When You Don't Know Where to Start

Paralyzed By A Decision

It was early in the afternoon when I arrived at my sister’s apartment to help her move from Sacramento to a place in San Francisco. Our mother was holding my 18 month old son; we had flown in from Montana less than an hour before and headed straight out to help my sister.

We walked in to find her sitting on the floor near the kitchen, knees pulled up to her chest, head down, crying. I crouched in front of her, worried: “What’s wrong? Are you ok?” She looked up, so sad, big brown eyes filled with anxiety: “I…(sob)… don’t (sob)… know (sob)… where to… start… (sob).” I sat down in front of her, so relieved it wasn’t something worse. Then I stood up and offered her my hands to pull her from the floor.

I picked up the nearest box and put it into her hands. “Here. Take this. Go into the bathroom, pull everything out from under the sink, and put it all into this box.” She looked at me, a little puzzled, then turned around and did what I said. That was it. She was fine after that. She was more than fine after that. She was efficient and capable and we had the entire apartment packed in just a few hours.

There are those times when the next step is completely overwhelming. I’ve been there; paralyzed with a decision to make. What’s next? The only thing to do is take a small step forward – or perhaps take a side-step, depending on the obstacle in front of you. The important thing is to move, to shift, to make something happen, even if it’s a tiny movement.

My cousin called just before she graduated from college to ask for advice. Partway through her question she started to cry, paralyzed by the decision she had to make. Just as with my sister, I put one small action in front of her.

It’s easy to get caught up in a moment and briefly forget all that you know. For my sister, she needed a little push to remind her that she needed to take this one step at a time. For my cousin, she needed the reminder that whatever decision she made at that moment could be un-made if she needed to change things. When I’m faced with a major decision, I remind myself that everything can change in an instant and that a decision I make right now is unlikely to derail a future part of my life. If I need to quantify a decision, I will use this handy tool.

Of course there are exceptions
– people make impulsive decisions that can have huge, long-term impacts –
sex, driving while on drugs or alcohol, sky diving.

When faced with a major decision I find it comforting to look back at other decisions I saw as life-changing at the time I was making them. Looking back helps put current concerns into perspective. There are methods to quantify a qualitative decision by scoring your priorities, but in the end, it's still your decision to make.

The next time you’re faced with a decision and you feel paralyzed in the moment, remember that whatever decision you make is the right one for that moment. Just take it one step at a time.

We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” ― Marilyn Monroe

What decisions have you made that you decided to un-make? How did that work out for you?

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