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Live Life Fully: One sentence can help you decide anything

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Do you make snap judgments? Or are you the type that takes forever to make a decision?

Although careful consideration is warranted in most situations, many of us take too long and end up with "analysis paralysis." And then there are those who shoot from the hip.

What happens when the two extremes find themselves in a close relationship? Consider the case of author Leigh Newman. She describes herself as a "gunslinger" when it comes to making decisions; she says she wants to get the decision-making process over as quickly as possible.

"The wrong choice is preferable to considering all the options and doing nothing at all," Newman says. "At least if I end up executing that wrong choice, I get to feel regret instead of panic."

Her husband is just the opposite. "He'll take five years to build a deck because he can't decide between a wooden or metal support structure," she says. "Meanwhile, the building permit expired after 90 days."

Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes. And it's helpful to know there's one sentence to guide us toward getting into action without regret. But first, let's consider that the main culprit behind indecision is fear.

We all know what fear feels like. It doesn't feel like doubt or uncertainty, Newman explains. ("Hmmm ... I'm not sure which is the best option for me.") It feels like a ghost is rattling through your brain, knocking books off shelves, breaking vases and destroying all human logic in its path ("OhmygodIdon'tknowwhattodoOhmygodIdon'tknowwhattodo!")

So, here's something to try on for size. The next time you're faced with a decision and feel a shudder or tremble of fear, you're no longer allowed to decide. You can sit and whistle. Or stop to pet a dog. But no deciding.

You can struggle, deny the issue, whine, curse and bore everyone you know with the ins and outs of the dilemma. But only when you can re-approach that choice without that particular feeling, then -- and only then -- can you move forward to make the decision.

Using this approach may mean you'll miss some opportunities. But you'll also miss all the inevitable and unpredictable disasters that occur only when you're choosing because you're terrified of what might happen (or what hasn't happened yet or what could actually happen if you just went ahead and did the one thing you actually want to do).

Which ... drum roll ... leads to the million-dollar sentence. This sentence, Newman says, is not for use in life-and-death situations. If you're hanging off the edge of a hot-air balloon and you're not sure whether you should try to swing your leg up and plop yourself back into the basket or keep hanging on in hopes you'll be rescued, do not use this sentence. This sentence applies only to nonfatal situations and those with reversible consequences.

Here it is:

"Most decisions can be undone."

While this phrase sounds simple, don't underestimate its power. If you're deciding between two schools for your child, you can always realize, "Hey, if I pick the wrong school, I can always switch to the other school." This puts you in a more neutral posture, so you're not likely to be as hysterical about the process.

The truth is, you'll never know if a decision is a good or bad one until you actually commit to a choice. There's that fear of commitment! In many ways, though, the idea of making a decision is an illusion. It means you feel as if you've done something when, in fact, the real action, and answer, is in the deciding.

Sometimes undoing the choice may be painful. After two short weeks of living in Florida, for example, you may move back home and have to buy your old house back at a horrible loss or rent a creepy apartment. It may be really hard, and it may cost you. Or it may just be slightly embarrassing.

On another note, it may be that after you cut off your hair, choose your new man or woman or move across the country, you could just feel at peace for the first time in your life. You won't know until you commit all the way, and that's what decisions are for -- to usher us into the possibilities of life, and to allow us to move into the disorientation of the change at a slightly different pace, with less fear and a bit more perspective.

The choice of approaching each decision as it comes up, thankfully, is yours. Not to decide is to decide. When you move past this dilemma, the action steps fall into place.

You wouldn't want to develop the crutch of keeping that back door of options open on a continual basis because that just fosters noncommitment. However, you can still take comfort in that one sentence to get you past the fear and into action.

Most decisions can be undone.

Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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