The Upside of Hard Choices

Recently, I watched an interesting Ted talk by Ruth Chang about how to make hard choices. It struck my interest, especially the end, because it revealed how hard choices aren’t really a burden. They’re an opportunity.

Before we get to what that opportunity is, let’s take a step back and look at why hard choices are so hard.

Basically, Chang talks about how choices feel difficult when one choice is not really better than the other.

When faced with a hard choice, you can’t toss viable options into bags and put them on scales to see which is heavier. They’re too different for that. Too complex.

But these tough choices are often not so different that they’re incomparable. For example, deciding between two wildly different career paths may result in loads of elements to consider, many of which can’t simply be compared side by side, but ultimately you are deciding between two options for work. The comparison is challenging to make, but at the same time it’s perfectly valid and normal.

In this mess lies opportunity.

When faced with tough choices, many of us try to make sense of the reasons given to us from the world. We gather these reasons, assess them, and painfully pick one route over the other. But the importance of these moments may not be about picking the “right” path.

They’re important, Chang argues, because they’re unique opportunities to assert who you are.

You get to take a stand.

More, you have the opportunity to go beyond decisions presented to you from the world; instead, you can make your own reasons, reasons formed out of an identity you are actively and mindfully shaping.

In other words, it’s when you’re pushing through a tough decisions that you’re really putting weight behind who you are, what you believe, and the life you’re electing to lead. It’s a chance to declare through action: things like “I’m someone who is for working in the art world” or something a bit more mundane like “I’m someone who is for eating a healthy breakfast every morning.”

In short, the upside of hard choices is that, if you approach them as an opportunity take a stand, they’re empowering. More, they may serve as a catalyst for transformations that may have never happened without the hard choice.

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