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If you don’t choose, what do you get?

As a child, this heirloom that sat in my grandmother’s living room on the heavy mahogany table by the front window was a curiosity to me. It featured a woman who has fallen between two chairs. Two men seem to be attempting to assist her to one or the other. Script writing appears on the base extolling the lesson, “Between two stools, you fall to the ground.”

I remember asking my grandmother more than once what it meant. She patiently explained each time I posed the question but it never made sense to me. It seemed strange that with two available chairs the woman would be on the ground. It’s been years since I thought about that piece, but I can still feel the way my forehead scrunched up as I attempted to figure out the point of the scene.

Many years and many miles later, I recall unpacking from a move and pulling the item from a box. As I pulled the brown paper wrapping from the ceramic heirloom and re-read the message it made me laugh. A thread woven through my life and my coaching when working with clients is that if you fail to make a choice, you still make a choice.  It is a choice to do nothing. Out of choosing nothing, something will happen but not necessarily something you desire.

I finally got the message. The woman in this piece embodies indecision. In failing to choose one of the two offered chairs, she has landed in the void  in between in a rather uncomfortable looking position. Not only that, but from my point of view, she is now having to rely on one or both of the men to help her up. There is nothing wrong with chivalry. I appreciate doors being opened and other sometimes forgotten expressions of respect. But if this woman had been pro-active, evaluated each chair to see which one was a better fit and then made a choice, she would not have ended up on her ass in need of assistance.

If the characters were to come to life, I would hope that her next move would be to accept the offered help, get up off her butt and then choose on her own which chair she would prefer (or, perhaps, decide instead of sitting to hit the dance floor). There is no upside to indecision. It causes a lot of mental gymnastics, eats up energy and sometimes leaves you in limbo, or worse…ass on the ground wondering what happened.

Where in your life have you been sitting in limbo? How would things be different if you finally made a choice and from there, created forward action?

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