“He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg.” ~Chinese Proverb
I tend toward extreme deliberation. I want to carefully think every decision through. I am always convinced that if I deliberate long enough, I will find the one right answer to any question, the one perfect answer that can never be doubted.
Instead, I’ve spent a lot of my life on one leg.
I miss opportunity after opportunity as I wait (and wait and wait and wait …) for that perfect moment of clarity before I take a step. That’s probably part of what has been so disconcerting about this last year as I’ve taken leap and leap without having an answer—sometimes without any deliberation at all.
However, now that I’m in this space of trying to figure out what I want to do with my life in order find some route to fulfilling work, I am noticing my old tendency to freeze in deliberation creeping back in to supplant my more recent tendency to jump without (much) looking.
I saw the following on Robin Rice’s Be Who You Are Facebook page the other day, and it describes well the situation I am finding myself in.
“The notion that one can do anything is liberating. But life without constraints has also proved a recipe for endless searching, endless questioning of aspirations. It has made this generation obsessed with self-development and determined, for as long as possible, to minimise personal commitments in order to maximise the options open to them. At what point, though, does the experience-seeking end?” Reflecting on professional development in an age of possibility, Thomas Barlow proposes a counterintuitive solution: “Perhaps living life to the fullest is as much about closing possibilities than creating them.”
Every option I consider eliminates or delays other possible options, and I find myself spinning in fear of closing off any of my options. I want to keep them all open as long as possible to make sure I eventually choose that one best, “most perfect” option. In the process, I wind up choosing nothing.
I have committed to starting yoga teacher training next week. This is a large commitment in terms of time and money. Choosing this option means that I cannot choose other options (at least for now) with the limited resources I have. Ever since I signed up, I have been noticing the stirrings of panic under the surface: is this really the best use of my resources right now? what if there is something better? what if I chose too quickly without thinking it through enough? what if I regret it?
I honestly don’t know if this is the right option for me right now. But it is a reasonable one. It is one that I am drawn to. The time and money commitment are limited. The only way I will know for sure whether this is the right path for me is to try it. And so I am sticking with my commitment despite the panic. I am accepting the fact that this is closing some possibilities, at least for now.
Regardless of whether this is the best possible answer for me in the this moment, I am taking a step anyway. I know I will learn something from the step and that is a gain for me, even if I later decide that this is not the “best” thing for me. I will still have more forward progress from taking a step than I ever will from remaining on one leg.
And maybe that’s what living life to the fullest is all about—it’s about movement, about growth, about learning, about taking that step. Any movement at all has to be better than being stuck on one leg.