Alan Watts’ Thoughts On Choice

“Even if you do something totally disastrous, it’ll all come out in the wash, somehow or other.”


…”People have a great deal of anxiety about making decisions, ‘Did I think this over long enough? Did I take enough data into consideration?’ And if you think it through you find you never could take enough data into consideration, the data for a decision in any given situation is infinite. So what you do is you go through the motions of thinking about out what you will do about this, but worriers are people who think of all the variables beyond their control, and what might happen!…Choice is the act of hesitation that we make before making a decision, it is a mental wobbling, and so we are always in a dither of doubt as to whether we are behaving the right way, doing the right thing, and so on and so forth, and lack a certain kind of self confidence. And if you see you lack self confidence, you will make mistakes through sheer fumbling. If you do have self confidence you may get carried away doing the entirely the wrong thing. You have to regard yourself as a cloud, in the flesh, because you see clouds never make mistakes. Did you ever see a cloud that was misshapen? Did you ever see a badly designed wave? Heh, no they always do the right thing! But if will treat yourself for awhile as a cloud, a wave, and realize that you can’t make a mistake, whatever you do. Because even if you do something that seems to be totally disastrous, it all come out in the wash somehow or other. Then through this capacity you will develop a kind of confidence, and through confidence you will be able to trust your own intuition.” ~Alan Watts

I was watching a YouTube video the other day, and was covered by audio of some speeches from Alan Watts regarding the choices that we make, paralysis by analysis, and how we never truly make mistakes.  That was a very interesting 5 minutes of talk that sparked several hours of very interesting retro- and introspection.

I have a long history of over-thinking things.  One of the many examples that I could make is that I will stand in the aisle of a store staring at 3 different items belonging to the same category weighing each one against the next for longer than I care to admit.  Does it help? I don’t know. Sometimes the thing I picked works fine, and sometimes I still find myself saying that the other one would have been better. The question then becomes, did I waste my time? It’s hard to answer either of those, if you take into account the last portion of Watts’ speech regarding seeing ourselves as never making mistakes.  Did I waste my time, make the right move, or learn not to waste my time? Depends on your perspective, which you have control over.

If you can manage to take control of your dithering, he says that you can build self confidence, even if you make the “wrong” decision.  You just can’t look at “wrong” as an irreparable, dead-end to decision making or situations. Pick the “wrong” pair of shoes at the store?  You can either mentally suffer the mistake, or see it as an opportunity to return the shoes and get the right ones. Maybe we learned to slow down just hair before leaving the store, too.  Was it a mistake? Sure, but it’s not like there’s any finality there, so don’t stress over it.

That’s another piece to consider with regard our shoe situation above.  Finding the balance between responsible action and total disregard for outcome.  Sure, there should be some consideration given to the task at hand, but we can’t let ourselves get so wrapped up in the minutia that we begin to slip into mental paralysis.  I have turned what should have been a 15 minute stop into a 3 hour debate with myself over making the right purchase. I need to cut that out. Have some consideration, sure.  Just don’t venture down the endless rabbit hole of “what if”.


Don’t just stand there. Bust a move.

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