I recently heard an analogy of three types of people you see in line at the grocery store.
- Person 1 gets in a line and sticks to it no matter how slow it is or how much faster the others are.
- Person 2 changes lines repeatedly based on whatever he thinks might save a few seconds.
- Person 3 switches only once, when it is clear that his line is delayed and there is clearly a better option.
Which one are you?
Person 1: Refusing to Change
If you are like person 1, then you need to be more flexible. Circumstances will inevitably change in life, and if we don’t respond appropriately, we create trouble for ourselves and everyone around us.
Perhaps you feel bad about changing your decision because you think it means you made a bad decision in the past. If that’s the case, understand that a good decision is not defined by a good outcome. Good decisions can lead to bad outcomes sometimes.
A good decision is one that is made using sound reasoning with the available information at that time. When there is new information (such as when circumstances change), then it is time to make a new good decision.
Person 2: Changing Too Much
If you are like person 2, then you need more patience. We need to give things enough time for them to show results. For example, if we start a new exercise routine, read a new book, take a new class, make a new friend, etc., we shouldn’t write them off just based on a bad first encounter. If we give it a bit more time, we might discover how great it is.
Person 3: The Middle Way
If you are like person 3, then you are following the Middle Way. The principle of the Middle Way states that things themselves are not the problem,, but rather excess and deficiency of something is the problem. Never changing is stubbornness, while changing too much is impetuous.
The Middle Way is to do our proper diligence when making the initial decision. Then pay attention to changing circumstances. If circumstances change enough, then re-evaluate the decision and make a change if appropriate.
I tend to be more like Person 1. If I make a commitment to something, I am 100% in, and I feel bad for changing my mind in the future. For example, I attended several online classes in my free time in the past, but later, new opportunities came my way, and I felt bad about telling my current class teachers that I would stop attending their class.
At that time, a friend told me, “You should not live for other people’s approval. You need to prioritize things yourself, not based on what others think.”
I then reflected on these questions:
- Did I make the best decision back then based on the available information at that time?
- Is this still the best use of my time?
- Which is of greater service to all those around me?
- Can those people I’m trying to leave manage without me?
After reflecting on these questions, I realized that I did make the best decision back then, so I don’t need to blame myself. Moreover, those people do not need me to be in their class, and these new opportunities are a better use of my time and of greater service to my future and the people around me.
I then politely told those teachers that due to new opportunities and time constraints, I can no longer attend, but I am very grateful for all the classes so far. I thought they might be disappointed, but actually, they were really supportive and thanked me for my attendance all these months. That made me think of an important teaching from Confucianism: A sincere and kind heart will always get through to people.
Are you more like Person 1 (stubborn), Person 2 (impetuous), or Person 3 (Middle Way)?