Have you ever contemplated taking a decision of starting something new? I am sure you have, as it is impossible for anyone to sustain living without taking a decision to start something. It could be as simple as starting a new day or as complex as starting a new job. In either case, we start a process. A process of doing something without fully knowing how is it going to turn out. Will you have a good day, bad day or okay day? You don’t know, nobody knows but you get out of the bed and get going. If you are not making a big change that day, if it is going to be a routine day then you don’t think about it, you just get into the flow of the routine and follow the momentum. Easy! But when you are confronted with a decision which has potential to create significant difference in your future life, like an exam or an job interview, a marriage proposal or a medical treatment, then it is not so easy to just start the momentum. We tend to think of “what if”, when tend to think “to do or not to do”, we feel the burden of making a choice.
When I stare at a blank canvas, I feel mini version of that burden of making a choice. The blank canvas is staring back at me representing infinite possibilities of what it can be. Asking “What are going to do with me? Are you going to paint a scene or a person? If a scene, which one?”.
I remember one time when I was visiting Hawaii and had taken my painting gear as an extra baggage. I can tell you, I really wanted to paint there, more than ever because I wanted to justify my haggling the extra painting baggage through the airports. However, when I was in Hawaii, I found it so hard to get started on a painting. I had limited days and limited canvases to paint on. So I felt I need to choose my painting subjects carefully. That was the problem! How do you find “”the perfect scene” to paint in Hawaii? It is beautiful place, so beautiful that wherever you turn your head you see beauty. Everything is perfect, so how to choose? If I choose the mountains, I am loosing on beaches, or on gardens. Should I paint in morning or in afternoon. Both mornings afternoons were gorgeous. I couldn’t possibly paint every single scene that inspired me. I had to choose and that was hard. So days past in this unwillingness to choose and I hadn’t painted at all! So on the last day, out of the frustration of painting nothing, I was ready to paint anything. I started to look for scene near my hotel room, again there were many possibilities around the hotel as well. Finally I decided to just paint whatever first catches my eye without thinking. So I took out my painting gear, set it right out of room and started painting the garden scene that I could see from the room’s patio. The scene I had seen many times during the that trip and enjoyed but never thought of painting there until the very last moment. Once I started painting, I was unstoppable, I painted until I felt I captured the essence of the scene. It produced a really neat painting that I love. Now, when I look at this painting, I do not think about other possibilities that could have been there, I just see the beauty that has been captured on this piece of canvas that was once blank.
I thought about the struggle I had to go through to finally find a perfectly beautiful scene right where I was. I had to go around the whole island, just to come back to paint in the backyard! How silly is that? I then wondered, why did it take me so long to make that decision? Why it is so hard to make a choice on new endeavors? The decision could be about choosing a career, choosing a mate, or as simple as choosing a piece of clothing. Mind goes through its regular turmoil. I call it the “blank canvas syndrome”.
Thinking about it more, I found following reasons for indecisiveness of the blank canvas syndrome
1. Perfectionism: Making a choice is hard not because we do not have enough options but because we have many options, because we have too many possibilities. Not that there is no perfect option but because there are many perfect options. Our problem often is that we are looking for “the” perfect option, we are looking for that one and only perfect option, the best option to settle with.We do not realize that sometimes many options are equally perfect in their own ways.
2. Fear of regret: Many times it is not because we cant say “yes” to a possibility but because it is so hard to say “no” to all other equally good possibilities that makes the decision difficult. What else will I be missing out on if I choose this? Will I regret making this choice and letting go of that other opportunity? These questions, haunt us before we make decisions. The fear of making a mistake, fear of missing out and fear of regret is often present when we are at cross roads. What we miss is that we can also regret not making a choice at all.
3. Lack of clarity: Many times we don’t really know what we want. We have feel and sense of what we want or what we like but it is on subconscious level, and we haven’t yet made it fully conscious to have full clarity which can help us choose with confidence.
4. Not wanting to be seen: Sometime we know what we like and what we want but we don’t want others to know that. Whenever we make a decision and choice that others can see, they see us. They get a clue on what we like and what we stand for. Sometimes we don’t feel safe to be seen and therefore do not want to make a open choice.
5. Not willing to take accountability: We like richness of having multiple options, we demand freedom of being able to choose, but what we really dislike is taking accountability of our choices. It is the knowing that if we make this decision, we will need to own it’s consequences, whatever they may be. Many times we wait for somebody else or situation to take decision for us because in our minds we can make them responsible for the result. Especially if the result is undesirable we feel the right to complain or demand help from the ones we make accountable for our decisions.
All those reasons are nothing but traps, self designed traps that we use to keep ourselves stuck.
People have different ways of being stuck. Some procrastinate until the last minute then decide in haste. Others refuse to make any choice and keep their canvas blank forever. Some distract themselves by being busy with other things and wait for the decision happen to them via circumstance.
However, my dear friend, please consider this.
Being indecisive is itself is a decision and not making a choice in itself is a choice! There is no hiding from this truth. It is impossible to be in this world and not decide or not choose. Every single moment we are choosing and deciding wether we are aware or not, wether we acknowledge it or not. And no matter how much we would like to project the blame on others or situation for our results, if someone helps us or not, we are ultimately required to deal with the results of our decisions. So why delude ourselves? Let’s fully own our capacity and tendency to make decisions. Let’s celebrate it. We are life forms capable of reflection and intention, that is why we have choices and that is why we have power to decide.
Let’s fill blank canvas life presents us every single moment with colors of our imaginations and shapes of our vision and lets own it fully!