What Zen Masters Know About Making Decisions


There was a funny story I read somewhere, which goes like this:

There was a crew of construction workers, and every day, they would eat lunch together.

And every day, as soon as they sat down, one of the guys would start complaining.

“Oh dammit, peanut butter and jelly for lunch again, son of a gun, I hate peanut butter and jelly!”

Every day he would do this.

So, naturally, after a few days, one of his coworkers said to him:

“If you hate peanut butter and jelly so much, why don’t you tell your wife to make you something else?”

To which he responded: “What wife? I live alone”

We all make our own sandwiches in this life.

To begin this discussion about decision-making, we will ask this question first:

Do my decisions matter?

From a statistical perspective, they most certainly do not.

Being 1 out of 7.5 billion…

…Anything you can do, someone else has already done.

Most likely to a greater extreme than you are considering.

This doesn’t have to be a depressing thought.

And it doesn’t mean you should run naked down the street.


It should feel liberating, in that, no matter what you do, it’s doubtful you will reach the very fringes of good or evil(or even close).

Of course, from a personal perspective, your decisions, absolutely DO matter.

Regardless of which view point you take, you should act at once, anyway.

It is characteristic of a person trained in Zen to act at once, without hesitation.


Because they understand that the amount of variables in any given situation is infinite.

Because our expectations and projections about the future are inevitably skewed, and we can rarely predict how something will turn out.

This is a great cause for optimism, because who knows what opportunities may arise, seemingly from thin air.

When you start attempting to account for every variable and every eventuality, you become paralyzed.

Some people call it analysis paralysis. Some call it sitting on the fence. Some call it research. 

It is the middle approach to life, not choosing one or the other.

Not Hot or Cold. Like lukewarm tea.

It is a mental wobbling.

It’s Hesitation.

This where someone chimes in: “What about the wisdom of looking before you leap?”

What’s the value in imagining a future?

You may have some general idea of how things will pan out, however things change fast, and the specifics are impossible to predict.

It’s like trying to squint through a dull haze of future possibilities.

It’s fairly arrogant to pretend to know what the future will be.

Thinking about it too much will only impede action.

All you will get is anxiety.

If you act at once, you are much more likely to go with your intuition.

Deep down, everyone knows what they want.

You just have to be real with yourself.

And it’s hard to do that when you begin obsessively trying to factor in other people’s opinions and reactions.

Funny thing is, most people will resent you for caring too much about what they think of you.

You have to show some of your own color, to be someone interesting.

Otherwise, you’ll be boring.

Well, being boring is a strategy all in its own.

To blend in, tread lightly, be boring, and never stand out is simply a strategy so you won’t be hassled. 

So that the powers that be don’t smite you for being a peacock with bright colors, which are annoying to look at.

This strategy, however, is faulty, in that, the timid person will get dismissed as someone who won’t stand up to being treated poorly.

You are more likely to be mistreated for trying to be quiet and kind all the time.

If there is something you’re not OK with, say it.

Be honest, first with yourself, then with others.

Silent, grudging acceptance, is a sure-fire way to create resentment.

Even if nothing changes, you have voiced your stance on the subject, and that makes it all the easier to bear.

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” -Marianne Williamson

Believe in yourself.

Act on your ideas.

Live simply.

All the Best.


P.S. Alan Watts covers Zen philosophy extensively in this lecture.



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