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A “New” Take on How to Make Decisions at the Midlife Crossroads

September '15

Last week I bumped into a list of Elizabeth Gilbert’s favorite books about creative inspiration. While I was not surprised to find The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron on it, my eyes widened on spotting The Little Locksmith, by Katherine Butler Hathaway. About this selection, Gilbert writes, “This tiny, obscure memoir was originally published in 1943 but recently came back into print. I wish every woman in the world would read it.”

Who could resist! I bought it, started reading and came across a remarkable paragraph about how to make decisions that emerged when Hathaway started house hunting. Although decades old, her approach was new to me; perhaps it’s new to you too.

Hathaway writes, “So the prospect of buying that house gave me first one and then the other of those two contradictory feelings [morning confidence and nightly fear]. Then and there, I invented this rule for myself to be applied to every decision I might have to make in the future. I would sort out all the arguments and see which belonged to fear and which to creativeness, and other things being equal I would make the decision which had the larger number of creative reasons on its side.”

Some folks are naturally endowed with an ability to make quick and good decisions for themselves, but I’m not one of them, nor are many women at midlife, who struggle to make choices about next steps when charting new territory for themselves.

Experimenting with Hathaway’s rule might prove to be useful to you. What grabs me about her method is how it brings your fears to the surface. Surely it’s a good idea to move forward on any decision with an awareness about how your fears play into it. A particular fear isn’t necessarily good or bad, but knowledge of that fear enables you to release the sensation and make your decisions from a calmer place.

What also fascinates me about Hathaway’s rule is her notion of which aspects of a choice belong to creativeness. She, herself, finally bought a big house that did not meet her original tiny cottage imaginings, but rather one that promised “a new era for me, the starting point for a happier and more creative life than I had ever known” – even in the midst of her feelings of “pure panic” every night.

So how about you? Navigating the midlife transition requires endless large and small decisions. Why not give Hathaway’s rule a try? While it may not be the perfect tool, at the very least it will allow your fears to emerge and perhaps even put you on the path towards a more meaningful life.

Or if you already have a finely-honed tool for decision-making, I invite you to share it in the comment box below. Who knows what stranger might find this gift just the right approach for her?

Happy decision-making!

P.S. If you know of others who might enjoy reading this month’s newsletter, please forward it to them and invite them to subscribe at www.bonnieleonard.com.

P.P.S. I found Gilbert’s list on Goodreads.






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