Which is worse? Getting it wrong…or not deciding?

Face the music…bite the bullet…take our medicine…we have a lot of phrases for it.

They amount to the same issue:  difficult choices involve options that are equally charming…or equally  ugly.

Have the surgery?…or tough it out and hope that (benign) tumor will not grow too fast?  Support your son’s fourth career move…or let him know you have some serious doubts?  Move to a smaller, more manageable condo…or keep the old place near the church and the friends you’ve made in the past 40 years?

Even a decision to be generous can be leave us on a teeter- totter.  Shall we send a check to support the scholarship find at the college where our daughter had a shaky start, but finally settled down?  Or would it make more sense to give that money to a homeless shelter, where we know it will have an immediate impact?

Here’s a different way to frame the situation.  Imagine you are holding a pair of playing cards.  Their face value is not important.  But 10 feet away from you on the carpet a pair of magic fish bowls wait for you to toss those cards.   You can trust your luck and toss both, hoping one of them lands in a bowl.  The bowls, by the way, are symbols of your challenging life choices.
Here’s the magic:  if you choose ONE of those cards, it does not matter which one, the fish bowls merge and triple in size, making it far more likely that your choice will pay off.

Guaranteed?  No.  The point of this exercise is to show how choosing improves our odds.  Putting our whole heart into anything tends to do that.  In other words, if you were 50 percent more sure your choice would pay off, would your choice be simpler?

Using the example of making a gift to charity, assume the decision was correct….which result would satisfy you most?

Finally, you can always test the waters; make a smaller gift first…see how it is received, what feedback you get, and how your modest gift is used.  In other words, don’t wait until the curtains are closing on the final act.  Pick a card, any card.

Mike Robinson is Senior Vice President of Planned Giving for United Way of Pierce County.  Please consult a qualified estate planner before making a gift in your will.