A little while back, I swallowed some of my biases and checked out Tony Robbins’s documentary on Netflix, I Am Not Your Guru (trailer here). I had prejudged him as something in between a vacuous motivational speaker and a charlatan. I of course based this opinion on nothing and admit that it was incredibly closed-minded of me.
I quite enjoyed the documentary, and I felt that I was captivated by his charisma. While I know a lot of the business involves crafting a certain persona and message, and that the documentary is edited to create a particular narrative, it softened me to him and I wanted to check out some of his other works. I’m not interested in investing the money to attend his events (I’m not *THAT* open-minded), but I thought I’d give one of his books a shot. He also recently appeared in a podcast episode with Tim Ferriss, whom I’ve started to trust as something of an authority figure. Anything that Tim Ferriss says, I’m willing to listen to.
So, I checked out Awaken The Giant Within, by Tony Robbins.
There was a really cool perspective he shared that has stuck with me since hearing it. Explained the etymological origin of “decision” or “to decide.” Without getting technical, it splits the word into “de” and “cision” or “away” and “to cut,” or in essence, “to cut away.”
Ok, that doesn’t sound very insightful. But then he framed it in terms of what a proper decision entails. He notes that when we talk about “making decisions” in our lives, we often are speaking as if we are expressing wishes. To him, people “decide” to lose weight all the time, but never follow through on the execution. In other words, when someone says they’ve decided to exercise and lose weight, until they follow through on that action, all they are saying is “I wish to exercise and lose weight.”
To make it a proper decision, you have to essentially make a cut and discard every other alternative. When you decide something, you are firmly choosing not to entertain any other alternatives, and you are committing to that course of action. To decide is to cut off those alternatives.
Framing it that way made a lot of sense to me. It’s a criticism of myself that I’ve heard flavours of for some time, and it’s something I try to be mindful of. This past year I’ve been reading books and reflecting on myself in order to live more intentionally. I’ve had a few decision points so far that are opening up interesting futures to me. Right now, I’m looking at career moves; should I continue to become a paramedic, or should I commit more fully to teaching. I don’t have an answer to that questions yet. It’s still really early in the process and I’m fine to live with that ambiguity for now. I have plenty of time yet to explore my options.
There are other areas where making decisions has become important. For the sake of being cryptic, I cannot divulge them at the moment and I apologize for that. I’ve had a decision weighing over me recently that I finally pulled the trigger on. But there are other “decisions” that are manifesting themselves as “wishes” and I’m not forgetting about them (I’m looking at you, exercise!). I still haven’t followed through on committing to exercise, so for now that’s is my personal shame I carry around.
What I’m starting to wrestle with is how to take ownership of deciding my life’s course and what it means to be a person of character and commitment. It’s not a strength of mine historically, but it’s a virtue I seek to cultivate moving forward.