I have a theory that we all have a finite number of important decisions we can make each day. If you’ve ever uttered the words “I cannot decide what to have for dinner,” maybe you’ll agree. It’s taken me awhile to realize that I’m not the best person to make decisions for myself sometimes. This is why I keep a long list of experts by my side. In the past, I used this as a reason to beat myself up; it was another sign that I wasn’t good enough. However, I’ve come to see that it’s actually a sign of my strength and power.
A couple weeks ago, I was given a choice in my own health. I was asked if I felt like I needed an appointment the next week or if I felt like I could go 2 weeks. I honestly didn’t know; I didn’t feel confident making the decision. I left with instructions to call if I thought I needed it, but I knew I wasn’t ready to think about this. That same night, I had runners doing a ladder workout where I made an interval optional since I have a wide range of abilities. I explained this to one of the women, and it caused a little panic. “I don’t understand why it’s optional. Should I do it? Is this workout supposed to suck? Why are you giving me this option? What degree of suck determines if I should not do that one interval?” I realized in that moment she felt the way I had earlier, and I had to make the decision for her. I had her run the interval because she is one of my more experienced runners; she rocked the workout. I was later given an appointment for the next week, and didn’t have to decide. Sometimes, while we may be ready for the exercise, we may not be ready for the decision making process. We need the hand holding, the push, and the direction. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I make decisions for other people all day every day. I write plans to help people reach their goal weight, achieve their health/fitness goals, or run personal records. They ask me for advice on a regular basis. I know a lot about nutrition, health, weight, and fitness. However, just last week I needed help writing my own nutrition plan for a couple days because I couldn’t do it on my own. At first, I was frustrated that I was stuck, but I realized that in this situation it was okay that I reach out to someone who could take a less subjective view. Someone who could give me a plan to follow so I could free up some space in my mind for other decisions. Someone who could make a list for the store so I could make a list of my business goals. Someone who would use their superpowers to analyze my progress and adapt the plan so I could focus my energy on my own super powers. Coming to realize that it wasn’t a character flaw that I couldn’t make basic decisions did not come easy. It helped paying attention to those around me.
I realized how amazing my clients are. I’m not just saying that! My clients are powerful people who if I knew what they did before I started working with them, I’d probably be too intimidated to work with many of them. They are lawyers, scientists, executives, doctors, dietitians, social workers and therapists who have to make decisions that change people’s lives. They are mothers, teachers, managers, and leaders whose decisions impact families, communities, governments, businesses, and even our nation. When they make mistakes, laws can be changed, people can die, and millions of dollars can be lost. When they make a plan, they often cannot just think of themselves as the impact goes much further than that. Many of clients are literally changing the world with their day to day decisions, and then they come home to make more decisions. People rely on them (like people rely on me) to make these decisions, so when it comes to something like what to pack for lunch or when to go to the gym, they can’t always do it. Sometimes we don’t know how to handle snap decisions without overthinking them. Other times, we’ve just maxed out our total decisions for the day.
I no longer take it as a sign of weakness that I sometimes need help writing a grocery list or my basic task list for the day, I know my strength is elsewhere. It’s not a sign of weakness that we ask for help in making these decisions, rather it shows we are strong enough to ask for help. It shows we are brave enough to ask someone to take control and that we give it to them. We don’t lose control, rather we are choosing to get in control by using as many resources as possible. We are powerful because we do all of this. We chose to ask for help. We chose to follow the advice. We are strong and powerful.
One of my most talented runners works one of those nail biting jobs that make me want to throw up with anxiety just thinking about it. Because she is faster than most people, a lot of people ask her for advice or ask her to run with them. They want to know what she is doing and why. Then during these runs, they tell her about what they read or the program they are following. They need her to encourage them and to set the pace (when they can keep up). It stresses her out. She gets stuck between wanting to help as a teammate and wanting to run. She doesn’t want to be a coach on a run, she wants to be an athlete. She doesn’t want to have to make decisions for someone else because she makes enough decisions for other people each day. This sometimes causes her to question herself and her own strength and training; but she isn’t weak, she is focused on her goal. Some people may see her as a little selfish because she doesn’t want to share what she knows or ‘coach’ others. I still see it as being determined and realizing that she can’t take on the responsibility of someone else’s decisions without risking herself. Her decisions are limited and precious.
Maybe there are people out there who know everything and can do it all. However, what I’ve learned is some of the smartest, strongest, most powerful people don’t know it all. Even the people we go to for help don’t have all the answers. So when you’ve reached that point where you can’t make another decision, when you are standing in the grocery store and there are too many types of yogurt to figure what kind to get; when the weather changes and you don’t know if you should do your long run on the treadmill, or outside, or if you should skip it; when your to do list is so large you don’t know where to start; sometimes, the best decision is to call someone to choose for you. I look at my clients who change the world, and I let them be my role models. Even they aren’t perfect. Even they need help. If I’m helping these amazing people make decisions every day to stay healthy, no wonder I need a little help myself sometimes. – Ashley Kelso