Apparently, I’m a massive nerd. I don’t just love watching TED Talks, I love making notes on them. Even re-watching them to do so. All because I believe these theories can have life-changing consequences if we listen and apply them.
The one I watched today was about how to approach making difficult decisions.
The speaker, Ruth, explained about how we weigh up big decisions – we often perceive it to be mathematical; we think that pros and cons carry a certain weight, and we just have to figure out the total sum to reach a conclusion.
For her the big decision was a career in philosophy vs a career in law.
The reality that Ruth points out is that they each have many of their own unique pros and cons – and therefore these decisions are hard because they are not mathematical. One path does not accrue more points than another – there is no right answer.
Therefore, in order to make such a difficult decision, we cannot simply add up numbers and see which amounts to the most. As Ruth put it, we have to put our ‘agency’ behind it.
What does this mean exactly?
To put it into context I had a similar dilemma this year.
After realising Law wasn’t for me, I was asked by my Careers Adviser Phill if I would regret not going into law, which made me really think about the decision to not apply.
There were many points on both sides. All valid ones! Pursuing law would give me a higher standing for when I want to go into the charity sector. Plus the money, and many other things.
However, charity grad schemes varied in pay but the work was diverse, so I could get involved in loads of different things like communications, research and front-line work, which suits my skill set and interests way more.
When a friend asked me how the job hunt was going, and at this point I was researching charity schemes and legal jobs, I was brimming with enthusiasm about the charity ones. On the other hand, my answer about the legal jobs was excruciatingly dry and unexcited.
“Why are you even applying to for law?” I was asked. And thus began a spiral of thought that led me to put my agency behind pursuing a career in the not-for-profit sector.
Your ‘agency’ is your heart. It’s your passion. It’s what makes you excited about your future. It’s the thing that makes you want to tell everyone about it. It’s about what you want your life to be like – and that’s an incredibly difficult decision; for you, things like working hours may add huge weight, and be unimportant to someone else. Therefore, the reasons here can’t be objective and mathematical, so you have to figure out what matters to you, as an individual.
If we don’t realise that hard decisions cannot be boiled down to nice, clear-cut points, the TED Talk points out that we tend to ‘drift’ and go with the easy option. We run, scared, to the safe one that’s within our comfort zones, usually what we feel that everyone else wants us to do, because we don’t want to face up to the decision.
This is when mistakes are made. I genuinely believe that nothing extraordinary in this world is ever achieved if you’re not that bothered. You’ve got to be obsessed with what you’re doing and filled with so much excitement that it makes whatever you do a success. That is what makes a real difference – and of course this manifests in everyone in hugely different ways.
My decision to deviate from a dream I’d had since I was 11 years old was a tough one, but not opting out of this decision has landed me in a wonderful position with a fantastic job, whilst also doing a master’s degree.
Be honest with yourself, figure out what matters to you, and then go get it!