Many years ago our daughter signed up for a summer program, excited about the experience she anticipated she would have. What she encountered was quite different, and she instantly knew the program was not right for her. Although she was clear that she should leave the program, my mind was muddied with many confusing thoughts. I didn’t want her to be a quitter. I wanted her to honor her commitments. I felt this might be an opportunity for her to learn to “turn lemons into lemonade.”
Fortunately, a friend came to my rescue and introduced the concept of “re-deciding.”
Have you ever volunteered to do something and then realized you didn’t have the time? Or that your priorities had changed? Perhaps something happened in your life that suddenly made it difficult for you to continue with your plans. You wish there were some way to get out of your commitment! Most of the time, we do nothing about this. Instead, we try to push forward but end up feeling trapped and resentful and certainly don’t do our best work. After all, we don’t want to be a quitter or someone who isn’t trustworthy. We want to be known as the person who can be counted on.
Re-deciding is not only practical, it is an essential skill!
When we enter a room and realize there is danger, we re-decide to leave. When we order a meal and find that the food tastes bad, we re-decide to leave it on our plate or return it. When we commit to something and then find that it conflicts with our values or our availability, we can similarly assess the situation and allow ourselves to re-decide about this commitment. That is not to say that we should agree to things and then flippantly cast them aside. But holding onto commitments that don’t serve our life is not efficient or helpful. It fills our time with activities that don’t honor who we are or what we care about most. It frequently results in poor quality work, as we don’t put our best effort into it. This leaves the impression that we are less than competent and conflict with another aspect of our self concept.
When leaving something that we committed to, we can explain that we thought it would work in our lives but we were mistaken. If that leaves the person or organization in a tough position, we can offer to brainstorm other options. It might be possible to delegate the task to someone for whom it would be a great opportunity or a way to learn an important skill. There might be another way we can contribute that doesn’t require us to invest time we really don’t have. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that none of us is indispensable – if we were stricken with an illness or an unavoidable situation that precluded our continued involvement, the world would go on!
Are there activities that you wish you hadn’t said yes to? Maybe you just need to re-decide!