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In praise of slow decision-making

Most of my life, I have lived in the future. When I was in junior high, I couldn’t wait to be in high school. My junior and senior years, I couldn’t wait to graduate and move on to my university years. By my early twenties, I was dying to finish school and move on to the grownup world of travel and work. Soon after, I was itching to get married. A few years later, I was pining for kids.

You get the idea. I never did the best job of standing still and simply enjoying the stage I was actually in. I constantly felt this pull to move forward and plan (or dream about) what’s next.

My husband, Kyle, tends to be the opposite. He isn’t a fan of overtly forward-thinking planning sessions, but he does a fabulous job of Being All Here. Wherever we are in the world, he’s almost always content to just be there, waiting patiently for the right moment when the next stage rolls in to the station. None of this dangerously-chasing-after-the-moving-train-and-hopping-on-before-it-slows-down business that I tend to do.

For the most part, we make a good team with these opposing tendencies: I help us remember what’s next and brainstorm our best move; he helps us appreciate the moment and revel in the here and now. He reminds me to live in the present, and I help us enjoy that present better by remembering what’s just ahead.

(In case you’re wondering, I’m most definitely a J, and he’s a staunch P.)

As you might imagine, this has really affected our travels the past few months; in a good way, for the most part. I work on planning ahead; he works on what we should do today. It’s all good.

But where I tend to struggle lately is focusing on what’s next—the next next. Meaning, after this trip. Believe it or not, I actually started brainstorming and strategizing about our post-trip life before we even boarded our first flight to start the dadgum thing. We had zero cards on the table, and yet I was ready to play. It’s taken me a lot of work to slow down and revel in the beauty of wherever we are.

I’m so glad I have. While ideas and conversation topics have continually bubbled on the back burner (and we pull those pots forward to give them a good stir no less than once a week), Kyle has taught me the beauty and the significance of waiting for the right time to sample the flavors and notice where our ingredients take us.

coffee
Photo source

We’ve hopped around three continents so far (four, by this Thursday), and for most of those, our what’s next has been a giant question mark, dangling out there in the sky. We had an inkling of some direction, but mostly, our future post-trip life has been a bit vague—everything from where we live to what we do for work.

But now? As of the past few weeks? The picture is pretty clear. It was almost and on-off switch for us, not too long ago, when we realized what we need to do next when we next set foot on American soil. And it came to us, quietly, like a gift. It was the right time to finally open it. The right time to pull the pot to the front-burner and give it more attention.

Had we followed my instinctual eggtimer, we would have jumped to too many conclusions too quickly, and it would have hindered our present state of affairs. But we waited. And we let the juices blend and marinate till it was just so. We’re still waiting for the concrete foundation to pour and harden (how many metaphors can I use in one post, I ask you?), but it feels good to have waited for the right time for the big stuff to reveal itself.

If you’re someone more like me, let’s better learn the fine art of waiting for things to divulge themselves in the right time, and to bask in the here and now while we wait. There is much to be praised about the beauty of slow decision-making. For most things in life, there’s no rush. Whatever’s in your life that feels like a conundrum, perhaps that’s a sign it needs to quietly be moved to the back burner, so you can take long walks, read that book, laugh with your kids, see that movie you keep meaning to see. The answer will come in due time, when it’s ready.

viewpoint
Photo source

If you’re partnered with someone like me but are really more like Kyle, use your gift of living in the present to quietly inspire the likes of us to take in the view. And at the same time, appreciate our willingness and innate desire to plan what’s next and dream about the future. Our gifts come in handy, too.

Regardless who you are, there is a simple sheer beauty in making big decisions long and slow, in waiting for answers to reveal themselves on their own, when it’s time. And while you’re waiting, take pleasure in smelling the roses right in front of you.

(But don’t forget to dream, too.)

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34 Comments

  1. Leslie

    Great article! I have been obsessing for two years about where to live and God finally revealed the right place. Wish I would have enjoyed myself more these last two years instead of being so stressed. Just finished your book, tsh, and loved it.

    • Tsh

      Totally understand that sentiment, Leslie! I look back many times and wish I just enjoyed the moment I was in.

      And thanks! Glad you liked the book.

