A word on the page(1)

I can’t remember where I heard the following question, or the exact wording for that matter, but it was put forward as a way of acknowledging our personal preference for getting started/inspired in creative pursuits.

Do you prefer to sit before a blank piece of paper, or a piece of paper with a single word on it?

Instantly my intuition tingled, saying, “The second one. The one-word one.” I couldn’t help but close my eyes in affirmation. Actually, I closed my eyes for two reasons: the first was because it’s always a really soul-warming experience to listen to and heed my intuition.

Aw geez, I wish that was the only reason I closed my eyes!

*deep breath*

The second reason was that all the stories I have — forged by conditioning — were being gabbled at me: “You should pick the blank page. That means your story is more unique. It means you are more creative if you don’t need any help. You’ll be better than those who pick the one-word option”.

*sigh*…*deep breath*

I know I’m not the only one to have scarcity and shame-based stories but when it is happening, I feel incredibly alone.

There was a time this would have been enough to send me off in a different — existential — direction. It has taken plenty of practise to start simply noticing the self-doubt ship leaving port and not running along the pier to jump on and sail away with it.

I believe everything begins with choice. Firstly, I need to choose whether to believe those stories over the curiosity I am feeling. I chose to do an experiment to see if those stories stood up to it. In fact, my writing about choice is the result of a choice I made to invite a word onto the page. I wrote a Facebook post asking for people to share a word/theme/topic they would like me to write words about. I tend to use “That’s so meta” incorrectly but this feels like one of those “That’s so meta!” moments. Answers on a postcard, please. So here goes.

Words, to me, are vital to how we navigate and negotiate space, be it internal, physical or interpersonal so I want to start by saying that when I use the word choice, it is not the same as decision. I believe every word contains energy, which stems from our lived experience of and exposure to that particular word, which means our definitions of each word are different. This is why we can be having a conversation/heated debate/argument with someone about, say, ‘communication’ in that relationship (ironic, I know) and what each person expects ‘communication’ to look like between two people can be vastly different, hence the clash. It is common to use the words choice and decision synonymously, but I see them as so intensely disparate that I feel it is useful for decision to be mentioned.

Here’s an analogy of the difference that I perceive between choice and decision, which will express why I embrace the former and will always embrace the former over the latter.

Before you is a table. You’re asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Atop the table appears all of your options, all clearly separated and easy to see, regardless of how many options there are. You are told to decide; pick that one thing to which you will commit, and that will encompass who you are whilst generating health, wealth and happiness. Which option will you decide upon in order to leave a legacy — to impact the world — while also letting your friends, family and colleagues understand who you are because you decided upon that one thing/path/career.

Etymologically-speaking…

Decide means ‘to cut away’

De-cision, similar to in-cision. A surgeon cuts into, a decision maker cuts away)

You have to go all in on a decision. You have to commit.

You grit your teeth, decide and then you swipe everything else off the table to leave the winning option. You’ve cut away all else and here you are with your decision. You did it.

Stepping out of the hypothetical for a sec, how does the idea of that make you feel in this moment? No right or wrong. Just observation.

Now let’s rewind until all of the options are back on the table. This time you are invited to choose; to select the option that feels inspiring, curiosity-inducing and in alignment with your wants and interests now. Like, right now! Not for 6 months or 6 years, or even 6 hours down the line. Right now. What would you like to choose? Perhaps you notice some of those pesky Shoulds and stories arise…

  • commitment is better or more important
  • ‘knowing’ what’s to come from the choice makes an option more valid and worthy of selection (which is decision not choice)
  • (Insert yours here)

But you breathe (plus you notice no-one is rushing you) and you calm the volume and intensity of those voices if they arise and you choose an option.

WHOA there on any swiping!

This is where choice is different. All the other options stay where they are. You pick up your choice and off you pop, feeling your way with it, channeling your curiosity and interest in it, away from the table and away from comparison.

“Ok, but what happens if I want to change my mind?” Great question, unattributed voice that’s useful for the progression of the piece.

This is the important part, and the significant difference between deciding and choosing. With decision, you’ve made a commitment. You said that was ‘the one’; people thought they knew you and now you run the risk of having to tell them you want something different (which we are taught means you must have lied about who you are). Shoulds and stories spot their chance to come out and play; the stories of why change is not ok, and something to be feared. Plus, you look around and all the other options are strewn all over the floor. It’s going to take a whole heap of energy just to put it all back on the table to decide again. No-one has time or energy for that, right? It’s easier to stick with what you decided upon and find a way of coping. Or is it?

If you want to change your choice, you return to the table. You place the choice back where it was and you get to choose something else. You may find that simply by returning the choice to the table and asking yourself, “What choice do I want to make in this moment?” that you choose that thing again; this is absolutely ok because we are not making the choice based on any external expectations. Context and reconnection is an important part of conscious choice. By placing it back we see it in relation to the other options and, therefore, get to see it as a new thing again instead of something we have already used and therefore as something that cannot surprise us.

To me, choice is a way of lowering the stakes, whereas decision is all about heightening them.

Choice asks, “What does your next step look like?” Decision asks, “What does your final step look like?”

Either way, you need to make a step. Regardless of whether you choose it or decide it, you are enough. And you ALWAYS get to change your mind if you feel called to.

Much ginger love 🧡

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Paul Sockett

A silly & sensitive storyteller; a word reframer. I am a fierce advocate for Shame- & Scarcity-free choice. 🍦 inspires me: https://ko-fi.com/paulsockett