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Faith and Values: When making major decisions, don’t let self-doubt guide your thinking

Tracy Simmons writes for the Faith and Values page of The Spokesman-Review. (Tracy Simmons)
Tracy Simmons writes for the Faith and Values page of The Spokesman-Review. (Tracy Simmons)
Tracy Simmons SpokaneFaVS

Growing up I always had my nose in a book. I breezed through “The Boxcar Children,” “Anne of Green Gables” and “The Chronicles of Narnia,” but perhaps my favorite was the famous Choose Your Own Adventure series.

There was something exciting and, well, luxurious, about getting to start over.

That’s when decision-making was fun.

Somewhere along the way, though, choices became burdensome.

Which book should I read next? Which show should I watch? What’s for dinner? Should I get a new car? Is it time to sell my house? What should I write about this month?

I went back and forth about whether I should write about the stress we’re all feeling right now because of the coronavirus. Ultimately I chose to save that topic for next month.

Was it the right decision? I think so. We could use a breather.

The reason for indecision, at least for me, is self-doubt.

Here’s an example. Recently I was faced with a big decision, one I agonized over. Should I stay in the Spokane area, or move on?

I had a pending job offer in the Midwest that paid more than double my current salary.

Money talks, doesn’t it? So does the excitement of starting fresh – just like in the books.

But it would mean leaving the Pacific Northwest, a place I’ve come to love. The new job wouldn’t allow time for religion reporting, a career I’ve intentionally sought out. It would mean leaving my friends. And it would mean stepping away from SpokaneFāVS, the website I started here, which has since grown into an interfaith community.

Doesn’t seem like a difficult choice. Yet it kept me up at night because I didn’t trust my gut instinct to stay put and do what I love.

I question myself often but am out of practice when it comes to trusting my own judgment.

Just like criticism rings louder than praise, so does uncertainty.

We’ve all done the wrong thing before. I know I have. And it’s easy to hold on to our mistakes.

I’ve learned that for me, self-doubt is tied to forgiveness.

If I can learn to have more self-compassion, I can find a path toward self-forgiveness. And if I can find that, I can rebuild the confidence in myself I once had.

After all, it’s not my intuition that’s let me down in the past. It’s not listening to it that has.

Philosopher Kahlil Gibran was right when he said, “When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.”

Decision-making doesn’t need to be grievous, but we should be mindful about it.

It wasn’t until I could free my mind of emotions that I could find clarity about staying in Spokane. When I slowed down, I realized my body was telling me not to leave. I could feel it in my chest.

I also had to ask myself some questions. What were my core values and how did each option align with those? Religion reporting, bringing people together, community – Spokane was the answer.

I’m still pestered by indecision, but at least now I know a way to overcome it. Mindfulness is the key to decidedness, but like everything else in my spiritual life it takes training, practice.

Life is full of decisions to be made. We have the option to view life’s choices as strains, or adventures. The latter helps us live in the present.

Tracy Simmons, a longtime religion reporter, is a University of Idaho lecturer and the editor of SpokaneFaVS, a website dedicated to covering faith, ethics and values in the Spokane region.

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