Photo via That’s Happy
There are no safe choices, only other choices. -Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty
I am trying to make changes, positive ones that will add to my value of life for the rest of my life. I want to eat healthy, exercise regularly, own less, experience more, and grow deeper in my relationships. All good things, no? The only problem with change, is that it usually comes with choice, and choices are tricky.
We are mortal creatures, and though we may not think about how precious life is on a daily basis, I think deep down we all know we won’t be around forever. And still we worry, we panic. The reason we fret over such minute details is because we are somehow convinced that these little things, these small choices, will eventually affect the “grand scheme” of our lives. And the truth is they will, at least cumulatively. Will eating a turkey sandwich vs. a Big Mac at lunch today forever alter the course of your existence? Probably not. But will consistently eating a turkey sandwich over a Big Mac change how your life goes? Likely yes.
That’s the things about choice that I’ve come to realize. Often, you can’t have both.
For example, as part of my “making changes” campaign I’ve made a commitment to save my money, or at least a portion of it (a girl’s gotta eat). Why am I saving my money? Short answer, because I want freedom. I want the freedom to move to a new city when I get home, I want the freedom to travel to a new place on a moment’s whim, or even the freedom to have an unexpected accident and have some cushion to fall back on. I’ve decided on freedom, at least as an overall concept. But in my daily life, it means giving up some of the habits I’ve grown accustomed to, smaller “freedoms”. Like the freedom to spend my money on $5 coffees, nice dinners, and new clothes.
The reality is you can’t have both. I can’t keep spending like there’s no tomorrow if I want my tomorrow to be free of debt and excess. I can’t keep eating processed foods if I want my body to run on whole foods. I can’t keep spending hours online if I want to read more books and have deeper relationships. Perhaps The Rolling Stones said it best when they said “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need”.
Making choices is a hard skill to master, but the more effort you put into figuring out what you actually want from you life, the easier it gets. If making choices is particularly difficult these days the best thing you can do for yourself is to get out a piece of paper, write at the top of it “what do I really want?” and then go from there.
You can’t have both, true. But if you put a little effort into figuring out what you really want, then you won’t want both anymore, and that’s real freedom.