"Every decision you make
is a mistake."
- Edward Dahlberg
Talk about it.
"Indecisiveness" - just not being able to decide, one
way or another - is a situation that seems to bother many people.
So we, your bold and valient LiveReal Editors, decided (after about
six months of arguing with ourselves about it) - that we should
look into the matter.
This is a tough one. Life isn't easy. It's often full of tough
decisions, ambiguity, dilemmas, seemingly no-win siuations, and
times when we just flat don't know what to do - but we're still
required to do something.
"Life is fired at us
- Jose Ortega y Gassett
In Defense of Indecisiveness
There are plenty of good reasons for being indecisive. It seems
to us that life, by nature, is confusing and full of ambiguity,
that it's built-in to the game. At least if you're awake enough
to be aware of it.
It is worthwhile to mention that sometimes the most intelligent,
clear, and perceptive individuals are those who can also be described
as "indecisive." (Radical fundamentalists, for example,
are rarely indecisive. Members of the Taliban rarely have identity
"Apart from blunt truth,
our lives sink decadently amid the perfume
of hints and suggestions."
- Alfred North Whitehead
Using an Approach to "Solve" Indecisiveness
Many psychologists and authors who write about indeciciveness write
lengthy tomes about it, and prescribe all types of programs, recipes,
and regimens for you to read, understand, and apply to your life
to solve the indeciciveness problem.
The problem with these approaches is that, even if we:
- take on the burden of reading their material,
- take on the burden of really understanding it thoroughly,
- and take on the burden of applying it to our lives and applying
- then by this time, we've typically invested so much time in doing
so we've ignored a great deal of other areas of our lives.
In other words, their whole approach assumes that we have not only
the willingness to do so but also the will-power to follow through
with what we intend to do. Finally, this assumes - and this is a
huge assumption - that if we actually go through all that work and
effort, that the advice they are giving us will work. If it DOESN'T
work - and this happens with disheartening frequency - we can get
more frustrated than we were to start with.
Life is Ambiguous
Let's start with a basic assumption that life itself is an immensely
complex and difficult problem.
Most of us, however, find ways to avoid facing this fact, and avoid
seeing life as a complex and difficult problem. How?
Like most situations, it seems that there are two extremes that
most people tend to fall into when faced with this:
at one extreme, there are those who make hasty decisions, and are
often rash or impulsive;
and at the other extreme, there are those who become paralyzed and
suffer from chronic indecision.
In other words it's rarely easy knowing
how to act.
Perhaps there are times when life offers us fairly simple, straightforward,
right-verses-wrong choices: we can either A) save the world, or
B) torture innocent children. In cases like this, for most sane
people, there is no indecision, no dilemma. The "right
thing to do" is obvious and clear-cut.
But life is rarely that clear-cut. More often, in the real world,
we're torn by conflicts and dilemmas, having to act without knowing
all the factors, having to choose when all the apparent options
There are many examples of these types of situations. For
* In the movie "The
War," a soldier is faced with a dilemma of having to either
A) leaving his friend to die on the battlefield, or B) having a
whole group of his fellow soldiers, leaving in a helicopter, die.
*In the movie "Titanic,"
many of the survivors in the boats are faced with either A) leaving
many people to die in the freezing water, or B) going to help the
dying people, in which case all of them would likely die.
Life is often full of decisions like these, on the same scale and
on a smaller scale.
"The really tough choices,
don't center upon right versus wrong. They involve right versus
They are genuine dilemmas precisely because each side
is firmly rooted in one of our basic, core values . . . t
he basic issue at the heart of so many ethical conflicts
(is) the clashing of core values . . ."
- Rushworth M. Kidder
In other words, some say that life itself is a koan, a seemingly
insolvable puzzle that must be solved, and there will always be
an element of indecision until we do. In other words, to truly solve
indeciveness at the core, one must solve the core riddle of human
nature, the fundamental ambiguity in the human condition, the "problem
that causes all other problems" - which basically means undertaking
a journey to understand ego, God,
and everything else that goes along with life.
But until we do that . . .
“The problem with the world
is that the intelligent people are full of doubts,
while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
- Charles Bukowski
Some folks say that in life, part of your job
is to figure out the right thing to do, and do it. Other folks say
that the situation is different - that life is about doing "God's
will" - that it's not up to "you" to decide everything
(because "you" deciding everything is actually "ego").
But is what people call "God"
. . . real? Does he or it actually exist?
If so, then the key question is . . . what is
"his" "will," and how
do we know it?
The investigation continues . . .
Appendix: How should we live?
It seems to us that indecisiveness is essentially one form of not
you are here. When you have a sense of why you are here, then
it becomes a matter of figuring out "how should I live?"
- which is essentially another way of asking the question "What
"I must have a prodigious
quantity of mind;
it takes me as much as a week,
sometimes, to make it up."
- Mark Twain
Talk about it!
- and contribute to it: