A lot of people live in a perpetual state of limbo.
And not the fun party game; the emotional wasteland.
It’s a grayed-out, dulled-out, parched-out zone of ‘what if’ and ‘maybe someday.’
Maybe someday I’ll fit back into this.
Maybe I’ll look back at these notes and turn them into a proposal.
Maybe I’ll have a better sense of how to handle this next week.
Maybe I’ll need this purple canary costume for an art project.
Maybe I really will cook this recipe someday. You know, when the Obamas come to dinner.
And the really insidious one….
Maybe if I wait a while, someone will decide for me.
Sometimes these ‘maybes’ show up as clutter.
When you look around and you see a lot of clutter, what you’re seeing is a bunch of small decisions… avoided.
When you have some ‘sticky’ emails that you just can’t seem to move out of your inbox, they usually represent tough choices that you have to make.
When you have too many commitments crowded into your calendar, they’re a clear sign that you haven’t been able to say ‘NO’ often enough.
Often these decisions and choices aren’t dramatic.
Should I cc my manager on this tricky bit of correspondence, or hope it just works out?
Should I go to the baseball game or the networking dinner?
Should I get rid of this and take the chance that someday I might regret it?
Should I give my money to this worthy cause…or this other one?
The truth is, there are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions.
The problem is when you don’t decide.
You can’t decide whether you should cc your manager or just handle it yourself, so a time-sensitive email sits ticking in your inbox for three days, until your furious manager storms into your office.
You say yes to BOTH the networking dinner AND the baseball game… and then you have to cancel one.
You don’t get rid of the canary costume, but you also don’t pack it away in the attic, so it just sits there…. junking up your once-beautiful credenza.
You don’t write a check to either non-profit organization, because they’re both equally worthy– but then those envelopes sit there in your inbox, whispering that you’re a selfish miser.
There is a huge cost to NOT making choices.
A small detail blows up into a huge crisis because it wasn’t handled in a timely way.
You end up paying for events you don’t even attend, and canceling on people you love.
Piles of things sit around, nagging you, needling you, whispering that you’re a loser…in the very spaces where you most long to relax and rejuvenate.
Even though you have plenty of money, you careen between feeling guilty and worrying that you’re not using it well.
There is a HUGE cost to not making choices. It costs you time, money, and peace of mind. It can fray relationships, nerves, and your sense of integrity.
So why do we resist making choices?
Because each choice, no matter how tiny, involves a tiny twinge of loss.
If you taste the chocolate, you don’t get to taste the pistachio.
If you take path A, you miss out on finding out about how path B might’ve turned out.
You take the risk of making a poor choice and feeling bad about it.
You feel the sorrow of saying goodbye to someone, or a phase of your life, that you loved.
Dr. Marilyn Paul writes, “Sometimes we hold on to things to avoid the grief of acknowledging that we are at a crossroads. When we let go, we are forced to recognize that we have made a choice, that we can’t do everything in life. We are always making choices, letting go of the path that we won’t follow. That is the nature of life. Keeping our possessions is often a way of trying to keep our many choices alive.”
This is true whether you’re clearing out your wardrobe, your email inbox, or your grandmother’s old trunk from the attic.
She goes on to ask one of the most powerful questions I’ve ever heard:
Can you see how
keeping all the options alive
can deaden your current life?
~ Dr. Marilyn Paul
So tell me, where are you suffering because you’re avoiding the small pain of making a choice?
What would happen if you let yourself just choose– and be perfectly okay that some of the time, it will turn out that you made a dumb choice?
I‘ll tell you what will happen– you will move through the world more lightly.
You will have more ease and momentum. You’ll be more powerful and focused because all parts of you will be moving in the same direction. And when you do (inevitably) take a wrong turn, you’ll course-correct more nimbly, quickly, and gracefully.
All your little choices add up to being your true commitments. So when you refuse the little choices, you commit to paralysis.
Think about the power of the humble little everyday choices we call habits. They have the power to shape the trajectory of your whole life.
- I’ll wash the dishes each night, even if I’m tired
- When things wear out, I’ll immediately move them out of my space
- I’ll go ahead and send the email, even if it isn’t perfect
- I won’t do social events Saturday morning, that’s my dreamy time
- I’ll move my body three times a week, even if it’s literally only for five minutes
- I’ll get current with my finances once a week no matter how crazy things are
There is an incredible power in the act of choosing.
And when you back up your declarations with the power of your own commitment, your choices aren’t tiny anymore.
They determine whether you’ll move forward or stay in the gray zone.
So make some badass choices today. Let go of the things that are probably never going to really get done; just cross ’em off your list. Proactively say no to the commitments that make everything else feel frantic. And for heaven’s sake, throw out those ratty flats and that hideous canary costume. Choose orange. Choose pink. Choose white space. Say yes. Say no. But choose. It’ll propel you forward faster than anything else I know.