“Watch to the end of the movie,” advises Dr. Henry Cloud. What he means is, when in doubt about an action, fast forward and look where it takes you. Finish all the ice cream in the carton? Just this once – it would only go to waste! In one year how many pounds extra pounds is that?
Or dating an Australian you met traveling in India? Do you want to spend your life the other side of the world from your family?
He makes good sense: previewing the consequences allows us to change our direction, or put a time limit on our behaviour. But some of us feel locked into a direction for eternity – and as a result never get started. I once had a client who was completely stuck. She and her husband were setting up a business. She felt paralysed – as if she had boarded a non-stop train for an unforseeable destination.
Her husband needed to see a firm direction or he couldn’t get started; she needed to build in review points where they could revise their course if needed. Once they realized how their different motivations worked, it was simple to set ground rules: an overall goal, but annual reassessments of how they were doing.
So watch the movie to the end, but also use the strategy differently to prepare for the unexpected. Look ahead to see what might happen – life can be so unpredictable. We faced this five years ago when my back grew markedly worse. We were living in deep country on 10 acres in a cottage we had designed and built. We loved it, but obviously it wouldn’t be practical forever. In fact, for me it wasn’t practical now. I was increasingly cut off from friends and activity and we had to face the possibility of Bill getting sick. If he did, our lives would be untenable.
What to do? We had to jump forward mentally: what would be our needs and how would we need to change. We needed to go from self-sufficient country dwellers to involvement in a downtown community. From starry night and not another house in sight to a terraced house with neighbours coming and going, city sounds. We needed to stand at the endpoint and see what changes we needed to make now to get there.
Now I am mentally preparing for a greater change down the road. One of us will be left, probably in the next ten years. Who do I need to be to get through this? What emotional and psychological muscles must I exercise to be the right person to survive what comes with grace.
Never Go Back: 10 Things You Will Never do Again by Dr. Henry Cloud.