Something extraordinary happened while you slept last night. Your world has changed forever, because today you woke up being able to make just one more change before you die. You get to make a single change before you buy the farm, pop your clogs and kick the bucket. One last thing you can implement. One last thing you can transform. One last thing you can make a difference to.
And everything else must stay the same for the rest of your life. Exactly as it is right now.
How will you react knowing that you only have a single change left to make in your life? How comfortable are you knowing that everything else will remain the same? What will you do?
You might experience some of this:
- With your expectations of being able to make changes big and small for the rest of your life dashed, the level of dopamine in your brain will drop sharply. Dive-bombing dopamine hurts like hell (even matching sensations of physical pain) and can lead you into a downward spiral that’s tough to climb out of.
- Your brain will scramble for a solution to what’s happened, trying to help you find a way through by matching the circumstances it finds itself in with something it’s already learned. It’ll come up with ideas both sane and crazy, but as you have no frame of reference it feels hard to know what the “right” thing to do might be.
- The new territory you’re in gives you ample room for second-guessing yourself. Do you make a change right now, today? Do you fix yourself up financially or fix up your health? Do you store up your change for a rainy day, or do you use it to help someone you love today? Your brain will be keen for you not to screw up, and for every idea or course of action you come up with it can find any number of counter arguments. Pretty soon you’re in analysis paralysis.
- Where you are is just about as risky and as dangerous as it gets; make a wrong decision and the rest of your life will be irrevocably screwed. Your Amygdala – one of the oldest parts of your brain that gives you strong emotional signals to go towards (that tasty berry on that bush) or away from something (that snarling sabre-toothed tiger) – will be screaming at you to run for cover.
- With nobody else in the world affected by this just-one-change-left event it’s hard to see how others can help you; they’re simply not in the same situation as you and can’t possibly understand. The levels of oxytocin in your brain – the neurotransmitter that makes you feel connected to others – drops, making you feel isolated and alone. This can also drop your levels of dopamine further and give you a really strong “run away and hide under the sheets” response.
- With all the scrambling and changes in your brain chemistry, energy will be diverted away from the bit of your brain that helps you think clearly and deliberately. Without power to your pre-frontal cortex you won’t be able to reason or think clearly, so you’re largely at the mercy of the rest of your brain.
Holy mother of a nutcracker. Sounds like a nightmare doesn’t it?
Having a single decision left to make would be nightmarish indeed, but those same reactions in your brain (and a whole heap more) can happen with any choice you make, or even with every choice.
But here’s the good news.
You don’t have just one more change left. You don’t have one more decision to make about your life or your place in the world. You have countless. You can make a decision at any time, and those decisions can be big or small, silly or serious. They can be imbued with what you really value in life; they can honor what’s most important to you and they can bring alive what truly matters.
It doesn’t matter whether a decision goes your way or amounts to a hill o’ beans. You get to make a new choice. Making a decision is the hill o’ beans. You have an extraordinary power at your disposal that you wield every single day of your life. The power to make a decision.
Are you embracing it or resisting it? Are you wielding that power with graceful intention or letting your brain call all the shots on your behalf?