Consider future when making urgent decisions

“I ran into my ex-boyfriend, Samuel,” Marla said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“How did that feel?” I asked.

“It reminded me of how much fun we had,” she said. “I broke up with him four months ago because I didn’t see a future for us. He could talk about anything except his real feelings, and I want more.”

“Is there regret in your voice?” I asked.

“There are times when I’m lonely,” Marla said, “but that’s not what you hear. What I regret was how well he got along with my 9-year-old son, Zach.”

“Do they still see each other?” I asked.

“Since I broke up with Samuel, I didn’t want to confuse things by trying to see each other,” Marla explained. “What’s weird is that Samuel asked about Zach and told me he missed seeing him. And this morning, as Zach was putting on his Rockies’ sweatshirt — that Samuel bought him — he asked about Samuel. It made me think.”

“Think about what?” I prompted.

“Seeing Samuel didn’t pull my heartstrings,” Marla said. “Even though I am not dating anyone seriously, I don’t regret breaking up. But I’m not sure what to do about his relationship with Zach. Should I nurture it?”

“What are some of the advantages of nurturing it?” I asked.

“They get along well and it’s good for Zach to have a male role model,” Marla said. “I think Zach filled a gap in Samuel’s life as well.”

“Those are good reasons to encourage the relationship,” I said. “Tell me about the disadvantages.”

“It could send the wrong message to Samuel. I don’t want to pursue a relationship with Samuel, and it could be confusing for Zach, if and when I date someone else.”

“Let’s look at this from a couple of angles,” I suggested. “Based on what you feel right now, how would you proceed?”

“Having recently had these two conversations with both Zach and Samuel, I’m inclined to encourage the relationship.”

“Now, think about how you would feel in two months.” I said.

“Two months gives me more perspective,” Marla said. “It doesn’t seem as urgent.”

“And a year from now?” I continued.

“In a year, I hope I’m in a relationship with someone who is also building a relationship with Zach,” Marla said.

“With this knowledge, how do you feel about encouraging this relationship now?” I asked.

“Looking at these three perspectives helps me to realize that although it feels pressing now, it will diminish in time,” Marla said. “If I wanted a relationship with Samuel, it would make sense, but I don’t. I’ve decided not to encourage this relationship.”

“Do you need to have any conversations about it with either Samuel or Zach?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I didn’t indicate to either of them that I was questioning changing the status quo. If either of them bring it up, I’m open to talking about it, but this feels best for now. I was caught up in the moment, but it helped to put more time and perspective into my decision.”

Coaching challenge: When facing an urgent decision, look at it from at least three perspectives: today, in two months and in a year, for example.

Describe how you might feel at each stage and see how your thoughts and feelings change. Then determine if the future perspectives confirm or change the decision you will make today.


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