Truth is Paradox: Making Big Decisions When The Answer Is You Have No Idea

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Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is this: Much of the important stuff in life is tricky. Though we crave the contrast of black and white, so much is grey. Consider a few examples:

  • Showing up and getting started even when you don’t feel like it can be the best way to get out of a rut, even to treat depression. Showing up and getting started when you don’t feel like it can also mean ignoring your mind and body and careening down a steep slope toward burnout.
  • Trying hard works really well. Trying hard can also get in your way.
  • Having rigid boundaries can be very helpful in owning your attention. Having rigid boundaries can obstruct spontaneity and new experiences.
  • Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps can give you the strength and autonomy you need to overcome difficulty and succeed. Pulling yourself up the bootstraps can keep you stuck in a cycle of failure, self-judgement, and shame.
  • Asking for help can make you dependent. Asking for help can save your life.

The point is that for so many of the questions we ask ourselves—both the small everyday ones and the larger, holy crap, what should I do? ones—the answer is almost always some variety of, I don’t know, it depends. After all, how can we know the truth when so much truth is paradox?

A close friend of mine recently pointed out this piercing insight: rarely are there wrong decisions. There are only decisions that, based on how life unfolds, seem wrong in hindsight. But at the time you make it, a decision is just a decision, based on the information available to you. Perhaps the only way to get a decision wrong, per say, is to not pay close attention to its unfolding consequences, to not learn from it and adjust along the way.

This is particularly true for all the grey questions; for when what worked today might be the very thing that gets in our way tomorrow. All we can do is identify the ambiguity, the changing nature of this stuff, and pay close attention to the results, adapting as we go. The meaningful stuff in life tends to be the hard stuff. And the hard stuff tends to be a practice. We’ve got to keep coming back to it again and again, evolving along the way.

Brad

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