How to choose between nearly equal but incomparable options

Someone I’m coaching wrote the following:

I will be graduating from college in May, and I am trying to decide which two cities I should move to after graduation. I’ve been wanting to move to NYC ever since I first visited in high school and been going there ever since. On the other hand, everyone that I know tells me that I should move to LA instead and think I would be better off there. I’ve only been to LA once when I was younger, (visited Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica) but I did have a great time there. I do enjoy both but for the moment I am feeling NYC.

To name a few why I’m feeling NYC, (specifically Manhattan.)

  • I love diversity of culture NYC has.
  • I love using public transportation. Though I do not mind driving but prefer to walk around the city than driving.
  • I have some connections with some of the people in the city.
  • And lastly but not least, I love the fast pace in NYC.

LA on the other hand (from my experience)

  • Nearby Beaches, Mountains, Valleys, & Deserts
  • Nice weather
  • Near Las Vegas

These are just to name a few reasons. I could add more if you would like me to.

Sound familiar? We all face such choices — NY or LA; grad school or work; get married now or stay single longer; comfort, speed, or economy; fish or chicken; make more money or have more free time; the list goes on.
I’ve alluded to my surfing / skiing model for decision making before and described why decision-making is hard.
Here is my response. I hope it helps others with similar choices to look past the decision to the enjoyment of life after choosing.

Decisions between exclusive options whose advantages and disadvantages can’t be directly compared yet are nearly equally compelling come up in everyone’s life. When the choice is obvious, you go with the obvious choice, but you say this isn’t such a case. Making those choices is a general challenge. The skills involved are fundamental to leadership of others and yourself.

I have found the best strategy when faced with such decisions is to choose one and go with it. I find you have to say no to a lot of good things to have a great life. No one got anywhere trying to compare beaches with public transportation. People living great lives and great leaders enjoy one or the other, respect others who made other choices, and don’t lament what they chose against. The key words in the previous sentence are “enjoy one.” Make your life about the joy that choosing brings, not the angst indecision brings.

The sooner you choose, the sooner you start enjoying the option you chose. While your classmates ponder their indecision and loudly lament their angst — people who don’t know how to make decisions use their indecision to get attention — you’ll be making connections, visiting, building your network, and so on. They’re developing busybody skills. You’re developing leadership.

I find the best way to avoid lamenting what you sacrificed in the option you chose against is to find more to enjoy in the option you did. If you find you miss being on the beach, take the subway to MoMA and see the best art collection in the world. If you miss not having car payments and being able to get anywhere for almost nothing, go to the beach.

When you’re surfing and you see two waves approaching and you don’t know which one will be better, the best thing you can do is pick one, go with it, and enjoy it to the max. Poor options include missing both while frozen with indecision or gathering more and more information after having covered the major points; or enjoying neither while trying to ride both.

Leave a Reply