Two Ways To Escape Choice-Paralysis
“Imagine you were now dead, or had not lived before this moment. Now view the rest of your life as a bonus, and live it as nature directs” – Marcus Aurelius
I’ve always liked the idea of living as ‘nature directs’.
But going with your intuition, your talents, your gut, your feelings, always feels like a risk.
It could mean having to give up all the comforts you enjoy now for something unknown.
I always used to struggle with going with my intuition. My instinct was to be risk-averse, attempting to weigh up the pros and cons of every decision before any great undertaking.
Two things have helped me get over this obsessive analytical mindset:
- Realise you can always quit
- Take all life as a bonus
The first of these is liberating, the second sobering.
Once you realise you can always quit later, you stop putting so much pressure on having every risk pay off. All you focus on is diving in and pushing forward, and deciding later when the right time is to bail on something.
I remember hearing a story from a friend who took on a job straight after high school flipping burgers in a local diner. He thought he could stick it out for a couple of months, but when he was condescendingly asked on his first week to clean some unspeakable mess in the lavatory, he decided “Screw this” and felt not a single ounce of shame in telling his father exactly why he was suddenly unemployed so quickly. He knew it wasn’t worth sticking out a pointless part-time job just to prove a point. For him, the time was too precious to waste.
There’s huge value to be gained from this way of living. It allows you to follow your enthusiasm to learn new skills, understand new fields, sample new opportunities, but safe in the knowledge that just because you made a decision, you are not obliged to stick with it come what may. You can adjust course or do a complete U-turn and go back to something else.
If you need more convincing on this idea, I recommend you check out the excellent Freakonomics podcast on ‘The Upside Of Quitting’. It shares some incredible stories from people who found their calling not through picking out the perfect opportunity, but through eliminating options until they came across their preferred occupation.
The lesson: Quit fast when something isn’t working. Speed matters when you have limited time.
On the second point (seeing all life as a bonus), all we have to do for this one is realise how little future actually exists for us to do all the things we’re currently putting off.
We assume we have 20, 30 more years, but maybe we only have 5. What if you knew that were true? Is there anything you’d do differently today? This was Steve Job’s mentality when deciding what to spend his time on.
Taking on those two truths above has been incredibly powerful for me.
It eliminates that feeling of anxiety over the future regret you might feel when quitting your current course of action. You realise that the real risk is in not pursuing a better option. From my experience it’s the people who played it safe who are filled people with most regrets later on.
Remember: You can always quit, and the time you have is finite.
These two directives will stop you wasting precious hours doing anything less than your nature directs.
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Stephen Hussey helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.