How to Make the Right Choice, Everytime
“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” — Henry Ford
I watched a Tim Ferriss Ted Talk a few years ago. There was one line that I can’t seem to forget…
“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” Jersey Gergorek
Most people give their lives no thought. Life just happens to them. They do no self-discovery and little thinking. That’s not you. You are here, you are a Medium reader, a seeker, looking for the real answer backed by some level of thought and data.
For those of us who are actually awake, the hazard of thinking deeply is overthinking. So how do we avoid what Tim calls “paralysis by analysis”?
So many people give advice like “I decided to start my own business and that changed everything” or “I knew I had to end that relationship”. Great. But how did you know?
There is a way to lay your head down on your pillow at night and to know you made the right choice. By setting your fears instead of your goals, you eliminate the spiraling thinking that keeps you stuck.
Define the Problem to Design the Solution
Making choices determines your path in life. If you go left, by definition you can’t go right. You will never see the path along the road not taken. Panic sets in. What if I make the wrong choice?
We all have goals, but what is keeping us from those accomplishments? What is stopping us from taking the leap? Leaving a job, starting a business, asking someone out, ending a relationship….our minds spiral at the prospect of hard choices.
Tim caught himself in a moment of indecision. His solution? He invented a three page exercise based on Stoic philosophy. He designed a system to help him define the fear and the thought process that was holding him back from deciding to move forward.
“We suffer more in imagination than in reality” -Seneca
Three Simple Steps to Resolve Your Fears
The system is simple. Get a piece of paper. Write this question at the top: What if I…?
Step One: What if…?
Fill in the blank. Here is mine. What if I leave my job? Then make three columns across the page. Define, Prevent, Repair. First, define the fear. Write down at least ten things. Your ten worst fears of what might happen.
If I leave my job to freelance I might run out of money. I might never get another one. People will doubt my decision. On and on, everything I fear.
Prevent. What can I do to prevent that outcome? Save enough money before I leave my job to live for 6 months.
Repair. If I run out of money how can I repair that? Come up with some backup jobs that are easy to get quickly. Eliminate unnecessary expenses.
Step 2: Defining Success
As yourself what you might win as a result of simply trying. Can I get half of what I want? What would life look like if you just tried and it just sort of worked?
Write it all out. What exactly would it look like to be even a little successful?
If I leave my job and can replace half of my income then I can pay my bills and live. And that life is the one I actually want to lead. I may have no disposable income and I would live without the extras but I would live the life I truly want to have.
Step 3: The Cost of Indecision
Staying stuck in one place, paralyzed by indecision does not necessarily keep us safe. But how do we evaluate that cost?
What will my life look like if I don’t take this action? What is the cost of indecision? Write it down. What will happen if I don’t move?
If I stay in this job that is sucking my soul I will never really build the life I want. Living a life stuck in one place, dealing with difficult people, building someone else’s dream, is no way to live.
The Perfect Timing
There is no such thing. Period. Is it the right time to ask her out? To have a baby? To leave my terrible relationship? To move?
“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” -Tim Ferriss
Inaction is costly and indecision can be deadly. When designing a life that you love, there will be risks and you will have fears. But are they really more important than your goals? Accept the risk, chart out the worst that could possibly happen, accept it and go for it anyway.
It is the only path.