Yesterday, I was struck by this Ted Talk by Ruth Chang, which explores how to make hard decisions. Ruth explains a hard, early-adult decision that she struggled with and that many–myself included–have struggled with: choosing between two careers.
She says: “If only I knew what my life in each career would be like. If only God or Netflix would send me a DVD of my two possible future careers, I’d be set. I’d compare them side by side, I’d see that one was better, and the choice would be easy.
But I got no DVD, and because I couldn’t figure out which was better, I did what many of us do in hard choices: I took the safest option. Fear of being an unemployed philosopher led me to become a lawyer, and as I discovered, lawyering didn’t quite fit. It wasn’t who I was. So now I’m a philosopher, and I study hard choices, and I can tell you that fear of the unknown, while a common motivational default in dealing with hard choices, rests on a misconception of them.
It’s a mistake to think that in hard choices, one alternative really is better than the other, but we’re too stupid to know which, and since we don’t know which, we might as well take the least risky option. Even taking two alternatives side by side with full information, a choice can still be hard. Hard choices are hard not because of us or our ignorance; they’re hard because there is no best option.“
This hit so close to home for me, so I thought some of you might like to see it as well. Here’s the full talk, if you’d like to watch–15 minutes well spent, promise…
Thoughts? I couldn’t agree more with every point she made about making hard decisions.
(Image by Francesca Di Vaio.)