I’ve long believed that every choice is both a yes and a no. For everything that I say yes to, I am saying no to something else. Everything that I say no to is a yes to a different choice. It’s always a trade-off.
I tend to go against the cultural norm by saying no to a lot of things that other people say yes to, but in every case, it is because I am saying yes to something that is more valuable to me (even though it doesn’t fit the “norm”).
I have said no to climbing the career ladder and have chosen under-employment because it allows me to say yes to having more of a life with time to do the things that bring me joy. I often say no to social activities because I am saying yes to my need to have time for solitude to recharge and to do my best work.
I value the opportunity to make these choices in order to create a life that suits me, and I am grateful to live in a place that allows me to make these kinds of choices. But sometimes the number of choices that I must make in a day gets overwhelming. Whether it’s choosing a tube of toothpaste from the many shelves full of options or deciding which activities to engage in with friends, each choice requires thought, evaluation, and energy.
Sometimes fewer choices are better! With too many options available, it can be tempting not to ever decide which one option to choose since it means saying no to so many others.
In Plain and Simple: A woman’s Journey to the Amish, Sue Bender says:
Before I went to the Amish, I thought that the more choices I had, the luckier I’d be. But there is a big difference between having many choices and making a choice. Making a choice—declaring what is essential—creates a framework for a life that eliminates many choices but gives meaning to the things that remain. Satisfaction comes from giving up wishing I was somewhere else or doing something else.
I love her distinction between having many choices and making a choice. That’s the place I have so often gotten stuck. I am so busy trying to make sure I keep as many choices available to me as possible, that I miss out on the value of having made a choice of what matters.
The older I get, the more willing I am to let go of keeping many choices available, and the more willing I am to make choices about what matters to me. In fact, I’m increasingly setting limits about what choices I will even consider.
For example, I recently decided to set a limit of no more than one social engagement per week because more than one tends to leave me too drained to do the creative work that matters to me. Of course, there may be times when I bend that rule, but by setting a limit to what I am free to choose, I feel more free to make a choice and act on it because I am protected from having too many choices to pick from.
In other areas of life, I stick with tried and true choices (in foods I eat, the deodorant I use, the brand of dish soap I buy, etc.) so I can make the choice once and just keep acting on it. I don’t have to make a new choice every time. It’s a great simplifier of life.
My choices are often not popular with other people, but I’m learning that making the choices that are right for me means that “the things that remain” are those that bring the greatest meaning to my life. I have to keep reminding myself that I am choosing that which is essential to a life well-lived by my definition of that term rather than choosing what pleases others based on their definition of what my life “should” look like. It’s still a work in progress, but I am getting there.
What do you think? Do you prefer having more choices or making a choice?
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.