Hard Choices Are An Opportunity

I’m a big podcast listener because I like to multi-task while I’m cooking and washing dishes (something I do a lot on weekends, since that’s when I prepare our family’s food for the week).  Today, I listened to a fascinating TED Talk by philosopher Ruth Chang.

It’s worth listening to the entire talk, but for the impatient, I wanted to relate the key insight that I took from it.

Chang’s talk is called, “How to make hard choices.”  Her point is that hard choices are often hard because they aren’t quantifiable.  Indeed, deciding whether to become a lawyer or philosopher (the very choice Chang faced when she was in college) is difficult precisely because the options are almost impossible to compare, and thus are “roughly on a par.”

Chang’s insight is that hard choices are actually an opportunity.  If you can’t use reason to logic your way to a “right” answer, a hard choice gives you the opportunity to say something about yourself.  Choosing law school says something very different about you than philosophy grad school (though I would argue that depressed prosperity and angst-ridden poverty are both rather unattractive options!).

I’ve faced plenty of hard choices in my life, and will no doubt continue to encounter them as the years roll by.  But thanks to Chang’s talk, I’ll be able to frame the process of making those choices in a way that empowers me to choose my own identity, rather than paralyzing me with trepidation about the future.

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