Our life is made of decisions. Actually, even before your life started, your parents made the decision of…making you. Maybe their choice wasn’t voluntary (“it just happened”), who knows? But there was a choice of having sex that led to your existence.
When you are born, all your life depends on the people around you. On your mother, to breastfeed you. On the nurses, to keep you warm. On your father, to keep you safe.
Until a couple of years go by and you start to gain your first signs of independence. When you are two years old and your mother obligates you to eat the food, you know you have no other choice than literally shoving it down your throat, even with all your screaming and tantrum.
However, that tantrum is actually one of the first forms of “making a decision”, as you decide to dispute the fact that someone is forcing you to eat the food which you, at that moment, DON’T WANT to eat.
And the more you grow older, the more you start to gain some decision-making power. When you decide to throw your mother’s food away and go with your friends to McDonald’s. Or to skip the math class because playing football outside is so much more fun. And even if you are not a teenager, you feel like you have the power to decide.
Years later, during your teenage times and for the next 10 years, you will stop being a child and start being an adult. This decade is definitely the most decisive in terms of forming your personality, tastes, and orientation/inclination to hobbies and activities.
And so, decisions start to be part of your life – even if mostly influenced by your parents, teachers, and, of course, by the colleagues and friends around you. If there is an age where people get really influenced by everything and by everyone around them, that’s exactly your ‘teens”.
However, when you are young, decisions rarely come at a high price, as you have plenty of “margin for error”. If you make the wrong decision, there it is your amazing parents to fix your mistake and put you back on track.
What comes at a price though, is that your parents make most of your decisions for you. The best example is when you go to college and you are allowed to choose the area/subject of expertise of your preference.
But again, is that really a choice? You may think it is – as you will choose between arts, socio-economics, engineering, etc – but the decision of going to the university has already been taken by them because that is just what “every son must do”.
And so, you start entering a spiral of micro-decisions which, even if having a small influence in your life, will probably not change the course of it. When, for instance, you realize that Informatics was not really what you wanted and that Logistics and Industrial Engineering was what you had always dreamed about.
(Hell, who expects an 18-year old to know what the hell he wants to do in life? But let’s leave that for another article).
Or was it really? Changing a degree is like exchanging a BMW for a Mercedes. There might be differences but they are both still a car. What I am talking about are real changes, which in this case would be to stop driving a car and to start riding a bike. Or an airplane. Or any other means of transportation.
Making the analogy, that would be you to drop out of college to try something (a hustle, a business) on your own, and realize that there is much more than you thought that existed in the first place. That there was another choice, another path to walk.
Of course that if you are a normal guy, you will be naturally inclined to try as many things as you can in life, from going to different places to meet as many people (aka girls) as you can – and sleep with half of them. But the point is that you will get off track constantly.
Small decisions that will put you one step away from where you should “in theory” be heading to (the key here is the word ‘should’) but that will put you one step closer to finding your own identity. Or to build one, based on your genetics, nature, character, belief systems, and previous experiences.
This is where you start to realize that what you should do and what you WANT to do is not exactly the same thing. And that the gap between both things may be much bigger than what you would like to admit.
Because one thing is theories and conventions that are usually followed (e.g.: a teenager going to the university), another thing is what your gut tells you (e.g.: “hell, I don’t want to go to college, but to try to build my own business”) or what you have realized you truly enjoy/want to do.
And while those things might be innate, or part of your character, most likely they have been formed based on your experience. Based on the people you’ve met, based on the places you have been, based on the situations you have gone through, and, above all, on what you have FELT.
Yes, I am talking about those moments when you did something or experienced something that lighted up your soul, that made you feel truly alive. One of those rare situations where you felt you were “just being YOURSELF”.
That is why experience is the compass of our lives. Even if society and our parents love to tell us what we should or must do, the reality is that figuring it out on our own is usually the best way to really know ourselves.
Unfortunately, here lies one of the biggest problems of our times, and why not say it of mankind: that most people do what they are supposed to, not what they really want to do.
Because when you start heading towards a destination, you will probably realize along the way that this is not what you actually wanted in the first place. That’s why people only realize what they want by going through it, by experiencing it, to finally understand whether that’s something they truly want. Or not.
This seems like a very easy concept, when in fact it’s one of the most difficult things a human will face in his lifetime. Because it requires one essential element: that we are brutally honest with ourselves.
Honesty is freedom
We are taught since we are little children that we must tell the truth and be honest with others. But how many times have we been told to be honest with OURSELVES? If you are still reading this article, probably too few.
When you should have chosen to be a cook, but you ended up choosing medicine because “that is where there’s always a guarantee of a nice paycheck”.
Or when you should have chosen to go left, by quitting your job, but you ended up choosing right because this was just the right thing to do, and now you wonder why you feel so miserable every fucking day.
Or when you should have chosen that brunette whom you had such an amazing connection with, but you ended up choosing the blond one, only because she was younger, more beautiful, and, in theory, a much better choice.
You know what I’m talking about. Your gut always knows what I am talking about. But somehow, your reasoning ends up winning most of these small battles life presents to you without any notice, and about which you quickly make a decision.
And my guess is that your reasonable decision is rarely aligned with what you truly want. Our prefrontal cortex has the ability to moderate our social behavior and help us make the best decisions, based on all the information we possess at a certain moment.
The problem is that the information we have, or at least the perception we have of the world, is mostly flawed. Or better said: it is based on what the majority does, not on what WE want to do.
