Conviction, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Sing it…huh! (Edwin Starr sings about “war” but it all works)
It seems like only mere seconds ago that I made a definitive decision about my life…and then I changed my mind.
Oh wait! What’s behind door number two? An all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii? Darn. Why didn’t I pick that door???
When you are a contestant in a game show, you are forced to make a decision in a limited amount of time, based on very few reasonable tools, and if you pick the wrong door you win a toaster instead of a small yacht which by game show standards is considered to be the wrong choice (unless you really need a new toaster). In life, the right door isn’t always clearly the right or the wrong one. Sometimes, it might even be the one that comes with personal loss, stress, hardship, and no “fairy tale” ending.
The question is, what are we basing our decisions making process on? Is it our flawless skills at didactic reasoning, weighing of the pros and cons, consulting with so called experts, blind faith or just plain submission and the flipping of a coin? Most of the time it is based on flimsy, if not, completely worthless, decision making standards.
A good friend of mine recently lent me a book called The Dice Man which is a story about a psychiatrist, Luke Reinhart, who starts to feel boredom in his personal life and otherwise prestigious career. Consequently, he starts to notice that, overall, his patients response to treatment is very random and that the decision making process he uses in his own life is not necessarily more accurate or successful than the randomness of the throw of a dice.
This cult classic terms the phrase, “Let the dice decide!” where he starts off with small dice throwing tasks such as deciding which characters to play in a party or going to a bar after work, to much larger ones such as leaving his wife and assisting an entire correctional institution’s jail break. Although his life changes drastically based on the God-like dice throwing decisions he makes, his success is no less measured on this new found path since he continues to have followers, money and success in his treatment of patients, as he did before.
I am not at that level to be able to submit to the fate of the dice when it comes to decision making but I still wish I had a solution for the anxiety that decision making induces in me and which I almost always try to avoid like the plague:
- Just click on “FINISH”, your transaction will be completed and your credit card will be charged.
- Will you marry me?
- What are you doing next Saturday night?
- Can you help us setup for the fundraiser next month?
- I hope to see you when I come to Israel in May of 2014, will you be available (if the world is still standing, sure)?
At which point, my pre-decision making offers two options:
- Don’t worry, just make plans. You can always break them if you need to OR
- Don’t commit to anything because if the person is so concrete in their scheduled lives your cancellation will cause great unrest and upheaval to them for which you will be held completely responsible forever.
Most normal people have a conservative approach to life and unless they are being forced to make a decision, they generally prefer not to (que sera sera). Furthermore, if the status quo is still more bearable than the fear of the unknown future, then the status-quo wins by a landslide.
- I’ll buy that car
- I’ll paint that bright red color on my living room wall
- I’ll take that job
- I’ll go out on a second date with that guy
- I’ll order pasta instead of salad
- I’ll run this morning instead of this evening
- I’ll go to New York for my cousins wedding
- I’ll take my kid to the doctor when he wakes up with a cough
- I’ll get a tattoo (although, how a person commits to a life-long physical stain, when I can’t even make a decision on what clothing to wear each morning is a mystery to me)
- I’ll decide not to decide
Phew! Even after all of our hard work and deliberation, chances are that we have still made a huge mistake and don’t even realize it! Real life decision making is always accompanied by hesitation about the actual choice and the constant surmising as to whether or not the decision you made was even the right one (after all, the Jews left years of slavery and still wanted to go back to their familiar lives in Egypt).
I may not find security in throwing a dice, I doubt I will search out change if I can avoid it, I still can’t find a quick answer to even the most basic question of what I want to order from the menu, and if life were a game show, I would probably be making lots and lots of toast and yet surprisingly enough I am happy. Time continues to pass and flowers continue to blossom whether we like it or not and I continue to feel that we are ever so lucky to live a life that offers things above and beyond immediate gratification. Those innate feelings of reward that are indescribable to someone else and have no monetary or physical value are what make us feel like we did win the yacht.
Not to mention that if I don’t travel to New York this summer, I can always go next year…if it’s still around of course.