the perils of justifying yourself

Me, you, or someone you know:

“I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m going to …”
Fill in the blank: Quit, sell it, leave, cancel, give it away, walk, resign.

That practical voice inside your head, well-intentioned friends, your granny: “Now, why would you do that?! It’s … (fill in the blank) good money, a great opportunity, you’ve worked so hard, what will you do without it? Can’t you work it out?

And you bite the hook. In fact, your psyche’s been hanging on it for quite sometime, gnawing on 101 good, practical, and perfectly reasonable reasons why you have the right to make the decision that you’re making. You know, rationalizing. Well how about this rationale:

It doesn’t feel right.

Stay there for a few seconds. It’s a very powerful place to be. It’s elegant. It’s clear. Declared feelings have sonic reach.

And… it can be very uncomfortable. Like the truth can often be before it sets you free.

I recently left a gig because it just didn’t feel right. I struggled with all of the yes, no, make adjustments, suck it up, expand your perspective, get more creative kind of options. A few people thought I was nuts to walk away. Great exposure, cachet, extra money… All true. The “facts” usually are.

I made the tastiest Excuse Sandwich about why it didn’t work for me. I need to find a baby sitter, it interrupts my week, it’s not what I signed up for, I need a haircut, I don’t like so and so or such and such, I need to focus on … All absolutely true. And in the grand scheme, in the greater gestalt of what I’m capable of, totally lame and absolutely surmountable.

If something felt right, I’d drive all night in a push-up bra to get there. When it really feels right, you go out of your way. When something feels right, you put inconveniences in their place.

THE CORROSIVE EFFECTS OF OVER-JUSTIFYING YOUR FEELINGS

JUSTIFYING YOUR FEELINGS:

  • automatically puts you on the defense. When you’re on the defense, you burn more energy. Rationalization can be incredibly inefficient.
  • over-complicates things.
  • perpetuates cleverness. Clever is not a good word in my personal dictionary. It rhymes with slick, manipulative, covert. When you’re trying to rationalize something that is very often amorphous and insular you’ll reach for smooth answers that you think people – or your subconscious – want to hear. And that makes you a salesman.
  • depresses your essential self. The more you load rationale onto your feelings, the more padding you create between you and your most powerful, unlimited resource. If you make a habit of keeping your instincts at bay, that tend to stay at bay.
  • makes you look and feel like a victim. In an effort to prove and protect, you make up reasons that appear to be more important than your refutable instinct. You whine. You nit pick the situation. You start sounding like the whimp you don’t want to be – instead of the hero that you essentially are. When the passion is there, so is the solution. No problem looks insurmountable when you’re turned on.

Of course, sometimes your greatness demands that you explain your reasons in no uncertain terms. Taking the time to explain yourself can be a fantastically creative act. If that’s what’s called for, then explain how you feel. Hold the excuses. Stand by your heart. Make it matter.

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