So let’s say you sell pens and you need to make a decision about what to invest next, as you are falling behind your competitors. And you read that ink is becoming obsolete and all the manufacturers are moving to an innovative laser solution.
What will probably happen is that will go ahead and invest in that new technology. Not saying it would not be the right thing to do – in business what the market tells us is USUALLY the right path to follow – but would you be doing it because you truly believed in this new solution or simply because you “had to”?
If the former were the case, and you REALLY thought and FELT that this what you wanted as a business owner, then I could only tell you to go ahead and do it.
But again, my guess is that it wouldn’t be. That you would do it based on what others were already deciding (that’s why social proof has such a powerful influence in the human mind, because we tend to accept and follow more easily what is “generally accepted”).
And this is no different than most decisions we make in life: we choose them because that’s “what has to be made”. But deep down we don’t really believe in it, or it’s simply not what we truly like or want to do.
For instance, when you know you shouldn’t have a relationship with a girl who has slept with 30 guys before you. But maybe with her, you have the best sex and compatibility you have ever had in your life, and when you are with her, everything seems to make sense.
Or when you know you shouldn’t quit your job because that would be dumb, and so you keep it until you find something better. But deep down you know you hate it. Deep down you know you cannot stand your tasks or your workplace anymore. Deep down you know that this occupation, this paycheck, is slowly killing your soul, and destroying that glimmer of life that is left in you.
Look, I am not saying you should make decisions emotionally and completely discard your rational side. No, like most things in life, the reality is that never black and white and you need to pay attention to the nuances.
So regarding that girl, even if you like to be with her, she may indeed have so many red signs all over her that yes, dumping her would be the best decision. Because even if you spend a great time with her, your rational side knows you are probably “blind” at the moment, just because you like her, and that everything will fall apart when this enchantment is gone.
And about the job example, I don’t believe in the BS that you must love your job and/or what you do. Work will be many times just that: boring and an unpleasant thing to do. But that doesn’t mean you must feel miserable.
Work or a job should be filled with boring tasks and lots of headaches, but it should always have a purpose, a reason why you do it. And no, a paycheck at the end of the month is not a reason strong enough to live your life on autopilot.
But all things considered, deep down YOU KNOW what is the best thing for you. What truly makes you feel alive and fills you with joy and energy. Never forget that we are on this planet for a short period of time and that, if you keep making the “right decisions”, instead of the decisions that you REALLY want to make, you will keep living in a spiral of frustration.
For instance, you may already be in your mid-30s and “feel” – at least based on what society tells you – that it is already time to settle down. To move in together with your girlfriend, to then have children in a couple of years. That’s the obvious choice to do, right?
“Stop playing and sleeping around, you are a man and you must be finally responsible”, you hear it all the time. And you also know you should. You know that at your age it is the right time to make a decision of raising a family.
There is only a problem in all of this: you don’t FEEL it is the right moment yet. While all your family, friends, and conscience are telling you to do it, your gut is exactly telling you not to. That this is not what you really want, and this next step will not make you truly happy. Actually, quite the opposite.
What I am asking you, being with women, with your career, with the place you live, with what you do, with the people you surround yourself with, and even with the hobbies you choose, that you are BRUTALLY honest with yourself.
To think in those times and places where you felt completely free. That you remember about the exact feeling that these moments gave you.
To understand that you only live once (literally, not talking about some “YOLO bullshit”) and that every decision will have consequences. That everything you decide now will influence your future, for the better and for the worse.
And so, I am asking you to choose what deep down you know you want to choose, even if that is not consensual or ends up being completely out of the norm.
Hell, if deep down you are attracted to men, for instance, why are you going to marry that girl and have children with her? You are only making two people miserable and destroying a marriage in the future.
If what you want is to live alone forever, then let it be. If what you want is to sleep around your whole life, let it be. If what you want is to become a professional dancer, let it be. If what you want is to move to Spain or Greece, even if things are not great there (in terms of jobs and opportunities), then do it.
Sure, you will make many mistakes and probably realize in many instances that option B or C wasn’t what you wanted either. But as I said before, sometimes you need to go through it to realize what you want – and also what you don’t want.
On the other hand, not everything in the garden is rosy and many times you will need to do things you don’t want to. To get a shitty job to pay your bills. To have some girl you don’t really like just because sex with someone is better than sex with your hand. Or to keep living in your home country just because your parents need your support.
But for God’s sake, don’t do that forever but as a transition to something BETTER. Whenever you come across important decisions, like moving in together, getting married, deciding about the place you’ll live, or what you will do every day (your job or occupation), just ignore everyone around and look yourself in the mirror.
Look at the person in front of you and ask him “is this really what I want? If money/my parents/my girlfriend/social pressure weren’t an issue, would I still make this same decision?” If you can’t answer a clear yes, then don’t do it.
So dump that girl if, underneath the great sex and the great body she has, you know you don’t truly connect with her.
Move to another country if you the place you live will never feel to you like home.
Quit that job if you can’t take it anymore. Hell, ignore your friends and even parents if deep down you know they are an obstacle to your progress, to your success.
Basically, just do what you know and FEEL is the right thing for YOU.
Life is too short for making decisions against your own will. Because remember: money, status, and approval will never bring you true happiness.
If that abstract concept ever exists, then it is all about following what your gut tells you, and fight with every bone and muscle of your body for the kind of existence you truly want.
At the end of the day, it is better to live an imperfect, but purposeful life, than to live a perfect life in the eyes of others, and feel miserable until you die.