Decision Trial Run

I spoke to others, but forgot to apply it to myself.

As an imperfect human continually striving for health and wellness, I go to therapy every few weeks (10/10 would recommend!). As I sat in my most recent therapy session, I talked with my counselor about some decisions coming up that seem a bit daunting. In my graduate program, the professors constantly emphasize that they “guarantee safety, not comfort,” in order to foster our growth as future counselors, so with these upcoming decisions, I know that I likely will not remain in my comfort zone. However, I do want to be holy, happy, and healthy, and I really struggled with knowing how to achieve this.

While talking things out, I came to the realization that I already knew the answer to my ramblings.

Only a couple days prior, I had visited a local school to give a talk to their students about making moral, prayerful decisions. Each time I gave the talk, I detailed several different ways to make decisions while listening to God’s call, and the importance and implications of doing so. I referenced ways that I had used these strategies in my own life and how they had proven beneficial for me as a young Catholic. I had literally spent the beginning of that week praying, thinking, writing, and preparing for how to speak to these students about this topic, yet here I was in therapy struggling to know how to proceed with decision-making.

After forgiving myself for my lapse in memory (if I can even call it that), I became newly convicted to practice what I preach. I thought about the suggestions I gave those students, and applied them back to myself.

Any decision can be made prayerfully, but one strategy for making some of life’s bigger decisions has proven extremely effective for me over the past few years. It’s something I call the “decision trial run.”

This strategy works when we have a few different options of something where none of them is necessarily more holy or more good than the other, and they may each result in a positive outcome, but we still have to make a decision. How it works is we lay out all of our possible options, however many there may be. We then designate a series of days to test out each of the options, one per day. On the first morning we wake up and live through our day as if we had already made the decision and chosen one of our options, to the greatest extent that we can. Throughout the day, we take special notice of our thoughts and attitudes towards having made that selection. On the next morning, we wake up and try out the next option of our decision, doing the same thing as the day before. We repeat this until we have tested out each of the options. Throughout this whole time, we pray especially for the Lord’s guidance and for Him to lead us toward the option that will bring us to the greatest fulfillment and use us for the greatest purpose. We remain open to each of the possibilities in front of us and listen to the stirrings of our heart.

In my experience, after completing a trial run of each decision, I just know which choice is the right one for me. I don’t know how to fully explain it, but testing out the decision allows us to make a more educated decision about what might be good for us. We will never fully know God’s will, but we can make the best choice we can with the knowledge we have at the time, and then stand by that decision. Try it out. Trust your heart.

While we all have a plan set out by God, we also have free will given to us by Him so that we may choose how we live our life. This can be overwhelming and daunting, but placing trust in our Creator allows Him to inspire us and use us in ways that we might never expect.

As I found out through temporarily forgetting about my message from only a few days earlier, it can be difficult to live out the words we speak. But the phrases we use to uplift and encourage others should reflect back into us in the way we live out our call in the world. The decision is yours.

In Joy, Monica

And your ears shall hear a word behind you: “This is the way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right or the left.

Isaiah 30:21

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It’s Never Too Late

It took me too long to ask for help.

I went on my weekly grocery shopping trip, and reached the end of the last aisle after snaking my way through the store. I checked my list, which to my surprise had one item remaining un-crossed-off. I thought I had found all my items while traipsing through the shop, but I realized that I had not come across one essential item – gluten-free pizza dough.

Standing at the shelf where this item usually resides, I scanned the products from top to bottom, to no avail. Figuring I must have missed it somewhere in another aisle, I pushed my cart back towards the baking section. No luck. I determinedly weaved through each possible aisle (figuring that it wouldn’t be with the cleaning supplies or pet food), on the lookout for the final product to complete my grocery adventure. I spent about 20 minutes scouting the aisles in search of the small tan package, and re-searching when I came up with nothing. Exasperated, I finally searched for an employee who appeared able to help me.

Within 30 seconds of getting this employee’s attention, asking for assistance, and bee lining behind him directly to the product, the pizza dough was in my cart and I headed towards the checkout counters. He knew what he was doing, and I realized that I could have asked him for help a loooong time ago.

I’m sure that if I searched each aisle diligently enough and really focused on each box, bag, pouch, and jar, I would have found the pizza dough eventually. But the thing is, I didn’t have to do that.

As a counselor, my job is to help people in a shockingly similar way to my pizza-dough-finding savior. As we work towards self-betterment in the ways that we know how, we may eventually work our way to healing and find things that help us thrive. If we commit to pushing through lots of trial-and-error, we can make improvements over time. But counselors can help make this process SO much quicker and easier. Trained to understand human thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, mental health counselors can recognize patterns in our lives and guide us through interventions to increase our overall health.

While I wish this could be a perfect analogy, I do recognize that there is a bit more nuance to mental health than the layout of a grocery store. There is no one-size-fits-all for mental health, and there are countless options for things that might help someone, including meditation, a change in diet, behavioral reinforcement, thought replacement, medication, and the list goes on and on and on. So, while counseling still largely consists of trial-and-error, it is done intentionally, with evidence-based practice and immense support of someone who truly wants to see us succeed.

In my experience, something that has taken me years to discover within myself has been noticeable within one session with a counselor. After describing all of my futile or only somewhat successful attempts to improve aspects of my life, my counselors have been able to help me figure out new thought processes and impactful strategies that actually work for me, tailored to my unique individual experience. It astounds me every time!

I waited 20 minutes to reach out at the grocery store, but we can ask for help at any point. At the beginning of something new, we may feel more comfortable having a support system help us navigate through the experience right from the start. With something we feel semi-confident about, we may want to first try our hand at the task, and then reach out for assistance if we need it. We may push through something right to the end, and then decide that we want to talk about it with someone. It is never too late to ask for help.

Like the grocery store employee who dropped what he was doing to walk me to my gluten-free pizza dough, counselors are available to help us wherever we are at, with whatever we are going through. All we have to do is ask.

In Joy, Monica

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7