Life has easy choices and tough ones. In an easy choice one is far better than the other. In a hard choice each choice has better qualities. We call them as big choices, but the same dilemma can happen when choosing breakfast! By realising that even these small choices are hard, we can make the big ones easier as we wouldn’t think of ourselves as stupid for being unable to pick a best option– they may genuinely be equally good options.
When choosing between joining a friend’s thriving project and focusing on my own little startup, i tried writing the pros and cons. Agonizing over my decision, wished I could see a DVD of my life after taking each option. I settled on supporting friend’s project out of fear – I wouldn’t succeed with my startup, and friend’s project seemed the safe route to give me more exposure and experience something i hoped not to regret. Later the friend cancelled his project out of personal interests, I was screwed.
Some choices are difficult because they cannot be easily broken down into numbers. For weight of 2 suitcases, one could be heavier, lighter or equal in weight. We can be break down questions involving numbers in this way. It is a mistake to think that these simple numerical comparisons have the same structure as the decisions between your future life. We need to make a 4th alternative – that things can be better, worse, equal, or ‘on a par’. When decisions are on a par, neither is better or worse than the other, and your lifestyle after the decision is not exactly the same. You see both future lives as having a similar value.
We need to see hard choices as empowering. If life only consisted of easy choices, we would always pick the clearly better route. We would then be slaves to our so called “good- reason”.
It is the ‘on a par’ decisions where we get to create our own [formerly unknown] reasons for picking one over the other, and define who we are. We become the authors of our own lives.
People who don’t exercise their own [unknown] reasons on hard choices become drifters. They allow the world’s good reasons around them to dictate their lives. They follow the obvious rewards, punishments, and fears to define them. I was drifting when I chose to join that project and later regretted it.
When the ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ choices disappear, we have the power to create reasons for ourselves, and become the distinctive people we are. That is why hard choices are not a curse but a godsend.