The problem with squirrels

I love my morning commute. I very intentionally take the long way through my neighborhood, which takes me down some beautiful wooded streets.  I love any opportunity to see wildlife and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, especially in the mornings.   It is common for me to see deer, rabbits, raccoons, opossums and squirrels. Today I discovered the problem with squirrels. I admit, I could stand to slow down a bit, but in this situation there was plenty of time.  I wasn’t cresting a hill nor was I coming unexpectedly around a corner.  And there he stood in that fidgety, nibbling-on-an-acorn sort of way in the middle of the street—bushy tail and all. I’m not sure why, but I began to talk to the squirrel, “c’mon squirrel, get out of the road!” I don’t think he heard me.  As I got closer he looked up seemingly surprised to consider his immanent demise. He jumped to attention and looked as if he was going right, then reconsidered and went left, then right again, then left again. Finally, with nanoseconds to spare he darted off the road to safety.  

Indecision. That is the problem with squirrels, indecision.  When facing certain death, a decision must be made. Either side of the road would do, just pick one!  In this moment I realized this is often the problem with people. We face important decisions yet hesitate to decide.  

Indecision affects us in every arena of life such as dating and marriage, productivity at work, establishing new life disciplines or home projects.   Here are a few reasons why you might act like a squirrel…

1. Too many options.  We love having options, but in decision-making the presence of many options actually causes us to have decision paralysis; we act like squirrels.   
Solution: Consider staging your decision-making in two phases, first narrow the field of choices then make the appropriate decision. 

2. Distracted by the insignificant.  Picture the squirrel, oblivious to the oncoming car because of a preoccupation with a single acorn.  This happens in our lives. We are seduced by the ease and availability of insignificant things (video games, incessantly checking Facebook and Twitter or getting involved in another project that seems more fun or easier) and we allow opportunities to pass us by.  
Solution: identify your “acorn.” What is it that distracts you regularly? Try not touching that “acorn” for one day or schedule only specific times for it and regain your focus.

3. Now vs. Later. It’s easy to get caught up into thinking that you must figure out the long-term solution in a given decision. However, none of us have the luxury of predicting the future so we must make decisions now.   
Consider what the best decision is now.  I’ve learned that good long-term decisions ALWAYS come with good short-term steps.  

4. Waiting for the feeling.  I hear this a lot from people who are traditionally considered “creative.”  The truth is, we are all creative.  Sure, there are times when the ”creative juices” are flowing, but that is hard to count on.   
Instead, schedule when the decision will be made or when the work will get done and DO IT! Don’t wait for the feeling.  

5. Missing out. 
Bottom line: you cannot have it all…but you can have something.  Indecision, for fear of missing out on the next great opportunity, is squirrel thinking.   
We need to make the most of the opportunity we have. You do not want to live your life based on fear. Every decision creates the opportunity for more decisions and soon you will realize that you are carving out a life instead of having life handed to you.  

6. Need more information.  We live in a world that has more available information that any other time in history.  More information is usually an excuse.  Obviously we need good information, but don’t be a squirrel. We don’t need complete information.  
Solution: This is where your brain comes in. You must supply your own experience, wisdom and expertise to the situation.  

7. Time.  “I don’t have time.” I say it too myself often, just like you do.  The truth is, you have exactly the same amount of time as everyone else.  In fact, God distributes time evenly for every living person…one second at a time.  Time is not our problem; it is how we allocate the time we are given.   
Yes, you may have to juggle many priorities, but hey, that’s decision-making.  

8. Confidence.
  Sometimes we lack the confidence to make a decision. Be honest with yourself and import some encouragement.  The Bible often talks about the need for encouragement.   
Recruit a few friends to be your “confidence builders” until the decision is made or the project is complete.  You may also spend a little more time in prayer, which is a proven source of appropriate confidence.  

9. What will people think?  Everyone deals with peer pressure. If you don’t at least at some level care what people think, you are messed up!  We must understand this in balance.  We cannot simply dismiss everyone and haphazardly make decisions, we need the insight and help of others, however we cannot be paralyzed by the fear that some may disapprove of a good and valid decision.  
Define who the helpful people are in your life and welcome the input. Define those who are harmful influences in your life and create a boundary that keeps them from creating stress in your decision-making.  

10. Failure. 
Sometimes the chance of failure is enough to stop all progress.  Failure is a tough pill to swallow, but we all must fail.  Failure cultivates humility and trust in God, which are essential virtues for successful living. Failure is a wonderful and sometimes merciless teacher and usually provides the needed lessons for success moving forward.  

Solution: Fail forward. Make a list of five lessons learned from your most recent failure and read that list when fear begins to get the best of you. Don’t let failure get the last word.  

The squirrel lived. Good for the squirrel. I seriously doubt he learned his lesson. Perhaps you will be different and resign from being a squirrel and make a decision.

Posted by Andy Savage at 11:45 AM
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