Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.– Goethe
True change, and real accomplishment, very often begins at the end of a rope.
Fear be damned. I’m fed up, I can’t take it anymore, I’m sick of it, I won’t accept this for another damn day, I will change, I must change. Feelings like these are common when reaching the end of our ropes, and they are sure signs that a moment of profound decision is beckoning.
Decision comes from the Latin for “to cut off.” Appropriate, since what else is can be done when you’ve reached the end of your rope other than to cut yourself free of it once and for all? It’s that or hang.
Sometimes the cut is clean and quick, like with a knife. The fed up smoker who crushes his pack and quits cold turkey forever and for good. The employee who shocks everyone by standing up in the middle of yet another asinine team meeting and with face aglow like a prophet who has just seen God and says, “Sorry. I just realized how utterly absurd it is to keep wasting my life like this. I won’t do it anymore. I quit.”
We admire such moments of courageous decision in others and in ourselves, precisely because they are so rare. More often we are like tethered wolves. We hear the howls of the free echoing in the night, and we run towards them only to be jerked back each time we reach the end of the rope. So we try again, and again, and again but every time that cruel rope chokes us back. Until, that is, some instinct deep within takes over, and instead of struggling against the rope we start using our teeth.
It doesn’t matter that we may have no evidence that a rope can be cut asunder or if our teeth are even sharp enough to do it. We gnaw on that bastard rope because everything in us screams that we must. Maybe we tear to shreds so fast that we wonder why we didn’t think of it sooner. Or maybe day after day, night after night, we gnaw until our mouths are bloody. But we keep gnawing. We must. We must.
Then at last the thing happens that we never knew for certain could happen, but which we nevertheless knew must happen. The rope snaps, falling limp to the ground.
And we run, howling, free.
The moral of the story: Decision has teeth. The bigger the decision you face, the bigger the dream you want to pursue, the sharper your teeth need to be.
This distinguishes it from casual Choice.
We choose whether we want pizza or Chinese take out for dinner.
We decide whether we will continue sacrificing our days on the alters of tame excuses and tamed acquiescence. There are no significant consequences to casual choices, one way or another. But the consequences of authentic Decision are as real as they come. They’re Life and Death.
Too often we hesitate in the face of our biggest goals. We procrastinate, we hem, we haw. Sometimes we justify indecision by telling ourselves that we’re just waiting for the right time to pursue our goals. Deep down we know this is just a comforting lie. Every morning, without fail, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year, rain or shine, we wake up to the sound of Decision patiently knocking at our door inviting us to walk the road to our dreams. And every morning we give our tame apologies, offering another excuse for why we’re not yet quite ready. “I don’t feel well today. But let’s plan for tomorrow. For reals this time!”
If not that, we dress up our indecision to look perfectly reasonable by planning, and planning, and planning our departure but never finally hitting the road. We want a perfect map. One that shows every last landmark, every potential roadblock, and every possible detour we may encounter. Somehow we forget that there are no perfect maps, because our future is a terra incognita–an unknown land–that no one else has ever traveled to before, and that we’ve only heard fantastic rumors of, whispered to us in our dreams.
To reach our personal land of promise we must step into the unknown, and map it as we go.
Examine the biographies of History’s greats and you’ll find nary a hem-hawer. Think even of the people in your own life that you most admire and I wager you won’t find a thumb twiddler. Instead you’ll find men and women of decisive action.
Action is key. It’s what makes a decision real. I sometimes forget this part. I trick myself into thinking I’ve made a big decision when in fact I’m just delaying it. “I’m definitely going to write that post on Decision . . . First thing tomorrow morning!” But Decision doesn’t trade in “will dos” and “plan tos,” and “going tos.” Real Decision doesn’t do “Tomorrow,” “Next Week,” “Later,” or even “after Covid.” Real Decision takes immediate action, however small. Decision sets change in motion.
So ask yourself what important changes or goals have been calling to you that you’ve been avoiding or delaying. What’s not working in your life that begs for change? What are you fed up with and will no longer tolerate? Where’s the end of your rope?
Are you ready to change? Are you ready to pursue that goal? Are you ready to reinvent your life, or some aspect of it?
Then DECIDE to.
No matter what.
Use those sharp teeth. Cut yourself loose from what no longer serves you, and what holds you back from being your best self and living your best life. Your future self, and your freedom, are calling for you to decide in favor of them.
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