Words in Action
Indecision is a cruel thing to suffer. It could be as simple as choosing a menu item or the color of a tie. We go back and forth and back and forth, weighing the attributes of each choice. This flow of thought becomes ridiculously maddening. Imagine how that struggle deepens when indecision carries over from something as simple as dinner to something as complicated as relationships.
I, myself, have been in many situations where a choice was a difficult thing to make. In some cases, I was able to prolong my indifference in a way that the choice was just eventually made for me. But I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of having choices made FOR me. Instead, I prefer to maintain control. I prefer to decide. And so, what do we do about indecision?
Reasons for indecision are varied, but I believe people have the most difficulty when they walk the line between what they feel obligated to do and what they want to do. Moreover, indecision often lies not in the true value of each choice, but in the value we place (deservingly or not) on what is easy or comfortable. As humans, we don’t always like to stretch – our palates, our minds, our hearts. And so the “comfort zone” is an easy place where the decisions we’ve made in the past live. These are the foods, vacation spots, job opportunities, and even people that we’ve already tried on for size. And in the process of that trial, we’ve deemed them safe (or at least tolerable). The risk in committing to something new is that we have to learn all over again whether or not we like that something. And, if we don’t, we have to be able to embrace the decision as a learning process, not as a regret.
I think every reader knows exactly what I mean. To put it in simple terms, consider that one restaurant; the place where you always order the same exact thing off the menu. We all have that place. And we all do the same thing. We look at the menu, we see some things that look delicious, we struggle to make a decision, and then we pick the same old thing. Why? The answer is not simply that we know that dish is good. It is also because we’re afraid we’ll be disappointed if we pick something new and it just isn’t as tasty as our regular meal. We are afraid of the potential regret.
Decision-making is hard. When presented with two (or more) choices, making a decision means that we take a risk on one thing over the others. It means that some things fall off to the side. In that way, we have to not only be comfortable with deciding, we also have to be ok with letting some things go. And letting things go is even harder.
And so, what do we do? I read a very interesting article recently called “Resolving Indecision” where the author differentiates very clearly about choices and decisions. He says:
“To address indecision, I’d like to first make a distinction between decisions and choices, because I think people get themselves into trouble conflating the two. I think that it is best to think of choices as preferences that stem from subjective personal tastes. A decision, on the other hand, is a commitment to action that occurs after one becomes aware of their choice. For example, yesterday I chose between Snickers and M&M’s, and upon realizing that I wasn’t in the mood for caramel I made the decision to buy the M&M’s. Choices are often difficult, but I suspect that most of the time people lean at least slightly one way or the other, and that if push came to shove they could state a preference.”
And so, maybe the struggle lies not in the decision (which is the implementation of choice), but in actually knowing ourselves well enough to distinguish our preferences. What is challenging is to think about these preferences outside of anything else – free from obligation, free from familiarity, free from a fear of regret. Do we really know what we like? Can we identify the things that make us not just content, but truly happy? Most importantly, do we believe we deserve that happiness? I suspect that answering those questions is where the real work lies. Any decision after that is a piece of cake.
This post comes as a sincere plea for some consideration. When I let you out in traffic, please wave or smile. When I hold a door for you, I’d appreciate a “thank you.” And for the love of God, when we are crammed in together on a packed airplane, please refrain from reclining your seat! While it may afford you some comfort or promote your efforts to take a nap, your invasion of my space is not welcome or comfortable.
As I think about this topic, I am hard pressed to understand why a seat recline in coach is even an option. Airlines should have those seats bolted in an upright position. Can’t sleep like that? That’s a shame. Really. My heart bleeds for you. But here’s a news flash: It’s not always just about you.
As hard as I try, I just can’t see how the person who chooses to recline doesn’t even think about how their change in position is impacting the person behind them. Or even worse, maybe they do and they just don’t care. All I know is that when the woman in front of me pushed the button on her armrest and flattened out in front of me, visions of me using my tray table soon disappeared. The almost comfortable knee space I once knew vanished. And I was no longer just elbow to elbow with the person next to me, but now also almost face to face with her. As I struggled to not hit her in the head with the magazine I was reading, I seriously almost offered to rub her temples.
For the most part, I see myself as a pretty adaptable person. I roll with the punches. But if I think about my three biggest pet peeves, I realize they are all rooted in the same thing: a lack of consideration for others. I mean, if I took the time to hold a door for you, how hard is it to say “thank you”? When there’s a line of traffic and we’re all eager to move, wouldn’t it be nice to smile at someone who gives you an “in”? And when we’re packed in together like sardines on a full flight, do you think maybe you can respect the tiny bit of personal space I overpaid for and not recline your seat? It’s not rocket science. You won’t win any awards. But you just might make a positive difference in someone else’s day.
Before you assume, based on my headline, that I am about to become a complete introvert, let me quickly clarify my intentions. In 2014, instead of intending to see people, my goal is to actually schedule time with them. Put them on my calendar and treat them like any other important appointment. I vow not to cancel because I’m tired or grumpy or broke. No. Instead, I will be making a true and valiant effort to spend more of my moments with the people I love, respect, value, or otherwise cherish. It will be – for all intents and purposes – my new year’s resolution.
Why this strong shift in purpose? Well, it occurred to me this week after the sudden and shocking loss of a friend that we all say, “Let’s get together soon” entirely too much. While the words themselves make us feel like we are nurturing a relationship, the fact of the matter is that we are delaying an obligation to foster and feed our relationships. Yes, I said obligation and I chose that word intentionally. You see, it seems to me that if we choose the word “friend” to describe someone, we also have a duty to remain connected. Friendship does not happen without that connection. It can’t. But I also know that my life is busy…busy with work, busy with errands, busy with all the tedious things that keep me occupied but don’t really add any true value to my life. All the while, the people who add zest to my life, who encourage my talents, who love me despite my shortcomings, who rely on me for support…they are what waits for all the other “stuff” to be resolved. In truth, all those other things will always be there. Those important people will not.
So that’s that. If you are a friend of mine, chances are good that you’ll be getting a call or a text very soon asking you to schedule time with me. (And by the way, I do NOT think texting is ever a good substitute for real conversation.) And I will be persistent. My hope is that others will join me in making 2014 the year we stop saying, “Let’s get together soon,” and instead spend more moments saying, “It was really nice to see you.”