Have you ever found yourself some way down a path and knowing that you should probably turn back? Maybe curiosity takes you forward or perhaps a stubbornness, because, well you made the choice and you’re gonna see it through. Maybe fear has you paralysed. Whatever is going on, it’s ok to stop, check a map and change your mind if you want to.
There seems to be honour in not changing your mind, with a risk of looking weak, fickle or lacking in character if we do. We seem to admire those who don’t back down, who make a decision and own it…but is this realistic? We might also feel guilty or ashamed ourselves, feeling that we should have known better, been more prepared. This might be especially true if the path you’ve found yourself down is a tangled mess of roots or in a bog!
Making choices with the information we have
If, as I believe, we make our choices based on the best information we have at the time, then surely, if that information changes, we would be free to make another choice? It is so unlikely that every decision we make would be 100% correct given the complexity of the world, not to mention our own minds! We cannot say in advance what will work or not work – that’s why hindsight is always a wonderful thing! In an ideal world, the price of changing our mind wouldn’t be embarrassment or shame. It would be noted as being courageous and wise, a sign we had grown in our own thinking.
The truth is, we all change our minds. We actually do it all the time. I have been known to cook a meal all day and then not fancy it and choose a piece of toast! We might want to change career, develop a new area of our business, or choose a different lifestyle. I see it a lot when folks want to change careers – they might say something like ‘but am I not wasting all of the experience I have?’. My answer is always the same, nope. What you have done is to gain experience and skills that you can transfer into a new role.
A change in perspective
I think there is a huge pressure on all of us to always have everything all figured out, to have a plan that will take us to where we need to be (or where we think we need to be at least). We are expected to set the end goal and then it’s up to us to forge our own path and follow the steps to get to our destination. Now, you will know that I am a fan of a plan, but I am also pro changing the plan if it’s not working or if you get new information or experiences that tempt you to stray from your path. This is where the guilt comes into play but it doesn’t need to be like that.
When we change our minds, we gain perspective. We can observe what an issue looks like from both sides of the fence so to speak. If we change our perspective and see it as growing then it becomes understandable and even we might recommend finding out what you like, what you don’t like and keep making changes from there. This, in my opinion, gives us empathy when teaching/coaching/leading others to understand what it is like to be in a different place to where they are now. I always think that when I see a learner driver – I remember so well the nerves of learning to drive and so I am sure to give them space and stay calm behind them if they make a mistake.
Change can feel scary
I know making changes, especially big ones feels scary but it is important to recognise that sticking with something doesn’t make you dedicated or committed. It makes you stuck. If we consider the growth vs fixed mindset then changing your mind is the mark of someone who is brave and self-aware; someone who is willing to try new things and has the courage to admit when things aren’t working out as you thought.
Who are you changing your mind for?
There is a risk to be aware of. When you are considering changing your mind, who are you doing it for? Notice if others are influencing your thinking and how that feels. Consider their intentions for you and how much you respect their opinions. Remember that to someone outside our own mind we may also like we have changed our whole being, not just our mind. When in fact, what we have really done is taken off the mask and set some boundaries. As you pause and check your map, consider others’ thoughts and advice but also your own. This is your journey and if you want to take a new path, or even backtrack along the one you’ve come, that’s ok.