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Life is filled with choices. It’s filled with goals. And, if you’re like most people, it’s filled with trepidation as well. When we have a weighty decision to make, most of us want to hold off, think, research, and—run. It feels safer not to commit, but to wait.
Unfortunately, when we dodge a big decision, few of us realize that our indecision is a decision. By not moving forward in some direction, we are choosing stagnancy, and might even miss opportunities altogether. Choosing to do nothing, is choosing to do something.
We all know it’s foolish to make impulsive decisions when analysis and prayer are required. But too many of us extend that prep period too long, and are playing the equivalent of the child’s game of Statue. We’re frozen in place, not progressing.
We see it everywhere: The student who postpones his graduation plans. The couple who puts off marriage and/or children. The worker who’s afraid to ask for a raise and then stays in a rut rather than take a risk. The family who never takes a vacation because they’re always saving for the future. The grandparents who keep meaning to get the family all together but never actually do it.
Too many of us have bought into the idea that “later” is always better than “now.” Here’s the thinking: If we put off the things we should do (scripture reading, bill paying, dieting), we can play. We can watch TV. We can eat this piece of pie. We can struggle with self-discipline some other time. Maybe it will be easier then.
And, of course, we end up being the people who say, “She’s already in junior high? Wow—where did the time go?”
In this last General Conference, President Monson spoke about choices, and quoted Alice in Wonderland asking the Cheshire Cat which path to follow. “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take,” the cat tells her.
Fortunately, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have knowledge of God’s wonderful plan, and none of us need wonder where we want to wind up. The key is to hold fast to the goal of exaltation and life again with our Father in Heaven, and Jesus Christ.
Just knowing the end goal is a tremendous help in fighting the inertia of putting off choices. Even if we trip and fall, we know we can repent. The key is to get back up on our feet and move forward toward Christ. This alone can give us energy and motivation, and help us avoid the pitfalls of procrastination. We can see the dotted line that leads to God, chart our course, and connect those dots.
When you find yourself dodging a big decision, remember what you really want. Picture Christ with his arms outstretched to you. What steps can you take right now, to inch forward? Use the methods that work best for you— give yourself rewards for taking action, make and cross off lists, or get loved ones to help you focus and stick to your goals. Realize that life will be better if you act, rather than always re-act. Whenever you catch yourself procrastinating, realize that you are making a decision to stop your own progress. Shake it off and be proactive.
A great place to practice being a person of action instead of inaction, is in the Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching program. Define yourself as someone who does this. Consistently. Compassionately. If you find yourself at the end of the month without having taken appropriate action, resolve right then to do better next month. Make appointments right now. Jot it on a calendar or on your phone. Make it happen. Just proving to yourself that you can follow through in this one area will give you confidence in the other things you tend to put off.
Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and the author of Taoism said, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” And I would add, “even if that destination is nowhere.” Sometimes we lull ourselves into complacency because we aren’t choosing a blatantly wicked path. But that doesn’t mean we’re on the correct path, either. None of us wants to get to the end of our lives with a pile of regrets for actions not taken, relationships not fostered, service not rendered.
It doesn’t mean it’s easy to throw off the stalling that tugs at our sleeves. It’s often a daily fight, to be sure. But it’s a fight worth winning. It means making hard choices, setting aside the laziness, fear, or indecision that mires us down and holds us back. As President Monson said, “May we ever choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.”
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books and YouTube Mom videos are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.