I’ve been thinking a lot about decision making lately. (There are many reasons for this, but the reasons why aren’t overly important right now!)
The important thing is what it made me think about.
Two of my old college roommates and I recently traveled to Yellowstone National Park. Around Old Faithful, there is a long boardwalk that takes you through all of the thermal features. As we walked along the trail we came up to a fork in the road.
I approached the map (With a mass of other people) to assess which direction we should go. As I had been here before, but my friends had not, I put the decision on them.
“Which way would you guys like to go? Right, or left?”
To which they replied, “Well what is along each trail?”
The simple answer was “Some geysers or some other geysers.” And after some discussion, I looked back at the map only to discover that the trail happened to be a loop. So the direction we went was irrelevant, as we would circle back around to this point regardless.
At the time I didn’t really think about it. But looking back, it bothered me that I hadn’t just picked a direction, even without the knowledge of it being a loop. Why did I stop to ask my friends? Why did I get us caught in the mass flow of people? Did this decision really even matter?
It finally clicked a few days later.
I had stopped and posed the question, because I simply didn’t care.
It didn’t matter to me which direction we went because I had already seen them all before. So if we didn’t get back to a few, I was unaffected. With the knowledge that I was indifferent, I turned to my friends. Maybe they have stronger opinions about this then I do? Maybe there is a direction that they want? Maybe they are different in the fact that they do care?
But what would have happened if I had just picked a side and continued walking?
One of two things, really. They would either follow me without question, or they would stop at the sign to analyze it themselves.
So why didn’t I just pick a side and walk?
What it comes down to is that I wanted my friends to be happy. I didn’t want to risk picking the “wrong” direction and having them be upset about it later. I anticipated that if I chose one path, they would for some reason or another, choose the other, and in fear of being “wrong” I didn’t make a decision.
There are far too many places in my life where I do this. I avoid decisions with the assumption that some one else will make them for me. Luckily with my friends, this doesn’t really matter as we generally make similar decisions. (I mean c’mon, that’s why we’re friends!) But where this does matter is pretty much everywhere else. What I do at work, where I invest my money, what house I decide to buy, which car I choose, you get the idea!
Unfortunately, that’s a terrible way to go through life.
How am I supposed to live my life my way if other people are deciding for me? By giving my decisions to others aren’t I living their way instead?
Honestly, I don’t know… yet. But I’ll get back to you when I do.