A few weeks ago I was talking to my brother about my frustration with my seeming inability to make big choices. He’d sent me a chapter from the book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. It’d come at just the right time as I was trying to make about 17 large-ish decisions. The point of the chapter he’d sent was that we humans get so caught up in choosing the right door, we often leave WAY too many doors open.
I’d thought about that a lot—and then, of course, decided to leave all my doors open. (Did I mention I’m bad at decisions?) But then my brother made an off hand comment that really struck me. He said, “You know, you don’t actually have enough information—and no one could possibly have enough information in this situation—to know what the right choice is.”
This might be the best thing anyone has ever said to me. Decision making is my greatest source of anxiety. And I don’t necessarily mean the big moment of making a choice even—I mean the constants. Should I still be in this job? Should I continue to spend time with this person? Should I remain living in this city? They play on repeat in my head.
But this thought—that I might not have all the information yet (or ever) to make the “right” decision—it was a game changer for me. A few weeks later, I watched philosopher Ruth Chang’s TED Talk on “How to make hard choices.” It reinforced this idea—and added to it. Her point is that with hard decisions, no choice is necessarily better or right. But that with hard choices comes immense opportunity to shape who we are—we ultimately have the chance to become the person we choose to be. “The lesson of hard choices: Reflect on what you can put your agency behind—on what you can be for,” she says. “And through hard choices become that person.”
I’d imagine to a lot of people this is obvious life stuff—make the best choice you can and then embrace it. But I don’t think I’m alone (since, you know, these books and talks are awfully popular). And I like that part too. We all struggle with indecision. Which—if Chang is correct (and I think she is)—means we all have the chance to become the people we want to be. I like that.