The not-deciding deciding

I’ve been thinking lately about the not-deciding that we do that is really deciding.  Do you know what I mean?  Those decisions that we put off, thinking we’ll know for sure sometime, and yet, somehow, we never do?  Eventually, over time, the not-deciding becomes, of course, a decision.

The obvious example is the have-another-child decision.  I wrote here about our decision not to have a third child, and it was, ultimately, something we decided.  But that was preceded by many years of “well, we’ll know if it’s time,” and }oh, not now, maybe someday,” and “yeah, we’ll discuss it later …” hemming and hawing.  And, over time, the delaying and not-deciding builds up, like so many imperceptible snowflakes, each tiny and dissolvable, into an immovable snow bank.  The decision is made and sometimes we’re not even aware of having made it.

The other way this has manifested in my personal life is in the not-deciding deciding to stay in our house.  For years we went back and forth on whether to move to a suburb and if so which one.  Many of our dearest friends live near each other.  I looked at several houses in that neighborhood.  I love that neighborhood.  But just, somehow, we didn’t.  We stayed put.  And now leaving feels inconceivable.  I’m not sure what the not-now-maybe-someday turned into not-ever.  But eventually, without my noticing, it did.

On some subconscious level we must be aware of the putting-off that amounts to a decision, right?  It feels easier to delay a formal decision even though we know, as we do that, that we are tacitly making one.  I am curious about this process, and when it is that our subconscious awareness of our bias seeps into our active mind, and when we realize that we have already decided something, even if we continue putting it off.

Have you made any any not-deciding decisions?  Were you aware of it as you did it?


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11 Comments

  1. Posted June 9, 2014 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    This is such an interesting question. We made a pretty conscious decision both to have only 2 children and to move when we did so not those decisions… I am sure I have examples but will need to think!

    admin Reply:

    What I don’t know is if the “not deciding” reflects some deep knowledge that the answer is no, or if it’s truly putting off … who knows. xoxo

  2. Posted June 9, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    I thought we were firm in our decision to only have 2 kids. Then we changed our minds and forged ahead to try for another before we changed our minds again. And that is pretty much how our family is like. We decide then we just do it. 🙂

    admin Reply:

    I think that’s pretty much the only way to go, don’t you? 🙂 xox

  3. Posted June 9, 2014 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I was trying to make a decision recently – nothing big, just about a proposed event – and I kept going back and forth, not deciding. Then my Mom said to me, “If you have to labor over it this much, your answer’s probably no.” And she was right. It was no. I’m not sure if this is the same thing that you write about here, but I think it kind of is.

    admin Reply:

    I think your Mom’s absolutely right. Sometimes I play that game where I “decide” and see how I feel about the answer I’ve come to. The reaction usually tells me a lot too! xo

  4. Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I’ve been with my company for almost nine years now. I think I’m not-deciding about when it’s a good time to move on. But it’s the kind of place where people stay for decades, which I know is rare in this climate, and yet.

    admin Reply:

    And yet. Exactly. I don’t know where the line is between contentment and just staying put because it is familiar, do you? xox

  5. Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    So so interesting to think about. Wonderful post. xo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you, friend. xox

  6. Posted June 9, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    We made a firm decision to move cross-country, four years ago, but we’ve been hemming and hawing about whether and when to move back closer to our families. And we have the same hem-and-haw discussion about having children. So yes, this resonates deeply. I don’t think either of the scenarios above are set in stone yet, but perhaps the not-deciding will eventually harden into a decision. Fascinating post.

    admin Reply:

    Harden into a decision – absolutely the right image. Perfect. xox

  7. Andrea
    Posted June 9, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    My husband and I live in the NY burbs and have been hemming and hawing about moving back up to the Boston area to be near my family for years. After “not deciding” for years, we finally pulled the trigger- shocking our friends, family and, most of all, ourselves. We move in 3 weeks. Our “not deciding” was driven by the inertia of life (work, young kids, etc…) rather than what we really wanted. It feels liberating to decide something so significant based on lifestyle preference. But it’s hard sometimes, particularly when you have to combat the inertia of life, and when you’re used to making such decisions based upon careers, the next promotion etc. Thanks for this post- timely for me and very thought provoking. I really enjoy your writing.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you! And welcome (almost) back to Boston!! Inertia it is – that’s definitely part of what drives our not-deciding. I’m impressed you made that decision and hope it is great to be back. Personally I think there’s no better place to live 🙂 xox

  8. Posted June 9, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Oh, I do understand this. We have been “deciding” whether or not to move for about four years, soon after my husband accepted a job an hour and a half away. For awhile, we weren’t finding the right area, then the right house, then the right price. We wanted this, then that, then another. Meanwhile, more families moved onto our block and my son started kindergarten, so now it’s started to seem inconceivable, as you say, to move.
    I have wondered throughout this not-deciding whether it’s my own fear–I would love a house with more land and space and nature around it, but it would mean beginning anew, and that’s scary. I go back and forth whether that means I’m happy where I am, or I just don’t have the guts to make a big move like that.

    admin Reply:

    Yes, I think fear is a big part of it – the unknown is scary. For me, at least! xox

  9. Kirsten
    Posted June 9, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    This leapt out at me from my FB feed because it’s something my grandmother and mom have said to me over and over: not making a decision IS a decision. I chafe at the aphorism, because sometimes it’s not so much *refusal* to decide – that’s a decision! – but its continuing to ruminate, to turn over possibilities, to [okay fine] procrastinate. But I have to openly admit that this ruminaton/procrastination ends up in the decision being made for me, i.e. losing the opportunity to decide one way or the other. (As you quite rightly identify.) So that just brings me full circle. Sigh. My own challenge is to perhaps just acknowledge to myself that by failing to actively make the decision, my power to make it may disappear?

    admin Reply:

    I chafe at that too but I think there’s some truth in it, don’t you? Yikes … you’re so right to call out that in so doing we sort of abdicate our power. xox

  10. Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    So interesting. I definitely used to do a lot more not-deciding deciding than I do now… Goodness, I have a feeling I’ll be thinking about this all day! xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you! xox

  11. Posted June 12, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Interesting and yes I am very familiar as I tend to be very indecisive about large things. I think there are two different kinds though- the not-deciding because you know the real answer is “no” but aren’t ready to face it, and the not-deciding that is really a fear of making a decision, or being afraid of the change. Two different things, but often same result. One you shouldn’t do it, and the other maybe you should. Not choosing in my life has definitely led me down certain paths. Some I regret and some I am grateful for.