3 questions that will help you choose between “I want this very much” and “I want that very much”

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The decision. All the psychological studies regarding people who are very successful in life demonstrate that they have one common characteristic: they make decisions quickly.

They don’t always make a good one, but it’s better to make a bad decision in the right time than a right decision too late (the studies provide evidence for that but I still hope they’re wrong). My doubts stem obviously from the fact that I’m not, to put it lightly, an expert in making quick decisions.

I don’t have any problem with the so-called binary decisions when you have to choose between wanting and not wanting, going and not going, having and not having, strawberry ice or   chocolate ice cream (chocolate obviously). I know what I want and what I like. But sometimes decisions are more like choosing between chocolate ice cream and coconut ice cream. And then I have to choose between liking and liking, wanting and wanting. At least with ice cream it’s simple to manage. I learned two strategies:

  1. I buy two scoops
  2. I buy a single scoop and ask for one half of it to be one flavour and the other half of the other

But life is not only about flavour. Sometimes decisions are very very serious and you really have no idea what you want, what is better for you and what you prefer. Some decisions are very emotional and regard really important matters. For example: should I stand by my friend or the truth? Should I go to my friend’s wedding in Brazil or stay in Poland to visit a TED event?

As for the first matter, I made the decision a long time ago. Any disagreements with my partner or friends I resolve when we’re alone. In public, I always stand by them. Sometimes it might be troublesome and unpleasant, but that’s the definition of friendship that I adopted and I decided that, when it comes to making quick decisions, it is a fair solution. But not everything is as repeatable as the matter whether you support someone or not. There isn’t always a pattern and a key to everything. Sometimes something is completely out of this planet. I don’t like using patterns, so after all the advice and the books that I read I came to the conclusion that there is a method for that. There are some questions that you can ask yourself that will facilitate the whole process.

1. Which of these events am I going to remember in 10 years?
2. What would I regret more if I missed it?
3. Which of the events is important, urgent and unique?

1. TED has of huge importance to me. I’ve already appeared there once but it left me wanting more. I was too nervous and I feel that I still have something to say. It has been a dream of mine for a long time. When Artur Jabłoński offered that opportunity to me last year -I thought I was going to cry out of happiness. And…. I did cry.It just so happens sometimes – you are so overwhelmingly happy that you can’t contain it.When they invited me once again this year, I was walking on air. In 10 years I would surely remember TED. But the wedding of my best friend on a beach in Brazil is also going to be an unforgettable experience. So, what am I going to remember in 10 years? Every year I appear more and more often on bigger and bigger stages. I don’t intend on changing that. Perhaps within the next ten years I’m going to have a speech in Cannes, before or after the speech of Steve Stephenson. Who knows… That’s why I think that in 10 years I will remember Bea’s wedding better.

2. In the world of decisions there is one immutable law: Choosing one thing means that you loosing the other. I don’t like loosing or abandoning things. I’m a maximalist and that is why making decisions its so difficult for me. When you have to abandon one of the two things, you have to face them and answer yourself fairly which option is the worse one. If I abandon TED, I will have the feeling of non-fulfilment and that something very important passed me by. But if I abandon Bea’s wedding I will also have the feeling of non-fulfilment and having missed something and, additionally, of being a terrible friend. That last thing will stick with me forever, and taking into account that I define myself more through my ability to be a good friend – the feeling of distaste, regret and loss would be a great deal bigger if I abandoned the wedding.

3. When lying on my deathbed, I will probably have plenty of things to think about, but if, for some reason, I reminisced of that dilemma – which choice would I regret more? What would I be ashamed of? Would I be more sorry that I haven’t become a great speaker at TED or that I’ve been a horrible friend?  If they invited me once, they’ll invite me again. Or, in that particular situation, I should say: if they invited me twice, I hope they’ll invite me for the third time. The older I am, the more I have to say. So why wouldn’t they invite me again? And Bea’s wedding – God willing – irrespective of which God we believe in or not – will be the first and the last one in her life. Bearing this I mind, I bought a ticket to Brazil and I don’t regret it, despite not having received another invitation to TED yet :).

I don’t know how I would feel if I made a different decision, but I don’t dwell on it. It was a magical day in life of a person who’s important to me and I’m glad that I could be a part of it. There were several times in my life when I put my job ahead of my personal life. A couple of times I missed important events in lives of my close ones due to speeches, presentations or meetings… Sometimes we have no choice. But, when we are lucky enough to have a choice – we need to make a decision that we won’t regret later. It is important to have enough courage not only to ask oneself several important questions, but also to answer them in an honest way. Not from the perspective of fear but from a ten year perspective. There’s nothing worse in life than wasted chances and the feeling of regret.

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