Ruth Chang: How to make hard choices

I no longer seem to have to make hard decisions. It’s been a long time since I’ve agonized over a decision and now — thanks to Ruth Chang — I know why.

In this Ted Talk Ruth Chang speaks about the issues that confront us when we’re faced with a difficult choice. 

She gives examples, the most poignant being faced with the opportunity to take a job in the country versus one in the city. For yourself it could be whether to stick with what you’re doing or to take a leap in another direction of uncertain outcome. 

How do you decide?

Chang says that hard choices are difficult because they are “on a par.” Meaning that from the information you have you can imagine yourself being equally satisfied with either choice. 

This can be true for seemingly insignificant choices as well. If it’s a tough choice to make. Like what to order at a restaurant.

Chang’s insight is to stop evaluating the external conditions — in her example above it might be total compensation, livability, access to the things you love — and to consult yourself. 

Ask: Who do I want to be?

Ask that question of yourself and you’ll receive the clarity you seek. You’ll be making the choice in the context of what is most meaningful to you. Which puts you even more solidly behind the choice you make. 

When I was talking this over with a friend at breakfast this morning we both agreed we hadn’t had to make hard choices for some time. It’s because years ago we each separately made the choice to go in the direction of what mattered most to us. For me it’s been entering into a creative career. For him it was entering into a healing career. 

Not that it’s been easy. But when hardships arise it’s easier to navigate because it’s personally significant. Obstacles on the path of meaning aren’t any smaller, it’s just nonnegotiable to get around them. You must, so you do.

For you 

Evan Griffith
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