The Tao of Making Decisions

don't ask why. ask why not.

The Tao of Making Decisions


Should I? What if? I don’t know. I can either way. Does this sound familiar? If you’re human, as decisive as you think you may be, there are bound to be decisions, small or big, that you just don’t know which way to go. Particularly for those big life issues (e.g. should I quit my job? should I get married?), we often get stuck. We like both options. We fear both options. Often, it feels far safer and lovelier to just postpone making the decisions until the clouds part ways and a light of awareness shines down on the right answer that will lead us to happiness and security. Oh, wait. That doesn’t happen. Ever. The reality is there are no decisions that lead to true certainty of outcomes or emotions or sense of security. Life just doesn’t move that way. It is therefore up to us take the plunge one way or another. After all, inaction and passivity are conscious decisions, though usually, they are the ones that inhibit ourselves from moving forward and living. To exist is not the same as living. To live is to take chances. And all decisions are chances. Take a gamble and go for it

Don’t be a drifter

Ruth Chang fills us in on a little secret. The reasons we look for to justify our decisions don’t lie outside of us. We have the agency to make our own choices and we have the agency to come up with our reasons. It’s the drifters who deny their agency. As she notes, “drifters allow the world to write the story of their lives.”


You’ve got the answers. Stop avoiding responsibility to listen.

  1. Stop thinking you’re special

We know – you’re a special snowflake. And you are. The decisions you face areimportant and possibly life changing. However, you are likely not the only one in the world who has faced these decisions before. Move or not move. Have a baby or not have a baby. People have been deciding these life changing decisions forever and a day. And the world hasn’t ended. It won’t for you either. Life will change, and then it moves on. Avoiding making a decision only means that everyone else moves on and lives, and you’re still miserable.

  1. Stop overthinking

We’re told to make lists filled with pros and cons. While this can be useful to get us going, the reality is as human beings, we don’t rationalize as much as we think. We can work our prefrontal cortex all we want, and at the end of the day, it’s our limbic center, our gut that says, yay or nay. Not sure what your gut says? Stop trying to override it with your noisy analytical self. Pause. Quiet. Then act.

  1. Stop avoiding

As Ruth Chang says, the ones who avoid making decisions are the drifters. The ones who end up in positions and in situations that they have no idea (or so they say) how they got there. Well, there are reasons how they got there. They didn’t take responsibility for their lives and let others control and dictate what they’re doing and how they’re living. It’s really almost that simple. You make a conscious decision to avoid and hand over your life to someone else.

That might be what you want, but for many of us, that leaves us miserable, angry, or resentful. Rather than blaming others (or ourselves), recognizing that avoiding is an active behavior can help us to actively avoid avoiding.

4. Stop ruminating
Do you immediately second guess yourself the minute you make a decision? Went for the chocolate ice cream, and then looked at your friend eating mint, and think, that’s what I should have gotten? You’re not alone. Many us have a second of relief after we make a decision, followed by many more minutes of “I wish,” “I should have.” Dwelling in the what ifs do no one any good and do you the most harm. Reflection is one thing, and allows for thoughtful pause. Ruminating is another, leading to destructive thoughts of regret and shame. Make a decision and move on. Reflect, but don’t dwell. Own it and take responsibility to make the most of the decision you make.

5. Do or don’t do, there is no try.

Yoda was a wise one, we all know. “I’ll try” often really translates into, “I’m too scared to say yes or no, so I’ll just pretend that I might give it a go at some point when I feel ready and maybe you’ll stop asking him while I just put my head in the sand for a while.” Meanwhile, the world moves on, and you’ve handed your life to someone else’s. Rather than just going half way, commit. Do it. Or don’t do it. Either way, take a stand.