“We don’t know if a choice is wise or wrong until we’ve lived it. We can’t ever really know where a choice will take us, though we may sense its direction.”
– Sarah Ban Breathach, Something More; Excavating Your Authentic Self
When it comes to making big life decisions, I tend to waffle back and forth.
I’m the type of person who tries to look at ALL the angles. I write out all the pros and cons I can think of. I ask people for their advice. I do the research. I wrack my brain trying to think of all the things that could go wrong. But, of course, trying to determine all the possible things that could go wrong – or right – is technically impossible… because we don’t know what we don’t know yet!
Sure, we can anticipate the obvious likely outcomes, if we chose a certain course of action. But there is simply no way we can anticipate all outcomes because there are, whether we like it or not, other variables that likely aren’t even on our radar yet.
In other words, we don’t live in a vacuum.
I’ve been waffling over a major life decision for quite some time now, so when I was reading the February 2017 edition of O Magazine, an article caught my eye. It was about the different types of decision makers there are. So I did the little quiz and it turned out I am “The Waffler.” I laughed out loud… yup!
Here is the description of The Waffler:
“You’re a thoughtful person who considers all the angles… but now you’re overanalyzing, so busy looking you can’t leap. The more time you spend thinking about what you should do, the less able you are to do anything at all.”
Sometimes I think so much, I think myself right into a big fat corner, immobilized by indecision and terrified of making the WRONG decision. So I put off making ANY decision… which, of course, is still a decision – just not a particularly proactive one.
In terms of advising us Wafflers on how to flip ourselves out of the pan of indecision, the article had this to suggest: “Do a gut check. Write your choices on a separate piece of paper and fold them into squares, then throw them in the air and pick up the one that lands closest. When you read what’s inside, check your physical reaction. Are you holding your breath or sighing in relief? Do you feel lighter or heavier? Let your response be your guide.”
So that’s exactly what I did – and you know what? It kinda helped! And I think I know why.
This strategy is similar to a cute little coffee-table book I have, called The Book of Answers by Carol Bolt. It was given to me by a dear friend years ago. It is, literally, a book of answers, in that each page has a single “answer” on it.
So what you do is hold the book, close your eyes, ask yourself a close-ended question (e.g. “Is the job I am applying for the right one?”), then open the book up to whatever feels like the right page, open your eyes and ta da… there’s your answer!
Here are a few sample answers:
“That’s out of your control”
“Don’t ignore the obvious”
“Make a list of why not”
“You are too close to see”
“You will find out everything you need to know”
Kids love it!
Now, of course, the book doesn’t really have THE answer to our questions. It just has an answer – and it is up to us to see how that answer makes us feel. And that, I have found, can actually be very helpful – similar to the idea of tossing the pieces of paper in the air and randomly choosing one.
If I ask the book a question and I rather like the answer I get, then that tells me I might be on the right track. If I DON’T like the answer I get and am, in fact, a little miffed at the audacity of the Universe to suggest such a thing, then that is also revealing in terms of helping me figure out what I don’t want.
“There comes a time when we aren’t allowed to know.”
– Judith Viorst
In the end, a decision needs to be made – even if it is the decision to do nothing at all. But what I’ve also come to realize over the years is that, for me, waffling may actually be an important part of the decision-making process.
Maybe we waffle when we know we have to make a change – but aren’t quite sure what or when… possibly because there are other factors and forces at play that we have no control over?
Perhaps other things have to line up first and then when everything else is in place, the time comes for us to make our move – and, low and behold, we DO know what to do and when.
In other words, maybe the process of waffling has helped prepare us to be able to make the right decision when the right time comes to make it?
Food for thought.