Live by the foma* that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.
― Kurt Vonnegut
Steve said, “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” His answer felt like truth to me. Not an easy truth, but truth.
― Brené Brown
When I was 18, the 19-year-old fella I had been involved with – in friendship and romance, variously – since I was 12 gave a good ole college try at killing me in the wake of our messy and prolonged breakup. For me, it is natural to be reflective about that experience, especially in late August when the anniversary rolls around.
This year felt a little more notable because this year marks 25 years and I do love a milestone.
That I wasn’t killed that sunny Tuesday morning is not the only lucky or fortunate part of this story. There were also those few people who could hang with me in the thick of that trauma and resulting depression (if you’ve experience trauma, too, you likely also know a lot of people just can’t hang); there was also access to a fantastic psychologist, antidepressant medication, and those things that made the rest of life more interesting and engaging like college, road trips, professional development, and, of course, fresh-baked bread.
Of all my fortune in the midst of a truly traumatic experience, there was one sentence that changed the whole game for me and I heard it within the first 18 months after the attack:
People make the best choices they can given the options they think they have.
For the first year and a half after high school, I worked as an admin at a neuromuscular therapy center (luck!). The owner brought in a NLP (neurolinguistic programming) practitioner to train the body workers and allowed us admins to sit in on the first session (luck!). And it was there that I heard this thought.
What if that fella, whose first 19 years had been absolutely paved in trauma, whose earliest years were marked by neglect, abuse, and rejection, had seen as his only three options:
- Feel soul-crushing rejection forever
- Remove himself from the equation
- Remove the (most immediate) source of rejection from the equation
Remember: We’re talking about the option he thought he had, not the actual array of options available to him. That we’re all missing possible options and critical information in any decision-making process – from where to eat dinner to whether to off an ex – is an inevitable part of being human.
When I imagined him to have only these possible options, I could understand his decision. I mean, it was a terrible, horrible decision with no justification ever, but through this lens, the question of “Why?!” (and, to be painfully honest, also, “Why me?”) eased, allowing me to do as Brené Brown’s husband Steve described as focusing “on what is, and not what should or could be.”
Is this foma?
Maybe. And if it is, this idea has certainly helped me be more brave and kind and healthy and happy.
Coaching is not about perfecting ourselves; that’s not on the list of options. Instead, coaching is about leaning with intention into what is and finding there your strengths, your bravery, your bigger and badder. Let’s talk about how coaching might serve you.