“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.
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7 Replies to “Two Ways To Escape Choice-Paralysis”
This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for me. Just made the difficult decision to leave a job I’ve hated for years to go and choose something I want to do. Loads of fears security, familiarity of routine, too old to get a job. But the smell of freedom far greater and sudden release of energy from somewhere (?) has energized me. Was also true to myself which I thought was the most important thing.
Thanks a lot Stephen! Always great to read your article. It really speaks to me. I need to figure out what I want to do with my life and I have an option which seems really good. However I am afraid it will not work out. When you are trying to find excuses, you always find some.
I’ll make a move and will see. As you say, I can always quit and do something else. Time is finite. I’ll try to remember that more often!
Definitely a thought provoking post. Life really is too short to be stuck in something that doesn’t make you happy. Love your posts Stephen. Keep em coming. x
You are absolutely right and I can’t agree more with what you say. It is my mindset and one I am pursuing at the moment. But it does take a brave person, like Marcus Aurelius, ( god I love that name, I wish my mum had read more classic literature or been bohemian) to take this path and say, to hell with all the people that are gonna remind this is a risky path that could have disastrous consequences or just not work out. To say, you know, this is my life and I’ve decided this is how I must live it. Sometimes you want to leap into the unknown. I do think we have gut feelings, sometimes you just know you have to try an opportunity. People don’t want to leave awful, life wasting jobs, as it’ll look awful on the cv. But is it not a better, more sensible, resourceful person that says I can explain that one and I’ll have to because life is too short and I need to spend my time on something worthwhile.
I hope this makes sense as I’ve had two glasses of wine. I was watching ‘Madame secretary’ and one of the aids says she’s had one and a half flutes of champagne and she’s a petite person so what she’s about to say is going to be candid! I do love these American series, so addictive.
Great article Stephen, X.
It’s a great theory on the surface but doesn’t take into account other commitments, or offer any form of learning ‘ staying power’ or working to improve in something.
I walked out easily on jobs in my youth but when you have financial ties I think this advice should be followed cautiously and with planning snd resources for your next step…
Preach it Stephen!! People have guilt tripped others into believing that if you quit something, you aren’t serious about anything. Sometimes quitting is the only way to get serious about what you really want in life. This was a good post! Thank you!
As I was reading your post, I realized that your two factors balance each other. The more time you have, the more likely you will be able to quit and restart elsewhere. The less time you have, the more of a bonus your life becomes. As the available time is being depleted, the emphasis shifts from your first principle to the second. Furthermore, the two factors have slightly different flavors, the first one is “you CAN take risks,” and the second one is “you MUST take risks.”
Here are some examples:
In starting a business a younger person has many opportunities to do it over, while an older person should take risks while she still can.
In the pursuit of family, a younger woman can take risks to understand her own needs and acquire experience, and an older woman must take risks if she wants to have biological children.
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