Do you pride yourself on doing what you say you will do? As in showing up to meet a friend even when it becomes inconvenient, or completing your work assignment even though it means working late and missing a night out with friends?
As a high achiever, you probably set high standards for yourself and go to great lengths to not let people down. Maybe you even pride yourself on living according to your values and put pressure on yourself to be a person of your word.
While this is admirable, when taken to extremes it can be counterproductive.
Not everything you state as an intention needs to become a lifelong commitment or point of integrity.
Instead, it’s important to know, firstly, that you have the right to change your mind, and secondly, to know when to give yourself permission to change your mind.
As I learned on a recent vacation in California, there are times when giving yourself permission to change your mind is the sensible thing to do.
One of my “bucket list” experiences
Before our most recent family vacation, I announced to my family that I was going to take a surfing lesson – did they want to come too? This was an open invitation, but even if no one wanted to join me, I was going to surf.
Not only was there no interest, my husband looked puzzled and asked, “Are you sure you want to do that?”
That’s when I explained it was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do. I love a challenge and this would push me. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by surfing and missed out on the opportunity to give it a try years ago when my husband took our older two daughters for a lesson (I stayed with our 5-year old on the beach).
He paused, then said, “You realize that you’ll be paddling around in deeper water and waiting for waves. That part will be like paddle boarding.”
How could I forget my first (and last!) paddle board experience where I got so seasick that I threw up on my board while paddling back to shore? All of a sudden, surfing didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.
But surfing was on my “bucket list” of life experiences I wanted to have. And I said I would do it, so didn’t I have to do it anyway?
You don’t have to do everything you say you’re going to do
In the end, I didn’t take the surfing lesson. I finally saw the folly in sticking to a plan I had articulated without thinking it through.
But it took me way too much time getting over the feelings of guilt about not doing something I said I was going to do, even if it made no difference to anyone else (and was going to make me sick).
To avoid having the same scenario play out for you, here are five takeaways I’d like to share.
- Don’t confuse expressing an intention with making a lifelong commitment or giving your word. Not everything you say you’ll do has to carry the same weight.
- Be thoughtful before committing to something or someone at the outset. It’s easier to declare an intention than to unwind its effects.
- Keep re-evaluating the information to make sure what you said you would do still makes sense. Time and energy are precious.
- Stay open to a change in plan that produces better outcomes for everyone. People like to win.
- And when you do need to change your mind, communicate the change (and your reasons for it) in a timely manner. That way, people will have time to adjust.
It’s okay to change your mind
The bottom line is that it’s okay to change your mind. It can even be a good thing.
It is not putting your integrity at risk. It is not letting others down. It’s reevaluating the situation, listening to yourself and committing to being nimble, flexible and accepting of change.
So when things change – whether it’s new information or a different situation – it’s vital that you give yourself permission to change your mind. Especially when someone (maybe even you!) will suffer for no good reason.
Now I want to hear from you.
When was the last time you allowed yourself to change your mind and what was the outcome?
Leave a comment and let me know.