To Snooze or get up… What to do?
We start our days with a decision and, according to research, we make an average of 34,999 more choices throughout our day. Decisions like snoozing or waking up are simple (notice I didn’t say easy) and straightforward. But what happens when you have countless options to choose from or feel like you have none at all? What do you do when your life or the life of others depends on a decision you’re responsible for? How do you proceed when you don’t know what to do about something that really matters?
A self-proclaimed control freak and go-getter, I used to believe that I always had to do things to find the right course of action with every important decision in my life. It was solely up to me and my doings. I would think, research, worry, ask everyone and their mothers for their opinions, lose sleep over it, dwell on improbable consequences, and drive myself and my loved ones crazy with the back and forth. By the end of this self-perpetuating cycle, I’d wind up more confused than when I started—feeling so drained that the answer to my question now seemed even more remote.
That’s what actively doing does to you sometimes. When I think about the countless decisions that have defined my life, I realize that the reason they were so hard to achieve was because I was not ready to make them—yet. I knew I should break up with my ex-boyfriend because he wasn’t the right man for me, but I wasn’t ready to go through the pain of losing him. It made practical and financial sense to open my private practice, but I didn’t have the confidence and entrepreneurial mindset I needed to overcome my fears. I wanted to be happy again after losing my daughter, but I couldn’t resist feeling anguished and despaired.
I didn’t know what to do when the first opportunity to make these decisions arose because I was not ready to own them. By readiness, I refer to having the proper training, skills, mindset, beliefs, and disposition to pursue something fully and relentlessly. Readiness is the preparedness we need to make a solid commitment, so that our decision is strong and perdurable. Most important life choices are made more than once. I decided to say “I do” to my husband on September 2, 2006, but I have continued to say it every day since without regrets.
My good friend and colleague, Caroline de Posada, talks about us being “in training”. She explains that every experience we face in life prepares us for the ones to come. They give us the strength, the competence, and the faith we will need to overcome future hurdles and make important decisions.
If this is true, then we shouldn’t make important decisions when in doubt because we may need a couple more experiences to earn the clarity and discernment we need to make the right call. In other words, when we don’t know what to do, we should do nothing.
Doing nothing does not mean ignoring or avoiding the situation. It also doesn’t imply becoming a spectator of your life and letting things resolve themselves. This problem-solving technique starts after we have done everything in our power to resolve a situation—considering our abilities and resistance at the moment.
Doing nothing suggests that we ought to stop forcing the important decision when we don’t feel peace with it. By peace I mean a sense of confidence and calmness that, regardless of the negative emotions that the decision may exacerbate, it feels right in our heart. Peace is the opposite of worry and torment.
Doing nothing implies surrender and stillness. It is about taking a step back and a deep breath to compose ourselves and open up our hearts to the grace of God. Answers sometimes come in the form of thoughts and words said by others. But when our lives are fast-paced, busy, and noisy, we can easily miss them. Being still allows us to silence the commotion and listen—really listen.
Doing nothing gives us the opportunity to pause and pay attention to the signs that will reveal our answers. Being still creates the space for prayer and connection with God and our inner wisdom. It reminds us we are vulnerable and beautifully imperfect. Surrender will humble us and allow us to seek help. We are doing much when we do nothing, but it’s a doing that control freaks and go-getters like me are NOT comfortable with.
A dear client of mine went through a divorce recently. I still recall having many sessions in which she debated whether she wanted to end her marriage. Her husband was experiencing a roller coaster of contradictory emotions that she couldn’t help but engage in, allowing for doubt and fear to take over. In her struggle, I’d remind her, “You don’t have to decide right now. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t sign the divorce papers right now. If you don’t know what to do, do nothing. Be still.”
I accompanied this woman in the battle to save her marriage. She exercised the most beautiful form of humility and showed the purest love, as she attempted to forgive her husband, while honoring him as a man. She was relentless in her efforts to rescue her relationship from despair, doing everything she could. But she could not decide whether to leave or stay. She had no peace.
During the long and painful process of divorce, she changed. Her fear became courage, her insecurities turned into confidence, her vulnerability formed strength, and her doubts transformed into wisdom. The pain of the divorce process prepared her for the final decision when the time came—not before. Like, Caroline said, “We are in training.”
When the time came for my client to sign the papers, she was at peace. Likewise, I had peace when I finally graduated from my training to end the relationship with my ex, started my own private practice, and decided to pursue happiness after losing my precious princess. Neither my client nor I stopped feeling pain, but we had a sense of peace that made our emotions more bearable.
In rare cases—particularly during times of crisis—we must make choices at the moment we are not emotionally ready to make. Deciding whether you allow a surgery or amputation may have to be decided instantly. Accepting that you have to leave your daughter behind in the hospital is something I wasn’t prepared for. But know, my dear reader, that even then, God gives us the grace and strength to do the best that we can—and that will be the right decision. During these moments, we may have to ask for peace after the choice has been made. We may not realize it, but we’ve already been trained for these spur of the moment decisions.
When you don’t know what to do, do nothing. You will be surprised at how much you will accomplish!