UNITED STATES—Nothing so entraps a life in mediocrity as inability to decide. It dooms people to limbo, and nevertheless, it’s easy to see why they choose limbo. It’s scary to decide; you want to leave the door open, or at least ajar, to be able to slink back out.
Look, you wouldn’t believe it, but a sentence ago I wanted to back out of this and rehash yesterday’s blog post, but I had decided to tackle the topic of indecision, let providence exalt my pencil and give you, my reader pals, something fresh and vital.
To decide is to kill off other possibilities. It shares the same word root as suicide and herbicide. To decide is dangerous like a controlled brush fire, which ultimately serves to reduce the possibility of a wild fire. To decide is to kill off nagging options, burn bridges. There’s only one way forward. And you can’t ride two horses.
Yet you see the sick spectacle of people trying to ride two horses all the time. They are ‘trying things out,’ ‘waiting and seeing.’ When my first wife and I moved to Los Angeles from Mexico we maintained our apartment in Guadalajara for a full year. We intended to go back, me to my translating post at the university, where I had agreed to fill in for my boss who had taken a leave of absence for post-graduate studied in Canada, but something happened. My boss at the translating department became disenchanted with the postgraduate program. She returned to Mexico prematurely and my obligation to man the office was dissolved.
Even so, it was an excruciating decision to stay in the U.S. or go back to Mexico, right down to the wire. The commitment to return to Guadalajara made our new lives in L.A. tentative. We were riding two horses till we finally went back to Mexico and decided to clean up the remains of our old life. The $80 monthly rent down there to store our stuff wasn’t bad, but how much easier if we’d made a clean breast of it earlier.
Why do people stall and put off decisions?
1. Because they are expecting results in excess of reality. In the case of Mexico we expected something so dramatic that would have to justify our staying in the United States. Like me selling a screenplay.
2. Finances. Stalling till tax refund time to make a needed home repair or go on a vacation. It gets postponed, and by the time the refund comes, something else is first in line. By operating this way, people develop a robust set of internal muscles to prevent making decisions.
3. Having decisions decided for you. People become quite comfortable with decisions being made for them. Lack of money, circumstances, letting previous commitments stand in the way of the new path.
As a result, people are denied the crucial experience of internally toughing out the psychological consequences of a decision. Toughness is really required. A person inexperienced in decisions may be riding a new horse, but they get off too soon because of the turbulence. Greater toughness is required, the greener we are at making decisions.
There are two opinions for pretty much every fork in the road. An example. Today, I told my acting teacher, “I got my three vouchers. I’m eligible to join SAG.” The first two words out of his mouth were “Do it.” An actress was in the room with us. She had a different opinion. She thought I should hold out as long as I can and get more non-union work.
These are opposing points of view that can be argued eternally. None innately right; the only thing to get me over the hump is my power of decision, which involves the gut and can be gut-wrenching. But you gotta do it: decide and stick with it. The life that decides is immeasurably enhanced. Learn to decide quickly and be reluctant to turn back just because you feel pain. Every decision leaves behind alluring options that still sparkle from the shore, so we train our gaze forward. Of course, when it becomes painfully obvious that you’ve made a wrong decision, change it on a dime.
Learn to make decisions quickly and unapologetically. The greater number of decisions you make, the surer you are sure to see success grow.
Humorist Grady Miller is author of “Lighten Up Now,” a diet for the mind and body, available on Amazon.com. Reach Grady at email@example.com.