Do Something, Even If It’s Wrong

“Do something — even if it’s wrong!”  That’s a phrase I’ve often heard my husband utter, frequently directed (under his breath) at people who stop suddenly after disembarking an escalator or moving sidewalk. It applies to people with shopping carts who obliviously block the entire aisle while agonizing over which brand of shampoo to buy. (Oh wait. Sometimes that’s me.) It could also be used for drivers who slow down to a dangerously low speed debating which street to turn on as countless impatient drivers pile up behind them.

Why is it so hard to make a decision? In the past, I’ve been counseled not to make snap decisions, but in some situations (like which direction to walk when exiting an escalator), a quick choice is mandated. Some say a person’s character is defined not by their carefully pondered decisions but by the ones that are made in an instant:

  • Seventy-four-year-old retiree Bill Badger tackling the gunman who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, even after Badger himself had been shot.
  • Wesley Autrey jumping into New York City subway tracks to protect a fallen stranger from an oncoming train.
  • My son demanding we stop the car to rescue an abandoned dog.
  • First responders running into the World Trade Center while everyone else was running out. Sure, you could say that it was their job. But they still had a choice.

Some people would do none of these things. Yet others would not hesitate. One could argue these were not even decisions at all because the people in these examples would never have considered NOT acting so nobly. Are we hardwired genetically to make certain choices? Is it our upbringing? Can we learn to be virtuous and selfless? Why is decision-making so hard for some — from the little things — what to wear today, what to cook for dinner — to the lifechanging alternatives? Where to go to college. Whether to marry your significant other, or even to determine if your other is truly significant.

I’m somewhat ambidextrous so I like to think I use both sides of my brain, the creative half and the logical, analytical half. Sometimes this makes decision-making even harder for me because I need to figure out if I will be led by my heart or my head. Ultimately, my heart wins. A decision has to feel right. And it is better to do something — anything — than to be paralyzed with doubt and do nothing.

Years ago, our children were blessed to have the most wonderful kindergarten teacher, Ray Lesch, who was also an astronomer. On warm spring evenings, he would bring his telescope to the school’s athletic field and host “star parties”  for his students and their parents to gaze at celestial objects. Some nights the parties were canceled because the skies were overcast. The little ones were disappointed because the stars weren’t out. He would explain that the stars were always there; you just can’t always see them. Decisions are sometimes like the stars and the heavens. The answers are there but sometimes we can’t see them because they are clouded by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of looking silly or stupid.

So I’ll leave you with Mr. Lesch’s favorite closing — wishing you “clear skies” — and a joke. A man prays to God to win the lottery. Every day he prays, and every day he doesn’t win. Finally, he implores God for guidance, and God tells him [wait for it…] “Buy a ticket.” As they say, you have to be in it to win it. So make a decision and do something, even if it’s wrong. At least you are moving forward toward a goal.

One Comment

  1. Barbara says:

    Some of my favorite lines from the Pulitzer Prize winning musical “Sunday in the Park with George” are:

    Move on….
    I chose and my world was shaken ….so what?
    The choice may have been mistaken — the choosing was not
    You have to move on

    The whole song Move On is a paean to this post. Thanks, Donna .

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