5 ideas to remember when making hard choices
The entirety of Adulthood is centered around hard decisions: Netflix-night or tequila-night? What kind of toilet paper do I buy? Brooklyn or Astoria?
Yes, hard decisions.
But, sometimes We’re faced with choices that really make us scratch our heads: Do I accept a job based on Satisfaction or Brand Name? Should I move in with my Other Person? Is now the right time to head across the country?
These choices are dripping with complexity. They are screaming out for a pros-cons list. They are not as easy as flipping a coin.
Sometimes, it even feels like the entire world is sitting on your shoulders.
Of course, it is not. You make a decision, a choice, a gut-feeling. And, you move forward — for better or for worse.
But, how do you get to that point? How do you feel comfortable, proud even of your choice — when it seems like the rest of your life will thrive or fail based on it?
1. YOU ARE NOT STUPID
Hard decisions make you feel stupid.
They are, by design, a choice between one pretty good option and another.
And on top of that, their value is not numeric. You are not doing calorie-counting math, like when you decide between a bagel and a yogurt for breakfast.
Ruth Chang, a philosopher who gave a TED Talk on Hard Choices, explains her feelings when she was deciding between pursuing law or philosophy after college:
“I really loved philosophy….but I came from a modest immigrant family where my idea of luxury was having a pork tongue and jelly sandwich in my school lunchbox, so the thought of spending my whole life sitting around in armchairs just thinking, well, that struck me as the height of extravagance and frivolity. So I got out my yellow pad, I drew a line down the middle, and I tried my best to think of the reasons for and against each alternative…if only God or Netflix would send me a DVD of my two possible future careers, I’d be set. I’d compare them side by side, I’d see that one was better, and the choice would be easy.”
But, we all know life doesn’t work like that.
Hey — maybe Netflix will develop that technology one day, but for now we’re stuck to our own devices. So, at first you should know, you are not stupid.
These choices are not easy for a reason.
2. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE SAFE
When We are faced with the unknown, the majority of Us navigate towards the safest option.
I’m telling you: Don’t do it.
Trust yourself, and see point number 5. Because, you can’t be wrong.
I, like Ruth, and many other ambitious college grads chose a career based on perceived value. We thought, “Going into finance / law / any role at a very big company will be my best option. I will make money, and I will have a job.”
The fear of the unknown became our rationality.
But, most of us — and I can speak for myself here — quickly realized that it was not the right decision. The fear of the unknown became less scary than our fear of the everyday.
Give your passions, your first love, your gut a check before making a final decision. Deep down, you always know.
3. YOU ARE IN CHARGE
When We make big decisions, we tend to ask everyone for their opinion.
Up until a certain point, this is a good thing. Asking others for help actually makes others perceive you as smarter, not weaker, like most would think.
But, it’s easy to get bogged down in what everyone else thinks you should do.
You should remember: You are in charge. This is Your life.
This was a hard point for me to grasp. When I was in the process of switching jobs, I was moving from a company that was wide-known, and had a certain perception associated with it. It was the best bank on the Street. People assumed because I worked there, I was Smart.
Yet, I was not happy.
And, I realized that for me, I needed to stop thinking about what other people think. Did I need their reassurance that I was smart, because of where I worked? Did I feel comfortable enough with myself to move to a job without the security of a Brand behind me?
Of course, this takes a lot of soul searching.
But, if you remember that the most important person to please is Yourself, you can do anything.
4. YOUR VALUES CAN CHANGE OVER TIME
You are not going to be the same person your whole life.
At one point in your life, certain decisions will seem right, because of what you value in that moment.
For example, the summer before I entered my senior year of college, I completed an internship at a Big Bank and received a job offer. At the time, my values were: (1) Get a job, (2) Pay off your loans, (3) Have a really good resume.
So, I accepted the job offer for the following year.
During that year, I traveled around the world. I lived in hostels, and my only possessions fit in my backpack. My daily challenges were figuring out how to survive on rice and how to get to the bus stop. I saw beautiful places and met beautiful people, inside and out.
My values changed.
So, when I got to this job at this Big Bank, I realized — I had decided wrong. But, that’s because I had changed. My values changed. I realized there were bigger problems that I wanted to solve than those at this Big Bank.
Yet, there is a difference between knowing your values have changed, and accepting that.
Don’t ignore it.
5. YOU CAN’T BE WRONG
Whatever you decide, you can’t be Wrong.
Because, at a time and a place, you believed that this decision was the better choice. At that time, this was right.
Maybe you’ve changed. Maybe the place or the other person or the job did. That’s okay.
You can trust yourself that you will make it work. No matter what, it will work itself out.
It may not be tomorrow. But, you were Smart enough to make this choice. So, if you need to — you can find a way out of it, too.
No choice you make will result in the End of the World.