Friday, March 4, 2011

The Consequences of Delaying a Big Decision

Mostly, you have time to figure things out. But not too much time. Too much time is really just not making up your mind, dragging out the inevitable, and, in fact, just wasting time.

So, if you have a big decision to make, or even just a small decision that feels important, get to it.

To tell you why this is on my mind, I have to tell you a story.

An acquaintance I know professionally recently announced her intention to seek a therapist. In her fifties, with a preteen son, she was unhappy, especially with her marriage. She did not know if she loved him anymore, and was uncertain whether to split up and make a new life for herself.

This was about two weeks ago.

Two days ago, I got word that her husband, also in his fifties, went into the hospital after complaining of an odd pain in his back. The next morning, while in a CT scan, the as-yet-to-be-discovered aneurysm ruptured, killing him almost instantly.

Though I scarcely knew this woman, I am haunted by this. Of course, it is simply sad, as the unexpected end of a relatively young life always is.

But what lingers for me is the thought of how neither of them will ever have a chance to say a proper goodbye to each other, and most importantly, how he will never get the chance to find a new path, full of happiness and love.

I can’t speculate on how much happiness he might have had in his life. I didn’t know him. But he was in what sounds like a broken, unhappy marriage, regardless of whether there was fault or blame to be had.

One of my favorite mantras from my yoga practice translates as this: May all beings everywhere, including ourselves, be happy and free of suffering.

I don’t care who you are, what you’ve done, what flaws you may have. All human beings—all of them—begin life as beautiful souls. All deserve happiness and peace. And unfortunately, some have a harder road to hoe than others, for a variety of reasons, both internal and external.

This is not to say that you are entitled to happiness and peace; in most cases, you have to earn it. But regardless of how you get there, as a human being, you do deserve peace.

So, back to this couple. Who the “good” partner or the “better” spouse was is immaterial. If the marriage was unhappy, each had a responsibility to end the suffering, either through authentic acceptance of reality (rather than a wishing it to be otherwise), a fundamental change of self (self-improvement to end a problem), or to end the marriage if it was irretrievable (letting go).

I am speculating, but my guess is that years of unhappiness went by in this couple’s life. Procrastinating. Searching after the cause of the problems, after faults and blame. And now fate has intervened. Some might say, “Well, the marriage is over now. Won’t the suffering be over, too?”

But the problem is that they left it up to fate (though unintentionally). The problem has been resolved in a sense, but without direct action. Without conscious decision. A passive, unsatisfying (and in this case, sad and irrevocable) solution.

This is kind of the worst-case scenario for not acting out of an honest, authentic sense of self.

So, what are the consequences to delaying decision-making? In a word, loss.

Loss of time. Loss of happiness. Loss of truth. Loss of self. Loss of authenticity and self-knowledge. Loss of agency. Loss of peace. Loss of a life.

Whatever decision you’re wrangling with, make your best effort to apply yourself to its completion. I know from personal experience that these things can take some time. But you don’t have forever. You have a little time, probably. But maybe not. You just don’t know.

But what you do know is that you can act while you are alive. If you are wrestling with a big decision, again, I say, do all you can to get to it. Don’t lose more time--and possibly your chance at peace--by putting off something you know you must do.

You deserve peace. You do. But you are also responsible for earning your peace.

Whoever you are, human, act! You are perfect in your ability to do so.



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