Celebrate Your Most Difficult Choices

If you’re anything like me, you’ve complained, lamented, even cursed the situations in which you’ve faced difficult choices. They seem like torture: you can’t figure out which of several alternatives is the best one, and you’re stuck, as they say, “on the horns of a dilemma.”

It’s not that I’m indecisive. In many situations, I instinctively or logically know clearly what I’m trying to achieve and how to proceed. In other situations, the choice looks murky at first, but after some time and effort I’m able to work out the best way forward.

For example, years ago I was on the verge of buying a home, and I had a choice of two wonderful houses. One appealed to me emotionally, the other, practically. I puzzled over the problem for days until I hit on the idea of scoring each house on all the factors I thought were important. The emotional home scored about 13 points, the practical one, about 113 points.

The difference was entirely clear, but I hadn’t been able to see it until I did the math. At first, choices like these seem very difficult, but once you find the right key to unlock them, they turn out to be easy.

However, there’s still another, more intractable category of difficult choice: the one in which there’s no clear winner.

These are the situations where every course of action carries with it a combination of advantages and disadvantages, benefits and penalties, opportunities and closed doors, joys and sorrows, and sometimes more. These are the most difficult choices you will ever face.

But there is a way to move forward in these frustrating, perplexing situations, and it’s an amazingly simple one.

I’m suggesting you stop trying to find the “best” choice and instead select the course of action that:

  • Reflects and expresses your deepest values,
  • Makes the most accurate statement about who you are or want to be, and
  • Opens the door to the greatest, most enticing opportunities for personal growth.

I’m pretty certain that, looking back on your life, you can identify one or more key inflection points where the choice you made and the path you subsequently followed had a profound effect on everything that came after in your work and your life.

Undoubtedly, you are happy with some of those difficult choices, and there’s a good chance you’re unhappy with some of the others.

But that’s the past: now over and done with. Your future, however, is still to be written.

That’s part of what’s good about the most difficult choices you’ll face from here on out. They have the potential to become new and perhaps even more powerful inflection points. And now, older and wiser, you’re in a position to make those upcoming choices not haphazardly, not based on minor factors, short-term considerations, or external forces.

You can use your most difficult choices as wonderful opportunities to design the rest of your life, and to – at least – make the effort to build the kind of future you most deeply desire.

Viewed from this perspective, your most difficult choices are not unpleasant experiences you should curse, lament, or complain about. Far from it. Instead, they’re rare and golden opportunities to try becoming the person and building the life you truly want.

As such, they’re worthy of your most courageous efforts, and your most joyous celebrations. Use them to show the world the best version of who you can become.

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