  2. Mrs. Frugalwoods

    You’ve described me perfectly! I’m constantly wondering what’s next and chomping at the bit to move to the next stage of life. I have a hard time slowing down and being in the present moment. I wish I could tell my former self to enjoy the different stages I’ve been through, but I should really just tell that to my current self!

    My husband and I are planning on having kids and moving to a homestead in the woods, which I plan for and think about all the time. But, I want to really focus on how great my life already is just in this moment. So, thank you for the motivation and inspiration!

    • Tsh

      “I wish I could tell my former self to enjoy the different stages I’ve been through, but I should really just tell that to my current self! “

      Yes and amen to this!

  3. Nancy

    What if you are married to someone who refuses to plan or dream at all? Who is not content, but not willing to change anything? “Look at how much could go wrong?”
    I’m learning to live forr the moment while planning for the future and fighting inertia.

    • Tsh

      Hmm… that’s a bit of a toughie, Nancy. Any other readers out there with any insight or $.02?

      • Nathan Atkinson

        You just have to do your best and remember that your ideals may not be your spouse’s ideals at first. I’ve found the best way to work with stubborn friends, family, etc. is to do your best and let them see how happy you are. That will inspire them to change. Some take longer than others but ultimately (hopefully!) they will begin asking questions and changing when they see it working for you.

  4. Brittany Bergman

    My husband and I just had a similar conversation. He’s a P, I’m a [95%] J. I always look forward to what’s next (high school! college! a real job!) instead of enjoying what is now . . . and then I look back at those seasons and wish for them again! I realized the other day that, for maybe the first time ever, I’m really enjoying the moment of life we’re in right now. I’m not wishing for a house, for kids, or even for summer. I love our tiny apartment, our simple life, doing work that I love. I wish I could just freeze these moments forever. Thanks for sharing these thoughts and metaphors!

    • Tsh

      That’s gerat, Brittany – enjoy your season!

  5. Erica

    Great article! My husband is good at thinking things through and making slow decisions. I just tend to procrastinate and then have to make an emergency decision in crisis. Hard to find the balance, isn’t it!
    Now I’m curious and looking forward to what you and your family have planned for when you return to America.

    • Tsh

      Well, it’s honestly not that terribly exciting, Erica, but it feels good for us to have a decision more or less made. I’ll reveal more when it’s time. 🙂

  6. Lee

    GAH! I am so a planner and like yours, my husband is not. It works. Like we leave on a week family trip across the country on Friday. I’ve been mulling and planning for weeks. He’s just now, “Did you?” Yes. “What about?” All set. But still he’s the one resting his hand on my shoulder saying “It will work, breathe.”

    Soooo, are you going to tell us what’s next?

    I really hope you are planning on writing a book about this “little” adventure of yours. I’m enjoying living through you, but I’d love some more details 🙂

    • Tsh

      I’ll most definitely write more about our trip in the future, Lee! And I hope you enjoy your family trip. 🙂

  7. Heidi Scovel

    So lovely, Tsh. You described this process beautifully. The J in me wants everything planned out. The overwhelmed mom in me wants to avoid everything. I need to see now as beautiful and allow dreams to simmer until the right time comes. 🙂

    • Tsh

      “The overwhelmed mom in me wants to avoid everything.”

      I have NO idea what that’s like, Heidi. 😉

      Yes and amen to letting dreams simmer, my friend…

  8. Bri

    I so needed to read this. I’m a lot like you in this regard, as is my husband. Right now, though, we’re in a weird transition phase. We know what’s next but don’t know when exactly it will happen. It’s good to be reminded to appreciate the gift of now.

  9. Lisa

    Thanks— today is the perfect day for me to read this. I have a terrible time stopping myself from thinking “A is a possibility, but then B would happen, leading to C, leading to panic and chaos.” Trying to find a balance of appreciating the now and working to find what’s best for our family can be so tough!

