Light Switches ‘n Oak Trees

Parth Raghav,Improvement

As I wander through my apartment, going from one room to another, I cannot help but feel a sense of indecision wash over me. Every time I see a Light Switch, I become motionless, as if I’m parked at a toll booth waiting for it to tax me with additional thought. Should I turn it off? Would I be coming back to the room? How long would it take to return? Does that justify keeping the lights on?

As my finger hovers indecisively over the toggle, my mind turns into a jumbled mess, all for the simple act of flipping a Light Switch. When I don’t have the time to think, I leave it untouched. While usually, the best course of action is to turn them off. The idea is I’ll eventually come back to the room.

Indeed, toggling Light Switches is not the biggest problem, but the indecision that comes with it has become a dangerous habit in my life. It’s like having a bunch of subscriptions that I don’t use but keep paying for anyway because I might eventually come around to using them— wasting time and money on things that don’t serve me or bring me joy.

I see Light Switches everywhere now, like responding to an email right after viewing it, dismissing a notification I’ve read, deleting Desktop clutter instead of just moving it to a new folder, or reselling notebooks from my High School instead of hoarding them, or removing certain people from my life that I don’t vibe with, or culling destinations from my vision board that I no longer wish to reach.

The eventual…rarely comes, I’ve realized because this lack of decision locks us into a backlog. A Hedonic treadmill all but created by ghosts of one’s own desires that no longer live nor inspire but haunt one with sweet what-ifs and could-haves.

Closed Loops or Open Loops?

Consider an Oak tree. It efficiently filters rain through its canopy to prevent soil erosion and displacement of tree waste, which slows down evaporation before its roots can pull the water out of the soil. It then uses negative pressure to transport water to all the leaves for photosynthesis. The water then evaporates, only to fall as rain later. This closed-loop system allows the tree to adapt to its environment and conserve resources. Compare that to a bucket left under a running tap. The bucket overflows until the tank is empty, but the tap remains open. Such an open-loop system only wastes resources.

Much like an Oak tree, we are designed to be closed-loop systems. We can make decisions quickly, learn from them, and adapt to our environment. However, we also have the potential to regress to being an overflowing bucket with no command, wasting resources along the way. Indecision has cost me many missed opportunities to get feedback. Not only that, I’ve observed indecisions drain me just as much, if not more, than tough decisions.

Making decisions can surely be difficult and often requires confidence that is not always easy to muster. However, as Theodore Roosevelt so eloquently stated, "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

Dodge The Default

If I could simulate my character before entering the real world, I would have perfect information about all possible decisions I could make and the paths I could traverse. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. I can still explore and experiment with my life choices, though, in ways humanly feasible. Instead of accepting things as they are, try out new possibilities.

If you think of making decisions not as an act of judgment on yourself but as a call to your own growth, would you not want to err towards fucking around and finding out? I remember playing GTA Vice City at my cousin’s house for the first time. My cousin insisted I do the missions, but I liked roaming around more, exploring my character's capabilities and the environment's constraints. Could I swim? How deep could I dive before drowning? How vast the ocean was? Sure, I could always restart if I got wasted in a game, and the stakes are a lot higher in the real world, but as long as you’re not stupid, there is no reason not to fuck around and find out.

Principle of Parsimony

Indecision can also be viewed as a natural, if not an unchecked, response to overthinking. However, there is a middle ground between the two. The principle of Occam's Razor suggests that the simplest explanation is often the correct one. By proactively avoiding unnecessary assumptions and complexity, I try to make swift and informed decisions without getting bogged down in indecision. This allows me to strike a balance between careful analysis and decisive action.

As I conclude this note to myself, I want to remind myself that it's time to stop carrying the deadweight of decisions not made. Light Switches offer growth opportunities, and I refuse to live paralyzed by them. I will consciously act decisively, even when it's easier not to, and think deliberately, even when it's easier not to.