Everyone hates making decisions, especially ones that are important and determine the course of their future.
Thankfully, there’s often no need to make such decisions.
Instead, you can simply put them off, often indefinitely. By shifting your life to autopilot, you’ll be in good company, since many people prefer to let things come their way instead of making things happen.
To join this large and nebulous group, here are a few strategies that will help you defer making any real decisions.
Apply for something. Whether a grant or scholarship application, some form of higher education, or some kind of competition, applying for anything is a great option for putting off real decisions. First, it takes care of the immediate problem of how to spend your free time and energy, and then it provides you with an extended time of waiting around to learn the results of your application.
Applications usually require a lot of time and paperwork, with letters to beg for, various records to hunt down, and essays to carefully draft that will later be quickly skimmed by an assistant. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment from having submitted your application, even though nothing has actually been completed or decided.
Enter or re-enter formal education. Best combined with “apply for something,” the choice to enter or re-enter formal education is great at slicing away years of your life, often at a time when you’re best prepared to put them to good use. Professional schools or advanced degrees are especially useful options, since you’ll have plenty of peers who are also delaying their decisions about life, and society in general will respect you for wasting your time in a scholarly manner. If you do it right, you can hide away in formal education for at least two years, sometimes longer.
Adopt fatalism. Accept these phrases of the fatalist: “If it’s meant to be, it will happen” and “Good things come to those who wait.” Above all, do not believe that you can influence the reason why something happens, and do not believe that good things come to those who hustle.
Pursue side projects. There’s nothing like a good side project to keep you from what you should really be working on. In fact, an entire life can be composed of a series of side projects. Side projects are especially helpful at giving you a false sense of security and focus, thus obviating the need to think about what really matters. Go ahead, say yes to that thing that will distract you from your purpose. You can always return to reality later.
Embrace ignorance. This choice is especially easy and common. When encountering a crossroads, determine that you don’t care about the outcome and don’t want to know which destination is best. Base all of your analysis of the situation on your existing beliefs without gathering more data. Ignore warning signs that you might be wrong, and accept that if you’re scared of something, you shouldn’t do it. (Note: this strategy will also help you in your beliefs about politics, religion, and people who think differently than you.)
Ask everyone for advice. No need to think for yourself; ask everyone else to do it for you. For best results, signal your hesitation about the decision to the people of whom you ask advice. This way, they’ll tell you what you want to hear: take your time, there’s no hurry. You’ll be happiest if you receive conflicting advice from your advisors, because you’ll then feel more comfortable about waiting it out.
Compare yourself to others. Instead of thinking about how everyone’s situation is contextual and unique, look at people who are more successful than you and fall into despair over why you haven’t achieved as much as them. Alternatively, look at people who are less successful than you, and console yourself that at least you’re further along than them. As a bonus, choose to apply other people’s definitions of success instead of thinking about your own.
Decide to settle. Perhaps the most common strategy for life avoidance, “settling for what you have” is the best way to defer your potential, your possibility, and your dreams. Thinking ahead to a vague, undefined future is especially helpful: “I’ll have more time for the things I want to do later.”
Opportunities to rationalize settling are both unique and limitless. You’ve done a lot already … why bother challenging yourself anymore? Stop and take it easy—you deserve it, champ.
All of these strategies will serve you well in your quest for passivity, for they all represent external factors that will make your decisions for you. This will then set you free from the burden of making them yourself. Never take matters into your own hands!
Always remember: there’s plenty of time. No one ever dies young or unprepared. Ignore the 1,440 minutes available to you today, the changing of the seasons, the nagging sense that you could have done something more if you had made the effort. Don’t worry about the days flying by that you’ll never see again.
If you mess it up, you can always do it all over. No pressure, no urgency. Right?
NYC meetup! I’ll be in the center of the universe on November 15th at 7pm. Tickets are free while they last, but they won’t last long. If you’re nearby, I’d love to see you.