The other day I was in a meeting that turned philosophical and one of my colleagues asked me “what is your life philosophy?”. Such a deep question with so many possible answers. I struggled a bit and talked about wanting to accept more what happens in life, and more understanding to people. I don’t even think I gave a good answer at the time, and I’m pretty sure that I still don’t know the answer for that question now. I don’t think just one philosophy encompasses and guides my whole life, although lately I’ve been thinking about one area of my life and how I’ve been handling it. That area is decision making.
There are many decisions in life that are mutually exclusive. If you go work for company A, you can’t work for company B. If you decide to buy an LG TV you can’t have a Sony TV. That sort of decision gets us thinking about the other path, what could have been… For an overthinker that is enough to send them into a spiral of all possible scenarios and different situations that unfold into many other scenarios. And then they get to a point where they put their hands in their chins and ask the universe: “have I made the right choice?”.
For the past months I had to decide on many small and big matters in my life, from dinner choices to career changes. And as I made those decisions, I looked inside and tried to come up with the reasons that I was making those decisions. Why was I choosing A instead of B? When I started thinking about my decisions of late I came to realize that I do have some sort of philosophy behind them. My philosophy is “which one is less painful?”. Some decisions carry pain and will have consequences that I cannot escape. And because they are mutually exclusive, choosing one in detriment of the other will leave a stang. So I won’t know if the decision I made was the correct one, and I’ll have to live with that cloud above my head, “what could have been?”.
And that is where my late philosophy comes. I try to not worry so much about the other path. I weigh both decisions, I weigh the pain that will come from taking the blue pill or the red pill. Will I suffer more from a broken heart or from daydreaming? No decision will be without consequences, so no matter which I choose I’ll be miserable sooner or later. The pain doesn’t come from the decision, but from the fact that we fool ourselves thinking that there is a “right choice”. There is no right choice, there is only choice.
Not long ago The School of Life published a video about a pretty big decision that people around my age face: whether or not to have a child. Until this point I didn’t know that my decision making process was somewhat based on Kierkegaard philosophy, but what the video talks about made a lot of sense to me. The passage from his book “Either/Or” goes like this:
If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not marry, you will also regret it; if you marry or if you do not marry, you will regret both; whether you marry or you do not marry, you will regret both.
Laugh at the world’s follies, you will regret it; weep over them, you will also regret it; if you laugh at the world’s follies or if you weep over them, you will regret both; whether you laugh at the world’s follies or you weep over them, you will regret both.
Believe a girl, you will regret it; if you do not believe her, you will also regret it; if you believe a girl or you do not believe her, you will regret both; whether you believe a girl or you do not believe her, you will regret both.
If you hang yourself, you will regret it; if you do not hang yourself, you will regret it; if you hang yourself or you do not hang yourself, you will regret both; whether you hang yourself or you do not hang yourself, you will regret both.
This, gentlemen, is the sum of all practical wisdom.
So there it is, one of the ways I’ve been trying to think more and more lately. Which decision is going to bring me less pain, how can I make sure that I don’t go down into the “what could have been” spiral, and reminding myself that any decision I take will carry some regret with it.