“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
- J. W. von Goethe
Decisions are hard. Very hard.
The word “decision” is based on the Latin “decisio,” which means a cutting off. The verb is decidere, to cut off, (“de” is off; “caedere” is to cut). You can see the root repeated in other familiar words: scissors, incision, caesarean section. Michael Ellsberg, in his book, The Education of Millionaires, recounts the work of Randy Komisar and his thoughts on playing it safe versus taking risks.
“The words “decision,” and “decide” stem from the roots “cise” and “cide,” to cut off and to kill, also the roots of manhy other words related to cutting and killing.”
“People feel like, unless they’re affirmatively making a decision, they’re not making a decision.”
We think that we’re safer, less risky, when we don’t cut off any possibilities. And so many of us sit, waifish, reluctant to decide because we are afraid of killing one of our options. We are afraid of the bloody battle that making a decision requires. We think that the alternative–not deciding–is safer, more secure. If we don’t decide to quit, to act, to disagree with someone, then we’ll be happier, somehow.
Yet there is a huge risk in not deciding:
Not making a decision is making a decision.
As time winds its way past you, your indecisiveness kills both of the options you once had, leaving you sitting on the site of the path, empty-handed. Not deciding is deciding. Not deciding is the death of both options. It’s not saving the life of both options.
Sure, there are risks of taking action. But there are also huge risks of inaction. To quote Ellsberg, these risks include:
“The risk of working with people you don’t respect; the risk of working for a company whose values are incosistent with your own; the risk of compromising what’s important; the risk of doing something that fails to express-or even contradicts–who you are. And then there is the most dangerous risk of all–the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”
It’s not easy. You need to cut off part of yourself, close doors, and eliminate options. It’s painful. It’s hard. It’s why so many people opt to avoid making decisions. It’s why, when we’re presented with an incredible number of options, we’ll often choose to leave and “come back later,” because we don’t want to make the wrong decision. It’s why marketers and salespeople are realizing the genius of offering fewer options.
Because people are terrible at making decisions.
What are you risking by being afraid of not deciding?
We stand there, wistfully, at the fork in the path and dwell on the option we’re leaving behind, the places and spaces that could have been. But unless we decide to act, to make a decision, to cut one path and choose the other, then we’re not gaining from either option in front of us. No: we’re just sitting there, hands tied in the grassy meadow, staring at unfinished possibilities.
Deciding is powerful. It is terrifying. It is beautiful. Kill something today. Cut it out. Drop it. Remove it. Make clarity in choosing, by saying No to the part you don’t want. Say Yes to the things you want to keep. Do something.
“Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
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