WARNING: A slightly tongue-in-cheek riff on decisions and choices
Sometimes a thing needs to be decided. And it needs to be decided in a moment. But some of us push the snooze button, confident that in doing so we have been able to delay making a decision because we don’t know what to do or how to do it. But not deciding is a decision even if what’s been decided remains unclear, even as we know in our gut that we have let a moment of pure living pass by leaving in its wake slight ripples of regret that feels like indigestion.
Other times we make a wrong decision, and do that which ought not be done; do it and still land in the same spot, with different regrets and body pains. Funny how that works.
A thing decided is not easily undecided it seems.
Shakespeare told us in his famous and dark M play, “what’s done cannot be undone” (Act 5, scene 1, 68) and because we know it’s true — just as we know it’s true that in our world tolerance for learning to become good at something, or to grow into something through experience and trial and error has dropped in direct proportion to our impossibly high expectation of being perfect and doing things perfectly the first time, each time every time and all the time — we don’t want to make a decision that will be deemed to be wrong by our self or by others, or that will steer us away from the path, whatever that may be because every act must have a purpose, every facet of life MUST have a goal; every person a passion, a reason to be on this planet and to KNOW it, and make every decision in support of it all or it might be, just MIGHT be, wasting time and talent or the greater sin: not knowing.
Still, some of us do not decide or we let the decision be made for us by someone else, or we analyze every nook and cranny and dark alley that a decision could or MIGHT crawl into. And so an undecided choice grows into a big, humungous, hairy unfriendly monster that stymies us, that makes other all other decisions, large and small line up behind it until we are overwhelmed and confused to the point where we don’t move but stay where we are, doing the same things but calling them by different names for reasons that we think still matter and have not changed even if we have.
Definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result.
Is every decision, every choice to be made in heartbeat, or, laboured over for weeks? Is it time to climb that decision tree? Throw the dice? Call heads or tails? Consult the decision theory guys? Worry excessively over making the right decision, or avoid a possible wrong decision, or worry that something MIGHT take us too far away from the goal we have set, or if not goal, slipslide us onto a path OTHER than the one we think we are supposed to be on? Does a journey not start with a single step? Is living a process, something to BE in, rather than hopping from stone to stone in the rivers we have to cross?
Nuts + bolts of decision-making: identify or know the goal, objective, desired outcome, possible consequences, pitfalls, wants, needs desires OR name it curiosity or just because. Gather information, talk to others including contrarians; look at it from made and unmade, sort of like a bed, and from the options and consequences. In spite of what RIsk Managers would have us believe we CANNOT anticipate everything. We are going to have to get used to living with some not knowing — even if we call it complexity, chaos, butterfly flapping wings in China that turns into a hurricane over the ocean or OMG THAT’S WHERE LEFT FIELD IS!!? So going with the best information you got you either choose this, that, the other thing, status quo, stop, do nothing, THEN, as the days follow one another, because they will, no matter what you do or don’t do, adjust as necessary and see what crops up. Learn, and be gentle with yourself in your learning. And in your learnings? Do NOT repeat the same mistakes more than three times or you have a pattern on your hands next to the card with a therapist’s phone number.
Some decisions are easy: Dairy Queen or Hollywood Gelato’s chocolate chili gelato, maybe with a second scoop of pear gelato, to balance the flavours?
Other decisions are more difficult and really, the impact of a decision on your life will comes in time: take this class? That job? Buy that car? PC or Mac? Stick to a vegetarian diet? See this person or that? Live together or not? One dog or two. A cat? House or condo? City or country? Yoga or Pilates or sleep? Make more friends? Learn to snowboard this winter? Get married? Lover or friend? Vacation or home renovation? Go to Vegas just once?
Others are damned near impossible: what to do when I grow up? do I want to grow up? when will I grow up? What decisions do I want to have to make this year? Next year, Five years? Do I move to Anacapri now, or wait a while?
Koan for today: Only a perfect action, decision, choice, has no consequence, no timeframe, no deadline, no ripples across the time-space (slipstream) continuum.
Cue appropriate poem:
The Road not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.” – Maya Angelou