How to Avoid “Bad” Choices

It isn’t always necessary to choose. The digital world gives us more opportunities to have everything.

Erik P.M. Vermeulen
Jan 10 · 4 min read
Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash

Life is about making choices.

The flow of our everyday lives is a series of decisions:

“What will I wear for work today? What will I eat for lunch? What will I watch on TV later? Where should I walk the dog today? What time should I go to bed? What time should I wake up tomorrow.”

An endless list of issues that require us to “make a choice.”

Most of these choices are simple, daily stuff. They are insignificant — they are made with very little if any, conscious deliberation.

It doesn’t matter what I eat for lunch or wear for work. And maybe my dog would prefer this route, rather than that route, but it won’t affect our relationship, either way.

You get the point.

But not all choice is like that. Some choices can be genuinely transformative. I am particularly intrigued by this type of choice — the big life choices, or formative moments, that change the direction of our lives.

One reason that such choices interest me is that they often close off certain possibilities and opportunities. They leave us wondering what might have happened if we had gone for a different option.

“Perhaps, I would be happier if I was a pilot . . .”

Everyone, at some point, imagines the possibilities of a very different life that passed us by as a result of a big choice that we made at some earlier point in time.

And I don’t mean regretting past choices here. That would be a different case again.

My takeaway from this? Don’t be hasty in making life-changing choices that close off possibilities. It is often better to delay choosing or not to choose at all.

And, if you are given two bad options? Choose neither. And wait for a better alternative to come along. Of course, this isn’t always possible. But I do think it is a more widely available option than many people realize.

Sounds weird, right? Let me explain.

My Life

I love doing things. Different things. New things. I have always been like this.

It explains my career and what I am doing now. I was an officer in the Air Force. Yes, I also worked at McDonalds. Now, I am a university professor and an academic researcher, but I also work at a company. I advise companies, governments, and other organizations. I write and give presentations. I travel the world. And I am the co-owner of a restaurant.

I have been doing these different things for more than a decade.

I understand I am lucky and privileged, but my life wouldn’t be like this now if I had listened to the many pieces of advice I received over the years.

“To excel at anything, you must commit.”

“You cannot continue this sort of lifestyle and expect to be successful”

“Don’t become a jack of all trades, and master of none.”

My “Choice”

My “choice” was not to choose. Or at least, not to make choices that closed off possibilities. I decided very early not to focus on just one or two projects.

Choosing to leave options open, worked out perfectly well for me. The most important reason for this is that I haven’t made a choice that involves giving something up (and hopefully, I will not be forced to make such a decision in the near future).

I love doing different things. A variety of projects gives you so much energy.

And here is the thing. The digital world makes it possible to do so many more things than we could do; let’s say two decades ago.

Digital technologies make the world smaller and more fluid. For instance, connectivity and the cloud enable you always to be available (24/7). They help you create a digital workspace anywhere.

You can respond to emails, participate in meetings, and, most importantly, get work done. It also allows you to do more things simultaneously: answering emails while listening to a podcast. Or, being in Tokyo while participating in a meeting in New York.

My Lesson and Some Advice

The digital world allows us to work on more and different projects. It also allows us to work on several things simultaneously.

Instead of making life-changing choices that close off possibilities, you can continue to do what you love. Even if — especially if — you happen to love several different things. It isn’t always necessary to make a choice anymore.

And, don’t be afraid that you will not be able to excel in the many things you do. The opposite is more likely.

What I learned over the years is that doing different things feed into the various aspects of your life in unexpected ways. Not so much “either-or” but more “either-and.”

Instead of looking at your projects separately, consider how they all amplify and accelerate each other. Lessons learned in one “gig” will make you stronger in another (often unrelated) project. Serendipity, happy accidents, and chance also play an important role.

“Connecting the dots” has never been easier. And I don’t mean this in the Steve Jobs sense of telling a story of your life that links all the different things that you may have done throughout your life. I mean the personal growth that occurs along the way as a result of the synergies that come from having a diverse range of experiences that feed each other.

In a digital age, self-improvement has never been easier.

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity, not insanity

Erik P.M. Vermeulen

Written by

How to live, work & stay relevant in a digital economy? My take as a business & finance professor, a digital lawyer, restaurant owner, board member & traveler.

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity, not insanity

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