How do you make decisions in life? I mean, when you have to think about whether you should do something, how do you arrive at a decision? Do you have some sort of criteria or you simply go with your gut? I am talking about important and significant choices, the ones that can leave a deep impact on your work, relationships, and life in general. Having said that, decisive people are usually quick at decision-making on all fronts. From simple things like what-to-wear-today to where-should-I-invest-my-life’s-savings. And the indecisive find it hard to make a definitive choice in small and big things, whether that be ordering in a restaurant or starting that new venture they always dreamed about.
While there is no silver bullet when it comes to decisiveness, I feel there is a lot to be learned here from Jeff Bezos. In the Walk the Dragon program too, I had shared an insightful video in which a journalist asks Bezos how he decided to leave his lucrative job on Wall Street to start an online company selling books (You can watch the entire video here if you like). His reply:
The framework I found, which made the decision incredibly easy, was what I called — which only a nerd would call — a “regret minimization framework.” So I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, “Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have.”
I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision. 1
While I can’t say that I have always followed it, it does, however, deeply resonates with me. And when I embarked upon my spiritual journey, that was exactly my thought. Other than the unbearable and ever-growing pain of not knowing and experiencing my truth, I would ask myself if there was any point in waiting any longer. Did I really want to postpone the one thing that mattered the most to me till this body was sixty or seventy years old? I am mighty glad that I took that step when I was thirty because my body simply would not have withstood those rigors today. In other words, if something is really important to you, sleep on it for a while and if you find it still matters just as much, go ahead and make a decision. The outcome may not be what you expect, but at least the regret of not doing it won’t be there.
The things you are putting off till tomorrow, the hope you are crushing, the dream you are abandoning, that sense of adventure you are snuffing the life out of, do you really want to be doing that? Are you expecting to wake up to a new kind of dawn one day before you’ll make your move? And more importantly, what if that tomorrow never comes? Will you regret not having tried what you could have? What’s there to lose anyway? Even if there’s a lot, what is it that you can’t rebuild?
How many times do we not do something because our fears win over the dream we carry in our hearts? I am not saying that fear is always bad. It has its good side too for it makes you step back and think. I’m certainly not suggesting that you throw caution to the wind and walk into the eye of the storm. At the same time, you can’t spend your life in a bunker waiting for the storms to pass. Besides, what are you doing on a sailboat if you are afraid of the choppy seas?
A Swiss journalist, who had worked hard all his life and earned a lot of fame and money because of his good work, decided to retire. His last interview was to be with the new Italian Prime Minister, Alcide de Gaspari.
After the interview was over, and both of them settled down for some tea and informal talk, the journalist casually remarked, “This is my last interview, I am 65 and about to retire.”
The new Prime Minister remarked, “Oh! What a pity, I am 65 too, but on the threshold of a new career.” 2
Hope and ambition never get old. As long as they are young in your heart, you will find the energy to see your dream through. Harland Sanders founded KFC when he was 62 years old. Srila Prabhupada started ISKCON not at the tender age of 16 when ambition is ripe but at the ripe age of 69 when the body is tender.
So, tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream… 3 In fact, a life with an empty dream is mournful. With life, in life, for all things that are important (more or less), ask yourself if you would rather be happy in the safety-net of having never tried, or, live to tell the story of your adventure.
Just examine the lives of some of the greatest people, and you will discover one common thread. They marched forward when everyone else withdrew, they took bold steps when others hid in closets, and they put everything at stake for what mattered to them. Above all, they never forgot that life on earth can be an extraordinary adventure. The universe is there to serve you because you are a part of it. You can sit back and marvel at the possibilities or you could bring one to life.