Indecision has its roots in fear. We don't want to take a wrong turn, buy the wrong car or marry the wrong human. So we wait. And somehow, we're convinced (subconsciously at least) that waiting will help. As though we'll magically become wiser through no experience at all. Well - unless you count Netflix as experience...
Time - No Respecter of Persons
And so time goes by. Frankly, the clock doesn't care if you know what you want or if you don't. It keeps ticking. And after a while, regret sets in as we're reminded of people who have avoided the plague of indecision. - Someone who decided something great. Who worked at it and received their due reward. We see their Facebook pictures and realize that where they're at is better than where we are. We get bummed about it, frustrated with ourselves, and we end up with a bowl of ice cream in front of the TV as we resolve to do something amazing tomorrow like buy a new smartphone or color our hair.
I sat still on several opportunities in my life: Great girls who actually liked me. Job offers that would have put me into a house by now. Places I could have visited, books I could have read. Moons I could have landed on. I missed a lot of life's richness because I was afraid to commit to an idea or person and put in the necessary work to see the end result.
Many of my early college roommates are now married, working full-time and have a few kids. Their lives mean something. They have their foundation for eternity. Meanwhile, I have a few dusty photos of a guitar show I played in once.
Lukewarm - an Undesired State
From a gospel perspective, we learn a lot about the worth of knowing what you want. Scripturally, the phrase often appears as "the desires of their hearts". Alma teaches us that God grants unto us according to the "desires of our hearts". 3 Nephi 19 tells us that the desires of our hearts can change - that we can be filled with desire as we approach our Heavenly Father through prayer. And the Savior pegged indecision with the following scripture:
Let me quote Neal A. Maxwell quoting William R. May (no Inception pun intended):
The absence of any keen desire—merely being lukewarm—causes a terrible flattening. William R. May explained such sloth: “The soul in this state is beyond mere sadness and melancholy. It has removed itself from the rise and fall of feelings; the very root of its feelings in desire is dead. … To be a man is to desire. The good man desires God and other things in God. The sinful man desires things in the place of God, but he is still recognizably human, inasmuch as he has known desire. The slothful man, however, is a dead man, an arid waste. … His desire itself has dried up” (“A Catalogue of Sins,” as quoted in Christian Century, 24 Apr. 1996, 457).This leads me to my recent lessons learned from work. The $20k lost was re-engineering costs of a vessel we're ordering. Not a big deal in the scheme of things, but had we taken time to plan out carefully what we wanted beforehand, that $20k would still be with us. Having no plan is worse than having the wrong plan.
Learning to Navigate
Let's take a lesson from the pre-GPS days. Say you had a friend tell you of an amazing restaurant in a town to your south, and you can't wait to try it. Maybe you know the name of the street it's on - maybe you don't. One philosophy says "don't get in your car until you know exactly where you want to go". The other says, "head south, you'll figure it out along the way".
The indecisive person will stay where they are - eat locally, or if they're really indecisive, they might just starve on the spot. A decisive person will start driving. He'll realize that there are road signs to guide him that he couldn't have possible read from him hometown. Maybe he has to ask someone for the exact street name as he gets close - but he gets there. And the more he ventures out, the more familiar he'll get with that new town. He'll also develop his ability to navigate new places. Ultimately, the man who ventures develops into a traveler while the indecisive one becomes a hermit and years later, subscribes to Netflix.
I know what you women readers are thinking: "men never know directions!" Say the man was somewhat of a fool - he merged onto the freeway going northbound. He'll discover it at some point, perhaps by the nagging of his wife, and eventually he'll correct the error. But if he never moves, he can never arrive at the desired location.
Charting a Course
I met with the director of engineering for my company a while ago. He and I were discussing a position in the test group. He told me, "I'm looking for someone who is willing to make mistakes. Someone with initiative. Someone with a plan. We can refine the plan as we go, but we need a plan."
President Monson has told us to "Plan our lives with purpose". But what purpose? What is our proverbial "amazing restaurant"? There are a lot of distractions in the world. A lot of options that can keep an indecisive person on "pause" for decades. However, if we focus on the Savior and our covenants with him, we'll know that there is more in this life for us than a new show, a bowl of ice cream, new cell phone or highlights in our hair. Our plan should be a gospel-centered life. We should plan to follow the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The Lord told us if we come to him, he'll show us our weaknesses and then if we have faith in him, he'll make our weaknesses strong. This is how he refines our plan. The Holy Ghost guides us like the road signs did the man driving south. But the Holy Ghost's guidance only works as we have faith and actually start moving the car.
Diligence Earns the Prize
Some of us are great at starting a decision, but abandon it shortly thereafter. Think New Years resolutions. Do you even remember what yours were for the past year? I sure don't.
Novelty makes us feel like we have real progress. It's refreshing, like taking the first few steps in fresh snow or shoving off the shore on a sunny day. However, the difference between a person who achieves their goals and earns their happiness versus one who merely dreams of it is what they do when the storms come. After all, the path to hell is paved with good intentions, right?
The measure of our desires is what we give up in place of them. It's the sacrifice that makes something sacred. Comforts, laziness, fear... they all combine to form personal inertia. We resist change. Few of us excel at embracing it. However, those few manage to build themselves each time the ground shifts. They're the ones pushing toward a goal, and they become the opportunists who turn a disaster into dream. Meanwhile, the rest of us are looking for doorways to brace ourselves.
Being scared of change it understandable, but it still yields poor results. To make our goals worth something, we have to choose to follow them when they're inconvenient. We have to do the right thing when it's hard. Resist the laziness when we're tired, and stay focused when we really just want to go to lunch. Mosiah taught the principle of diligence and it's result on our success: "And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize".
I was talking with a friend the other night. She expressed a beautiful goal - one that is becoming all too rare in today's culture. She said, "I just want to be a mom. I want to dance in the living room with my kids. Bake bread for the neighbors. Teach them the gospel." She'll be a great mom, no doubt. However, she'll never arrive at the "amazing restaurant" of righteous motherhood if she isn't diligent. She's going to have to ignore the advances of the handsome man who wants a career woman or trophy wife, and give the humble man who loves the Lord her attention. - A difficult task in today's world of options.
The Future is as Bright as our Faith
The goodness of a decision is based on the work we put in to it - how we focus and push through, not how much we know before we take a step. Faith is always required, and is often required in a leap, not a casual step.
President Hinckley coined the phrase, "the future is as bright as your faith". Let us forget the pains of the past, let us focus on the future, and let us plan our lives with purpose.
May we all gain hope as we show our love for the Savior by keeping his commandments and seeking his will. If we will commit to Christ, we will experience the richness of a full life, a clean conscience, and we will have the peace of knowing through him, we can receive our eternal rewards. Moroni 7:41: