Ten days of daily blogging, with another 21 ahead: it’s been playful practice that holds hidden lessons. Bloggers, photographers, videographers, poets, and other creatives worldwide are participating in #reverb10 during the month of December. The premise: Respond to a daily prompt, which invites you to reflect on 2010, and to begin to create the year ahead. I’m in.
December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)
I’m not sure if my decision was wise, or just lucky. Perhaps it’s “historical perspective” that finally decides the category. However, since this prompt is designed to stimulate personal reflection, I’ll share my reflections.
I am a word geek, always interested in words, their derivations, and their elegant use. A wise friend once told me that the word “decide” is derived from the same root as “deciduous, ” as in the kind of tree that gives up its leaves in the fall. To decide has the quality of an ultimatum: either/or, a process of elimination where you are left with just one “leaf” or course of action: your decision.
Moshe Feldenkrais said that when you have only one course of action available, it is coercion. If you repeatedly and unconsciously take that course of action, it becomes compulsion. If you have two options available, the situation is not much better: you are then a simple binary system, on or off, yes or no, do or not do. You have become mechanical, not human, in your way of interacting with and engaging the world. Dr. Feldenkrais said that the optimal situation is to find at least three options in any situation — and more is better, if they are each different enough to tell the difference. Only then are you free to CHOOSE. In that moment, you are fulfilling your potential as a human being to think and act in a way that is best for you. Curious to notice, as I type, that “Optimal,” meaning the best possible outcome, and “option,” seem to have the same root.
And so, influenced by the work of Dr. Feldenkrais, I prefer to see those situations in which the course of action is not clear, as being a moment of “choice,” rather than “decision.” I find this semantic difference to be quite significant, and empowering. Think about the connotations: You choose from a menu, or from a buffet. There’s no ultimatum. (“Either get the cannoli, or else!”) There is freedom to consider all options, which remain open and viable. Choice involves responsibility, and the freedom and possibility to choose again. To me, a “decision” has an element of desperation in it, causing you to cling to it as if it were a life raft — obscuring your focus when a yacht pulls up alongside you with a ladder and an invitation to come aboard. You always have a choice, even if that’s not how you currently experience your situation. You have to actively look for ways to see it as a choice, because the best option may be something you don’t already know about. This means you must be ready to LEARN.
I don’t want to go into much detail with the particulars in my case. The story itself is probably of limited interest, so I’ll just give you the “punchline” rather than the “blow by blow.” Earlier this year I had a choice: go forward with a venture in which I had invested several years of work, but still wasn’t quite “ready for prime time;” abandon it all together; or postpone it and try again later. My partner in the venture left it completely up to me.
I chose to go ahead — a gamble to be sure, because the figures were just barely at “break even.” The venture was too important to me to abandon it, so that was not a desired choice, although it remained an option on the “menu.” I chose not to postpone the launch, because I had seen similar ventures postpone, waiting for “a better time,” whatever that is — and ended up postponing themselves into non-existence. So — it was go time. I thought the launch would provide the momentum we needed to solidify our position. As the consequences unfolded, it was a good call, because the venture turned out to be both profitable and sustainable. The icing on the cake is that we have touched lives in predictable and unpredictable positive ways. As I write this, I see that my desire for the “icing” is what guided my choice. The outcome is better than I could ever have imagined.
It was a true choice — and by no means was the outcome guaranteed. However, by making a choice, the responsibility was mine. I worked like hell, and got a little slice of heaven. “Decisions” add a level of drama that I find unproductive. To me, a decision adds an element of resistance to a force being applied from outside. To say, “I really had no choice,” is neither ennobling nor edifying. Seeing these important moments as an opportunity for choice enables me to retain my power and autonomy, and to embrace what I have chosen. I’ll remember that in the year ahead.
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