  10. Tracy and Les A

    I so enjoy seeing the positive side of the J-P marriage. We are in a similar place as my husband is so very go with the flow and I need things planned, put away, simplified, etc. We are going Upstream together to see the positive ways to make our differences blend to our advantage. We work together, live together and love together (with our kids). Trying to work out a future direction comes slowly and only with a lo of work (or spare time1). I find it very helpful that your P doesn’t have the same “holding onto stuff” tendency mine does. My husband is also hoping that at some point you’ll offer a Upstream sweatshirt and ball cap for all that outdoor, against the culture paddling. Call it advertising, we love the logo and think it would look great to wear. Perhaps when you are stateside!

    • Tsh

      Ooh, I love the idea of an Upstream shirt! Fun thinking there, Tracy and Les. (And I’m so glad you’re enjoying the course.)

  11. carrie

    This made me think of a favorite quote from Rainer Maria Rilke: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

    • Kelsi

      Love this quote. I stumbled across it in my 20s and it has served me well. Live your way into the answers…

    • Tsh

      Love that.

  12. se7en

    This is such a thoughtful read. I am guessing we all find ourselves somewhere along the continuum between dreaming ahead and enjoying the moment. And procrastination is where we sit in the middle doing nothing, neither satisfied with where we are, nor content to wait for a dream. Instead of trying to find the balance, one often tries to do “what is best.” When you find yourself in a rut, all the “productivity” lessons will tell you to create some action to head towards fulfilling the next phase, but it may well be just as productive to enjoy the phase we are in.

    • Tsh

      “…but it may well be just as productive to enjoy the phase we are in.”

      That is GOLD, se7en! Completely, completely agree.

  13. Greer Oharah

    Wow, this was exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you so much for putting into writing what God has been trying to speak to my heart.

    • Tsh

      I’m so glad, Greer!

  14. Expat Housewife

    I am new to this blog and have enjoyed it immensely. I can completely relate to this post. I have been raised to always worry about the future. I don’t remember ever enjoying the present but always thinking (and worrying!) about the next step, even when I was 8 years old. This developed into anxiety which really affected my adult life. It was a few years ago (I am now 38) that I started to let go of this need to control the future and realising that such a thing is impossible, to relax and enjoy the moment. I have realised that things will sort themselves out and that I can only do one thing at a time. I wish I could tell my younger self to not worry, to enjoy the moment, to have faith that things will be well even in the times of uncertainty and difficulty.

    I look forward to your future posts and to hear about where life will take you next. I have been living abroad for the last 12 years and just the other day my husband and I had an a-ha moment about what next.

    • Tsh

      Welcome to the blog, Expat!

  15. Kate Diamond

    I, too, am a future-thinker. I have such a tough time living in the present… but I’m GREAT at prepping for a rainy day. I want to improve on the one skill without totally diminishing the other, and I want to make sure that I model a good balance for my two kids. Thanks for your post. It articulates so much of what’s on my mind these days!

  16. Jillian

    Tsh, this was a beautifully written and timed email. I am the co-founder of the Brooklyn based band The Bergamot + Both Records LLC. My husband and I have been touring full time for five years now and are about to launch our new album TONES into the universe. Needless to say I have a sneaking suspicion that you will love the album and in particular this one song called FORGET ABOUT TOMORROW. You can take a listen to it here http://www.thebergamot.com/music/ enjoy

    PS its the second song down.
    Shine ON
    Jillian

    • Tsh

      Thanks, Jillian! Will give it a listen as soon as my Internet is strong enough. 😉 (Still in low-internet countries…)

  17. TheFamilyFinder

    I dream, plan and forecast. I am always living in the next moment sometimes at the detriment of the current moment. My husband is the opposite and he is very in the moment. He hears everything and really listens when I daydream. What I love about him is that when I finally get him on board with a direction he can very quickly see a clear path to get there.
    I am so happy for you that you have a plan. It will help you to focus more on the moment! It helps me!

  18. Robin

    Thanks for writing this! I am the same as you. We’ve been homeschooling and got to travel overseas for a month (woohoo!!) and now that we know the next step-public school next year- I am having a hard time staying the course. I’m chomping at the bits, but am aware of my tendencies and am determined to enjoy the simplicity and flexibility of homeschooling the rest of this school year. Thanks for the encouragement Tsh! “Wherever you are, be all there!”

  19. Laurel

    I, too, am a planner and have to make a real effort to slow down and enjoy the process. I’ve found that having children helps with this immensely. 😉

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