While the context of my Twitter conversation with Lesley Chang surrounded the realm of personal relationships, the insights and conflicts involved can easily extend into every other sphere in our lives. She pointed me toward this uncredited quote:
Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.
When you break up with a significant other, a part of you may want to wait and see if the relationship can be mended. Another part of you may want to forget about the relationship and move on to the next chapter in your life. Both of these choices can cause great grief, but neither brings about the same kind of suffering as sitting at the crossroads between the two. You may endure a similar experience with career choices and other life decisions.
The Avoidance of Regret
If it’s such a negative experience, why do we constantly toss ourselves into this indecisive limbo? Why don’t we just choose a direction and run with it? For me, the single worst feeling in the world is a sense of regret. This stems from the fact that any decision you make cannot be unmade. If you decide on option A, it is necessarily impossible for you to have decided on option B. The bright side is that most decisions are reversible insofar that you can take steps to reverse their effects. You can return that purchase. You can pick up the phone to make things right.
I believe that we are willing to endure the limbo of indecision because it is possibly the lesser of two evils. It may not feel as bad to sit at the junction as it would feel to make the “wrong” choice. Ironically, you can overcome this concern by being narrow-minded. Stubbornness can work wonders.
Not Getting Started At All
The only thing worse than trying and failing is never trying at all. The only thing worse than making the “wrong” decision is deciding not to decide at all. Life is an ongoing learning experience and it is through your mistakes that you come to discover some of life’s greatest lessons. Sometimes, you can end up floating in limbo when you are faced with too much information. You can spend too much time weighing the options and not enough time taking action.
Throughout your lifetime, you will be faced with infinite possibilities. There will be many crossroads. The human condition has provided us with limitless potential. We may stumble, we may lose our footing, and we may make mistakes, but we have the innate ability to bounce back up and try again. You don’t want to float in limbo. You want to get out there and make the most of the few short years you are afforded on this planet.
What is your time worth to you? What is your happiness worth to you?