The Rocking Chair Test
What to do? Oh, what to do? Have you ever thought to yourself, “What should I do?” Have you ever stopped to question, “How should I respond? What do I say?” Or maybe you have asked, “What is the right thing to do in this instance?” Perhaps you have pondered, “What next?” Have you ever been faced with a decision in which it was difficult to decide which path to take?
Many years ago, when I was working on my master’s degree, I was faced with a difficult decision. Always the scholarly student, I was working towards maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, while taking classes towards renewing my professional license. Then I was faced with potentially choosing between a class requirement with a fixed date or attending a religious retreat, for which I had been on the waiting list for a year. It ended up that my turn to attend the retreat came up for the same weekend as that required class activity was scheduled. The situation proved to be more stressful because it was a short month-long intensive summer course, so time was of the essence with every week crammed full of reading, assignments, and activities. I became even more frustrated, as my online course instructor had not been responding to any of my correspondence regarding if we could work out another arrangement for that particular weekend.
In the meantime, I ended up speaking with another of my professors from the same department, regarding how I might proceed. She gave me some suggestions. It was then that she also taught me about The Rocking Chair Test.
“What is The Rocking Chair Test?” you may be thinking, much as I questioned her. The thought is that you employ The Rocking Chair Test when you have to make a decision, particularly one of high importance to you or that could even be life changing. The idea is to picture yourself sitting in a rocking chair on a quiet porch, and you imagine that you are looking back upon your life. From hindsight, you reflect on what was most important. You think about if you are proud of the decisions and actions you made, or if you would choose differently. Then you use those thoughts to guide your present decision making.
As my professor explained it specific to my situation, she asked me, “What is the worst that would happen?” She helped me talk though what if the other instructor did not get in touch with me in time, or what if she would not allow me to do an alternative activity in advance. We discussed if I ended up getting a failing grade on that assignment. What was the worse that would that do to my overall class grade? It would drop me to a C and lower my GPA. However, it would not put completion of my master’s degree in jeopardy, and it likely would not affect or even be seen in reference to future employment opportunities. I would still complete the course hours I needed in order to renew my license.
My professor also guided me through, “Now this spiritual retreat must be important to you, if you have waited an entire year for the chance to attend.” While she did not make the decision for me, she helped me think things through. She said, “One day when you are a little old lady, sitting in your rocking chair on your front porch, what are you more likely to remember? The lessons learned during a short one-month-long master’s class? Or what you gained from attending the spiritual retreat? Which event’s impact will be more important throughout the rest of your life?”
When I heard it phrased that way, my decision became easy. I chose the retreat.
I could end the story there. It doesn’t change the outcome nor the point of the narrative, but I know some of you are thinking, “What happened with the class though?” It ended up the instructor had suddenly been called out of town for a family emergency, which sadly ended with attending a funeral. Once she returned home, she contacted me and was more than willing to help me work out an alternative assignment. I finished the class with an A. I got the hours needed for my license renewal, and I ultimately earned my master’s degree. I was also able to attend the spiritual retreat, which has made a life-long impact and has affected more of my important life decisions after that point in time.
What difficult decisions are you facing? Try applying The Rocking Chair Test to see where you feel led.
Now imagine that you are 95 years old, sitting in a rocking chair on the porch. Prior to your family celebrating your birthday with you, you are taking a moment to reflect on your life. Would you have any regrets? What have your accomplishments been? What advice would you want to leave to family and friends?
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