Early Action vs Early Decision

To say I’m on a self-help journey is the understatement of the year (how can I say this when the year’s just begun…?). Anyway, this post is about Early Action vs Early Decision.

About six months ago there was this book I randomly pulled off the library shelf called The Soft Addiction Solution. Even though the book seemed over-the-top self-helpish, it caught my attention and ended up containing one of the most valuable tools I’ve picked up along the way.

It argues that we should each make ONE DECISION — actually, I think the author has an entire book devoted to this trademarked idea — and stick with it. She assured me there would be no doubt in my mind when I discovered MY one decision because it’s a decision I really need to make it order to thrive.

Most examples were of people deciding to love themselves more, open up to others, or live in the moment — which would all benefit me greatly… but nothing was sticking for me.

For days I was mulling over this decision and that decision, but never feeling like any of them were ‘the one.’ I was thinking of self-doubt and self-renewal. Just when I was about to give up on this little mental adventure, I awoke out of a deep sleep one night, sat up and KNEW my one decision.

Here it is: To take responsibility for myself and allow others to take responsibility for themselves. I did that when I was interviewing MC Jin (in my humble opinion, the best Asian rapper EVER), but, apparently, I can’t take that sort of decisions all the time straight away. By the way, if you want to read the second part of my interview with Ayo Jin, click here.

While I had no doubt in my mind this was the ONE DECISION for me, it bothered me that it was so logical and boring. No action. Not at all emotional. In fact, it was so not me. I’m overflowing with emotion. I live and breathe emotion. But what I wasn’t seeing at the time was that too much of the best thing in the world is still too much (the best thing in the world being my emoting, of course). I needed to invite a little reason into my life.

I’m pretty sure this decision came to me because I had been placing responsibility for my happiness and lack thereof on others for too long –  believing that it really is my husband who’s making me angry, my mom who’s making me lonely, and my friend who’s making me anxious. It’s probably the artist inside of me. On the flip side, I was taking responsibility for those very same people, believing their happiness and wellbeing were in my hands (which when I think about it, is pretty narcissistic).

Here’s what I’ve realized: When I place responsibility for my happiness and wellbeing in someone else’s hands, it makes me angry and resentful because I’m giving up the only true power I have — the power over myself. And when I take on responsibility for others’ happiness it causes resistance and resentment — how can I possibly provide or control the elements that add up to happiness for someone else? Maybe I should have gone more to conferences in my college years and discover more about my own self, my inner me!

Of course, we all have the power to bring joy and pain into each other’s lives, but it’s what we do with these feelings once they’re exchanged that determines whether we grow, regress or stagnate. As emotional as I am, I’ve had a really hard time accepting and appreciating raw joy and pain – from myself or others. Maybe I’m emotionally drained and better watch out not to get totally burned out! I’ve had a hard time letting those feelings just come and go and BE. I would try to improve them, temper them, light them on fire, sugar coat them, ignore them, hide inside of them or frame them and hang them on the wall…

Anything, but REALLY FEEL THEM.

I’m starting to feel joy and pain now. It’s like the first day of feeling really good after a long illness: I fully appreciate being awake and alive.

The strange thing is, the more I place responsibility where it belongs, the more I allow myself to feel actual JOY and PAIN. And the less I find myself relying on emotion – or even reason – to help me through. So tell me, what’s your vision of happiness?