I have been asked over coffee more than once, “How do you know what you should do next in life?”
We all come to these decision points, and they can be some of the most perplexing and anxious moments in life. Should I get another job in the same field? Should I move to a new city? Which job offer should I accept? Is now the time to get married, to buy the house, to have a child?
Who can possibly answer these questions? Anytime I’ve been asked this I sit there blinking for a few seconds feeling totally inadequate to answer.
But the longer I live (and I’m still a baby), the more a theory is starting to develop in my mind.
My theory about making “big” life decisions: it doesn’t really matter.
It doesn’t really matter where you live or which job you accept or when you have the child or get married. For every side of the decision your mind will create a list of reasons why one might be better than the other, and you can fret and sweat over this list for a month and be no closer to a choice.
But the biggest reason I think it doesn’t matter is that you don’t know. You can get the job of your dreams at a great organization and detest it from your very soul once you start working there.
The future isn’t real. Once it gets here, it will be the present—the real thing—and then you’ll be worried about the next step all over again.
In those times when you don’t know which path to choose, pick one, own it, and refuse to let yourself play the what-if game. If the future isn’t real, alternative versions of the present are even less real.
Many life situations can be undone if they really need to be. You can always move home. You can always close the business. But even when they can’t be undone, you have to remember that nothing stays the same. Eventually, it will change all over again.
I don’t think we’re meant to exist primarily in the whirlwind of anxiety about our next life step. Few decisions are really make or break.
If your life is a book, you have no idea how the story will end up—no idea which parts are really important—until the end. Don’t spend all your time flipping through pages you’ve already read. Don’t fret about the next chapter so much that you fail to read the current one.
One page at a time.