Reality Check: Indecision, Imperfection, and Kale

My plan this year was to plant a nice bed of kale. I envisioned a continuous supply of fresh kale for lovely, nutritious salads.

Buying the kale seeds was easy.

But I couldn’t decide where to plant them. It was either too rocky, too clayey, too weedy or too far away. Sadly, I just couldn’t find that Goldilocks place of “just right.”

So the kale seed packages, with their inviting pictures of curly purple leaves, sat on the counter. A few days ago, I finally put them away in the seed box for next year. It’s too late. No kale for me.

This sad little episode could be perceived as a failure.

I’m going with that. Sometimes we fail.

What have I gained from this failure? It’s reminded me, again, of the cost that can come from dithering.

The kale indecision is not a big deal. I can buy kale, perhaps even better kale than I would grow. I can still have my nutritious salads without thinking about the bugs, the picking or the weeding. But anybody who gardens knows that even lovely farmer’s market kale doesn’t bring the same satisfaction as kale you’ve grown yourself.

There are plenty of decisions that people dither over, sometimes until it’s too late, because we just cannot see a perfect option. Decisions such as, “Where should I live?” “What career shall I choose?” “Should I visit my mother?” “Should I marry this person?” “Should I take this job?”

We make many decisions in our lives. Or, more precisely, we have the opportunity to make many decisions in our lives. Sometimes, as in the case of the kale, we put things off until the decision effectively makes itself.

The downside? Career options, for example, don’t necessarily remain available until we find perfection. A career that is viable now may not be so in a decade’s time, when we’re not as alert, technology has changed, or our muscles are weaker. Does that mean we should wait for the perfect option, for now and forever? Good luck with that!

Relationship choices don’t remain static either. People pass away, move away, or become frustrated by our indecision. There are windows of opportunity that open and close. Once closed, there’s no guarantee that they’ll open again.

So what do you do when faced with a decision where none of the options are perfect? Some possibilities are:

Choose the best of the imperfect options. I could have put the kale in the clay-filled planter. It’s nearby and relatively weed-free. It’s not perfect, but having some kale is better than no kale.

Think creatively to expand the array of options. I could have filled smaller planters with better soil. Or I could have asked for space in my friend’s garden. Additional options do exist.

Deliberately choose to delay until a more perfect option becomes available. I could have decided not to plant this year, but wait till I’ve created a better space. By the way, this is different than what I actually did—letting the decision make itself by dithering until it was too late to plant.

Here’s a final thought about imperfect choices. Once you’ve made the decision, follow through to a reasonable conclusion. If I plant in the clay and later regret it, there’s not much value in uprooting the plants or not bothering to water. I may as well do my best to see them through till fall.

Likewise, trying a new career? Wanting a new relationship with your mother? See it through for awhile, even if you feel initially cranky and uncertain. We’ll inevitably learn something, and that may help us make more effective choices next time.

Does imperfection hold you back from making decisions? How do you work with that?

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