“When you have a choice and you don’t make it, that is in itself a choice” (William James)
As I am thinking about this quote from one of the great thinkers of the late 19th century, the word “procrastination” is ringing in my head. Maybe it is because I am a diligent procrastinator. In this case, William James is telling me that failure to decide becomes a decision. He isn’t talking about snap decisions, but rather those to which some consideration is given.
I am faced with choices large and small throughout my day. A few days back I talked about the idea that every choice made opens and closes some doors. Some of the choices I am faced with sit before me for a longer period of time, waiting for me to seize the opportunity to choose.
I once had a boss at work who would get frustrated with our senior management. One in particular was notorious for not making decisions. This manager would send some decisions back for endless research and discussion, and would not make the choice. My boss at the time said that it was as though this manager thought that by not making a decision he was keeping his options open. As I was heading off to do more research and discussion, I would both be laughing and weeping at the idea that this senior manager could allow things to drag on. Many times it happened that the momentum of the status quo would end up making the decision for this senior manager. Either others around us made choices which had the effect of limiting ours, or time just passed sufficiently that the original choice was no longer viable.
Because of the lessons I learned in that job, I resolved myself to be more decisive at work. When faced with a set of choices, I would work more quickly to gather the facts and make the best choice available. But I also know myself well enough to know that my procrastinating nature is never far away. And, that procrastination can stop me from even starting the choosing process.
And so today I find myself considering where in my life – professionally or personally – am I procrastinating? And what choices am I making by default as a result of this procrastination? Where am I falling into the same hole that senior manager lived in? I think it is a good day to look over my “to do” lists and look for the stale items that are being ignored. I may be missing out on some choices by my inaction.