Monday, May 17, 2010

Free Will and Fear of Failure

I hear that one of the keys to becoming a successful writer is to write. That makes sense to me-- write every day, develop your skills, get some practice, improve. The trouble I always have with this idea is that some days I just don't feel like writing. Maybe I have nothing to say, or maybe I feel like what I have to say is too controversial, or maybe I'm worried about saying it all perfectly and I don't want to post my thoughts for others to read until I feel they're flawless.

The first two reasons are true of me occasionally. There have been plenty of times where I'm itching to write something, but I have no idea what I want to say. And several posts have been sitting in my drafts for quite a while now because I fear that they're too controversial to put out there.

But if I'm being completely honest, the third reason probably rings truest for me most of the time. In my writing, just as in the rest of my life, I want things to be perfect and I hesitate to make a move at all unless I feel that it's flawless.

At church lately, and also in a few conversations, the idea has been discussed that maybe God doesn't have a specific plan laid out for everything in our lives. Maybe there are areas that are left up to us to decide, and God will work through them. Perhaps things like how many children to have, or where to live, or what career to pursue. While I'm sure that God does have a plan for these things for some people, I'm also fairly confident that many times he gives us passions and talents and then wants us to use our free will in conjunction with these to make choices about our lives-- and then he will work through those choices.

I know that some have a hard time grasping that idea. Maybe it sounds slightly blasphemous, as though I'm saying God isn't actually all-powerful. (That's not what I'm saying.) Or perhaps it freaks you out a little because you like the idea of God having it all planned out, and it's stressful to think that maybe sometimes the choices are left up to you. Maybe the idea of this challenges you or your understanding of God in some other way.

Personally, I'm comfortable with the idea because in a way, it takes the pressure off a little. If God has a plan for everything, and I make the wrong choice, I could ruin his plan for my life! It feels very freeing to think that sometimes God wants us to make our own choices and that he will work through them.

So while I don't really struggle with this idea, I do still struggle with wanting to make the "best" choice. Even if God doesn't have a specific plan all laid out for me, I can't help feeling that some choices are going to be better or more logical than others, so there must also be a best choice if I just think it through enough. So I end up spending an insane amount of time examining everything from every angle, trying to figure out what's the very best. After all, I don't want to do anything imperfectly. I want it all figured out, planned out, and flawlessly carried out.

But more and more, I'm starting to think that maybe in a lot of situations, there isn't even a "best" or most logical plan. Maybe sometimes lots of different options will work out equally well-- differently, but equally well-- and I just need to make a choice and go for it. Maybe I'll fail. Maybe it won't be all that I thought it was cracked up to be. And that's okay. (I know that, but it's a hard pill to swallow still, because I fear failure.)

If the key to becoming a successful writer is to write, perhaps the key to living a successful life is to, well, live. Make choices. Try new things. Do something you're afraid to do. Accept that you may fail sometimes. Just live-- even when you don't feel like it, even when you don't think you have anything to do or say, even when you may be coming up against the status quo, and even (maybe especially) when you fear failure.


  1. You are so "you" - - - and that's why I really like reading your blog.

    But there are many other people who think like you in the realm of free choice and thinking a lot before decisions and are they correct choices? . . . . Have you read any of Kevin Leman's books? They address the traits of the firstborn - - - you are very classic in many of them - - - or have I asked you this before? My memory is about as short as my height.

  2. I think I've read one of Kevin Leman's books-- I can't remember the title off the top of my head-- but not the one about birth order. I'd really like to, though! I learned about birth order traits in some of my psychology classes in college, and it seems like I fit with both oldest and only child (which makes sense because I was the only child for almost 7 years!).