then done (wink).

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Kristen Wilson says July 20, 2016

I so know the feeling. I have dug in my heels about this f’n move to Tx from Va for the last 3 years.. you know, since I moved here. And while I have FINALLY made some friends, found a Bunco group and found a women’s shooting group and started competing (both of the latter didn’t have in Va).. I still hate it here.. but I don’t get why. It’s almost like I’m not supposed to so refuse.. but why? That make sense?

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    Susan Malone says July 22, 2016

    It makes perfect sense, Kristen. Major moves are really tough. And Texas is so hot 🙂 Not trying to be flip at all, but that was a BIG move! And it’s just tough to uproot your whole life. Perhaps what’s keeping you stuck in the hate is resentment for having to make the move.
    And I know some shooting groups in Texas if you need info!

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      Kristen Wilson says July 22, 2016

      Yea, I left hot and got FLIPPIN hot! My ex is from and was in Tx until recently. His (my boyfriend) ex is from and in Tx.. but so is his daughter now. A lot has gone wrong, the job he/we moved here for became a big cluster, then he went to school for another and now is unemployed, been for 6 weeks now. It’s been rough. I have found an AWESOME women’s shooting group and actually started competing locally too… so that front, I am good. thank you!

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        Susan Malone says July 25, 2016

        Now, all of that will make you question everything, Kristen! So much has gone wrong after your move here. But it sounds as though you’re really digging out of all that. Go shoot! I love that 🙂

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Bismah says July 21, 2016

I can definitely relate to so much of what you have written here. Throughout my life I have found myself faced by some major decisions. I know I have not always made the right choice and I have no regrets. Everyone makes mistakes in life. These mistakes can often make us stronger as we learn from them.

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    Susan Malone says July 22, 2016

    That’s the perfect prescription, Bismah–learn from those mistakes! You are right on track!

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Roslyn Tanner Evans says July 21, 2016

I always believe that indecision, like worry, is a waste of time. Sometimes we are faced with crappy choices so just choose 1 of them & make it work. In the end, all choices are ours to make work or not. We might think destiny put us on the path or it could be the decisions & actions we made. We only have 1 life to live so be the best you can be with it.

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    Susan Malone says July 22, 2016

    Man, that’s the ticket, Roz–make your decision work, whatever it is! And that gives us more time to enjoy the lives we have 🙂

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Mickey Eastin says July 21, 2016

This is a great profound piece. I wish so much I didn’t second guess the decisions I made, and could just rest in that decision and choose to walk it out. I fly by the seat of my pants so much I’m always questioning in hindsight. Loved reading this and will continue to meditate on it for awhile, yet.

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    Susan Malone says July 22, 2016

    I can attest, Mickey, that the second guessing will drive you nuts! I did it forever. And how freeing to just make a decision, choose to be happy with it, and make it work. That makes all the difference!

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365 says July 22, 2016

Hi Susan! I’ll bet just about every one of us has self-doubts at least now and then. I think that proves you are human and not just a self-absorbed narcissist. The thing is not to let it keep you from doing what you love and dream of, right? And then, accepting what has been…and accepting what is…comes next. But I do love that idea of “loving” what came before and then if follows that I’d also love right where I am. Nice little clarification. Fortunately I’ve never been plagued to much with making decisions myself but that doesn’t mean I’ve mastered the art of “loving” them all. Thanks for another thoughtful post! ~Kathy

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    Susan Malone says July 25, 2016

    Absolutely, Kathy–to not let self-doubts keep us from doing what we love and dream. Perfect! That’s the real key, no?

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Rachel Lavern says July 22, 2016

Hi Susan,

It seems that most people are frequently second guessing themselves and their decisions. I do believe that each experience we have is preparing us for our next thing…we just don’t know what that next thing is so we second guess it.

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    Susan Malone says July 25, 2016

    So true, Rachel. And one of the hardest things is to stand uncertainty until the next thing comes. That takes true courage!

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Joan M Harrington says July 23, 2016

Hi Susan,
As I was reading, I was thinking to myself “Does she know me”? lol…….I make choices and decisions based on what I “feel” is right for me at that time….You got me really thinking about my own life and about all of the choices I have made…some good, some “not” so good but when I think about them, they were MY choices and they were “right” for me to make whether people agreed with them or not. That is what it is all about, right? Living our life, making choices and “living” with those choices and believing that they are the “right” ones……Sometimes, yes, I do regret quite a few, but then I think about it and realize that, at the time, they were the “right” ones and I have to accept and live my life…….not thinking about “regrets” or “what ifs”, because if I do that I will not be content, right now.

I have learned to live my life in the “now” not thinking about the past. It is gone, not much I can do about it now……but you know, if I COULD go back, I would change a few of the choices I made, to be really honest lol

Great post! Got me REALLY thinking 😉

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    Susan Malone says July 25, 2016

    Love that, Joan! Absolutely–that’s what life is about. “Living our life, making choices and “living” with those choices and believing that they are the “right” ones……” That’s life in a nutshell! And learning to live in the now, letting go of the past, well, that’s the key to all. Tough for me sometimes! But I’m getting there, one step at a time!

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Jackie Harder says July 25, 2016

Ah yes…the ever-popular self-flagellation method of “shoulding” on ourselves. I was there in a bad way when I was in the process of deciding whether I should divorce my last ex-husband. It went on for five years. Yes, FIVE YEARS it took me to finally reach the point where I could take that step. And so I have a lot of empathy for women who are in a similar place. I tell them, “Be kind to yourself. Be gentle to yourself. You’ll do what’s right for you when the time is right, and not a nanosecond before. Ease up!”

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    Susan Malone says July 25, 2016

    Such great advice, Jackie! And isn’t it funny when we are kind to ourselves, the different decisions we make . . .

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Liz Benoit Cozby says July 26, 2016

Susan,
I have found that the “what if” world is never good. Regardless if things would have been better or worse, it diminishes where I am now, and it leads to lower energy levels. I tell my tennis students that whatever decision they make when they see the ball come over the net is the right decision. If they change it, they will probably miss, and that just messes up everything. So, go with the decision in that moment. I’m glad you realized this, as well, and I’m glad you wrote about it. 🙂 Welcome to the now, lol.

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    Susan Malone says July 28, 2016

    Oh, I absolutely love what you tell your tennis students, Liz! I’m going to adopt that as metaphor! “Whatever decision you make when you see the ball come over the net is the right decision.” Beautiful!

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Joyce Hansen says July 27, 2016

I think part of us hates that life offers so many choices, and yet life would be so boring if we didn’t have the opportunity to make a choice. So, we want choices but choices that come with a certainty that we’ve made the right choice. Which of course rarely happens. We kind of forget choices are options to have different experiences. There seems to be this underlying fear that this different experience can be a mistake and no faith that we can learn, grow and move on from it. My only regret is that I didn’t opt for more of the different experiences.

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    Susan Malone says July 28, 2016

    Very well said, Joyce. “We kind of forget choices are options to have different experiences.” Now that’s something to remember, often!

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