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There I was pulling into the most familiar parking lot of all – the grocery store. I was confidently heading down my favorite row, aiming toward an empty spot, when a car closer to the store pulled out. Suddenly a well-laid plan (car angled appropriately, speed under control, hazards checked for …) totally fell apart, smashed to bits by a tidal wave of indecision.
Should I just park in the spot I first chose?
Should I head toward the closer spot?
Maybe someone old or sick or pregnant needs the closer spot?
Which spot is closer to the cart return?
Am I really that lazy?
Is it going to rain in the next hour?
If so, is the closer spot really close enough to make a difference?
Didn’t my kids once tell me that somehow distance didn’t really affect how wet you got when caught in a rain storm?
As I know this has happened to you at least once in your life, do I even need to describe the mess I wound up making of that parking job? I was so crooked, it took three tries to get the car straightened out. And while trying to get straight, I faked out another driver who assumed I was leaving and was angling for my spot. Lord only knows how his parking job went after I messed with him.
Indecision simply never goes well. This reality has plagued humankind for a long, long time. In fact, wise words uttered sometime between 63 and 43 BC by Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman statesmen, orator and lawyer sum up my own little parking lot debacle,
“More is lost by indecision than the wrong decision …”
I’m 100% sure that where I parked did not matter very much at all. But my indecision wound up mattering kind of a lot. If I’d just chosen a spot and parked the car without the mental gymnastics caused by my indecision, that minute of my life would have gone so smoothly that I’d have no recollection of it. Indecision made much more of a mess of things than choosing the wrong spot ever could have (even if it had rained).
Nothing in my life has taught me more about the perils of overthinking things than my yoga practice. And yoga has been very convincing in making its case. Indecision on my yoga mat always results failure.
Sometimes that failure is fairly tiny. For instance, when I’m indecisive something as simple as stepping into position for my wide-legged forward folds (Prasarita Padottanasana) becomes a production. I start to fidget, inching my feet around on my mat to get into the “perfect” position. As I do, I get off count with my breath, which means I fidget some more waiting for my next exhale to arrive. Somehow, every single time I fidget to “perfect” my stance (yes, sadly this has happened many times), my stance feels wrong once I get into the forward fold. Which, as I’m sure you guessed, only results in more fidgeting.
I cannot remember a time when I haven’t decided afterwards (too late to be any good to the posture I fidgeted away) that I would have been better off to just fold forward however my feet originally landed. As I discovered in the parking lot, overthinking creates more of a mess than misaligned feet ever could have made.
Sometimes the failure from indecision on my yoga mat results in an epic “fail.” Take for instance the relatively simple act of jumping your feet back from a forward fold into high- or low-plank. Indecision here can be more catastrophic than some fidgeting. When I allow my mind to start to spin, any number of outcomes are possible. I could end up on my knees. Or with one foot back while the other remains between my hands. Or (worst case scenario) I can land in a belly-flop on the mat.
Luckily, after all these years, I have developed a pretty decent sense of humor about these “fails.” More often than not, I laugh at myself and try again. But, no matter how comical, the lesson remains: over-thinking and indecision can make a mess of even the simplest things.
Whether you’re choosing a new laptop or a prom dress, signing up for classes or to volunteer at the polls, or deciding to stay in your job or take the leap to change careers, you’ve got to commit. If you sense a wave of indecision coming at you, take a deep breath. You might be inclined to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I choose wrong?” The answer to that question is almost always pretty simple: you’ll have to go through the process of changing your mind. Sure, that might be a pain in the neck, but chances are, either way everything will work out just fine.
However, the really important question to ask yourself in a moment of indecision is “What is my indecision costing me?” The answer to that question is always: