Growing up, one of the messages I absorbed was “changing your mind is flaky.” Changing one’s mind was on par with breaking a vow (melodramatic much?), and I learned to associate waffling with weakness. If someone reversed a decision, they were labeled as incompetent and unreliable.
It took me decades to unlearn this false belief, and in the process I saw how this message arose from a place of fear in adults who were cut off from their own sense of spontaneity and who felt intensely uncomfortable with anything less than total control. And believe me, as a recovering control freak myself, I can relate.
Years ago, I saw a documentary about a team of explorers battling the elements in some inhospitable environment. I don’t recall where, but it was one of those one-misstep-and-you-die type places. I was appalled at how increasingly stubborn the expedition leader became as the danger mounted, and rather than alter course, he put all of them in serious peril (indeed, some of the men didn’t make it) in order to stick to the plan!
In this context, it’s easy to see how changing one’s mind isn’t a weakness at all; it’s a brilliant adaptation by a flexible human being who is attuned to their surroundings and themselves. In other words, it’s a sign of awesomeness, and the reverse state is pure insanity, divorced from reality.
It’s tempting to wish for life to unfold in an orderly, linear manner, but wish as we may, life often has other plans. Plans that, when we’re willing to loosen our iron grip on the reins, are usually much more interesting than anything we could cook up on our own. And letting go of fierce control helps us to be kinder–to ourselves and to everyone else–because, as I heard recently on the Crazy Meaningful Life Podcast, “Every expectation is a premeditated resentment.” True dat.
When you’re resenting your entire social calendar…
About a year ago, I found myself feeling resentful as hell about the majority of social plans I was making. Part of it came down to hanging out with lovely people who just weren’t a good match for me, but mostly it resulted from making plans way too far in advance. I’m sure we can all relate to eagerly saying yes to something, but when the day finally rolls around you can’t think of anything you’d rather do less.
Nowadays, I’ll make plans about a week in advance. That’s it. Short of someone’s wedding or other have-to-plan-it-now sort of event, I prefer to give myself space to be more spontaneous by not committing to things months down the line, because I have no idea what I’ll be in the mood for in October when it’s the middle of June. I honor that my moods and desires change over time, and I don’t try to pin them down prematurely.
I’m also a big fan of not freaking out if people cancel on me, and I love when friends are honest about their reasons. “I really feel like being a hermit today and marathon-ing all of the Tinkerbell movies”–rock on with your faery-loving self.
Flaky vs. Free
Of course, following through on my word is also important to me, and this is where intuition is required. Changing your mind isn’t the same as being a flake…unless you use it that way.
There’s a difference–and your intuition will help you find it–between clearing your schedule for the weekend because your soul is craving solo time versus canceling on your friend for the third time in a row because you wanna be all spontaneous and shit.
Trust your heart as you practice flexing your spontaneity muscles while still honoring your commitments. (When in doubt, it’s kinder to not commit than to overcommit and do a last-minute bail.)
Fear makes you constipated
Not throwing a fit when people change their minds was also a journey that helped me see how scared I was of being alone. In my 20s, I would pack my calendar to the gills, and heaven forbid if someone cancelled, leaving me with a dreaded span of alone time, especially–gasp!–on a Friday night.
Moving through that fear and reclaiming my alone time, something that I cherished growing up as an only child, has been vital to my spiritual path. And it’s allowed me to let go of friendships that no longer serve rather than clinging out of fear of being alone.
When we live from a place of fear–fear that there won’t be enough love, money, friends, food, whatever–we start to ratchet up our attempts to force things into a permanent state. A state that, when we’re honest with ourselves, doesn’t actually exist. Said another way, we spend an awful lot of time and energy trying to do something that isn’t actually possible: halting change. We revoke our right to change our minds, and we impose that restriction on the world.
If, instead, we give ourselves permission to change how we feel and what we think, we begin to see how amazingly resilient and adaptable we really are. We learn how to trust ourselves and the world around us when it doesn’t implode simply because we want to go for a walk instead of seeing a movie.
And, perhaps most important, we come home to ourselves, in the present moment, each time we check in and ask, “What do I want right now? How do I feel?”
If we create an unchanging image of who we need to be and what we should be doing, berating ourselves whenever we deviate from this plan, we disconnect from the immense power of our spontaneous energy, and we cloud our ability to see the world and ourselves in their as-is state.
Acknowledging that moods, feelings, thoughts, sensations, and plans are constantly in a state of flux, and honoring your soul’s craving to flow in tune with that change, allows you to drop the guise of control and provide space for your authentic self to light your way.
Shine on, you crazy diamond!