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When You Think You Should Know, But Can’t Decide

The writer and Ironman trainee, Amy (Shoop) Riley.

Maybe you know how this goes: You have a plan.

In this case: Position myself in 2015 to register in September for Ironman Wisconsin 2016.

Then, things don’t go according to plan.

Questions swirl, not just any questions but questions dressed in a dark cloud.

1) Am I sure?
2) Should I push myself or be compassionate with myself and ease up?
3) How do I know I am making the best choice?

I know this swirl well. Do you know it?

My Story
My Dad died in December 2014. Grief came in intense and unexpected ways. I became uncharacteristically unmotivated and what I called “dimmed.” I didn’t know myself. The first half of 2015 was disconcerting and a struggle.

By late summer, I felt more like myself, but the questions feverishly persisted, despite my progress.

Was I supposed to not register and chart a different path? Was I meant to continue to treat my body gently? Or, was it the perfect time to ramp up because I had given myself a true recovery?

Was it the best time to Ironman? Ironman is the longest distance triathlon, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run. Or, was I supposed to learn that I didn’t have to do my thing of taking on a big long-term goal? Would I be more inspired by the challenge or lack thereof?

When you find yourself going back and forth about a decision, try this:

1) Look for what aligns with your values. Really either choice worked fine for my values.

2) Talk to someone you know, who knows you. Listen, too. I talked to my running coach. I scheduled a special session with a life coach. I listened to my head. I listened to my heart.

3) Try the decision on for size. Role play. For 2 days, I pretended (no) I chose not to register and followed that up with 2 days of pretending (yes) I registered.

NO-768x1024What I found …
After role playing The No Road, I relished the upside. There were several reasons to resist Ironman. I could run and bike and not worry about swimming … new half marathon PR … more time for charity giving … more time for my second business and my family. I thought the breakthrough would be to not register.

The No Road felt great!

Now it was time for my 2 days of taking The Yes Road. This seemed like wasted effort. Flip my thinking and enthusiasm back to doing the Ironman? Not likely. But I’m nothing if not a planner and the plan was to pretend – so I did. I became super jazzed about registering! In learning mode, I’d feel audacious and get in great shape. Look at that 140.6 on the back window! (Yup, I’m one of those.) I mapped out the training program, pictured the gear, made imaginary Christmas lists. I felt like doing it!

The Yes Road worked too, how annoying.

YES-768x1024It’s frustrating when two opposing decisions make sense.

I told my husband that we might as well flip a coin. We gathered the family and did just that. My son called it. The coin came up Yes. My daughter declared, “The coin said to do it Mom. You should do it.”

I went to Madison planning to register for the Ironman. Unless something changed my mind beforehand.

I felt more certainty than I had in a long while, however, I was still not 100%. Somehow I felt a lightness about it. Whichever way I went, I knew I’d be fine and I’d grow and learn. From my experience with my indecisiveness, I learned it’s okay to not know, even about big decisions.

We can’t expect to know for certain which decision to make.
Taking risks is risky.

We can only try to be compassionate and patient with ourselves as we move through the decision-making process.

And, I did register! Now seven months into my year of Ironman training, I’m “pretty” confident I made the right choice.

By Amy L. Riley, mom, marathoner, new triathlete, and founder of Shoop Consulting Group and Loving the Pregnant You. Through her work, Amy is committed to supporting her clients to approach their lives and work in their own unique, powerful way.

When You Think You Should Know, But Can’t Decide

Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, a book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to stop the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Award in the Women's Issues category - Stop Giving It Away.

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APA Reference
, . (2016). When You Think You Should Know, But Can’t Decide. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 May 2016
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