Not to decide is to decide.

The poster in the High School counselor’s office pictured a turtle on the curb of a busy city street, presumably waiting to cross.

It has stuck with me for 35 years. It sure seemed like that turtle was doomed, if she went for it. You could understand her hesitation.

Yet, you could see how, on the curb, by a sewer, with traffic lights, people hustling by, and random gravel under her feet, this was not an ideal spot for the turtle to stay.

Do you feel for a turtle in a situation like that? How did she end up there instead of by a nice pond? Now what should she do? Is there any smart decision for her, really?

Not to decide is to decide.

That was the headline on the poster.

You know, right next to the one with the kitten that said “Hang in there, baby!”

It’s a profound sentiment, and a universal one, too. ALL of us need to make decisions, every day. We decide on what to eat, what to wear, who to speak to, whether we exercise or not, the book we read, the music we play…

We also feel we don’t have a choice about some things. The music that is played in the waiting room, the assignment our boss gives us, taking care of a loved one who is sick, the price of tea.

It could be argued you always have a choice–you don’t HAVE to do what your boss says or tend to a sick loved one or stay in the waiting room.
You’ll simply have to be the type of person who doesn’t, and deal with the consequences.

So back to the poster: what if you feel like you can’t decide?

You can’t decide to cross the street when it appears you will not make it across in one piece, right?
But you also can’t decide to stay where you’re at when it is a lousy place to be.

So you don’t decide. You stay put.

Wait a minute… now you see how the poster pays off. THAT is a decision.

Why did the turtle cross the road?

Because she was tired of where she was at and didn’t trust anyone else to save her. OR, because she was foolish and made a bad decision. OR, because she was courageous and believed she could find something better on the other side.

No right or wrong, really, in the decision-making part. It’s only when you get to the ultimate consequence related to the decision after its made, that you judge the quality of the decision itself.

A lot of things that can happen when you need to make a decision:

  • You can get a flash of brilliant intuition and confidence that tells you what to do.
  • You can do research, ask around, and pick a decision based on your best logic.
  • You can be told what to do, by someone in authority or someone trying to help.
  • You can be impulsive and rush to do the first thing that comes to mind. Or heart.
  • You can also decide not to decide. But make no mistake–that IS a decision.

That’s okay, too! You have permission to decide on your own risk tolerance, and your timing.

Much of the time, we are unsure. We don’t know the best thing to do, or the right thing to do, or the way things will work out when we do this or that.

So you can consider most everything you do as an experiment.
Because there’s no way to know all the results of all our decisions ahead of time, we can’t know when we are making our best choices.

Of course, science gives us a clue about some things, like going on a hunger strike or jumping off a tall building without a net.

But mostly, we are guessing. Assuming. Trying. Living.

Even when we decide not to decide. Which is a simple way of saying, even when we stay the same, or let someone else make our decisions for us.
You just have to accept the results. Unless you’re jumping off a building without a net, you’re going to be able to make another decision based on those results.

You can decide to have 52 Permission Slips delivered straight to your Inbox over the next year, too, to help you get to the other side: Click Here