3 Stories to Make the World Small
It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true: My biggest problem is overwhelming possibility. Chances are, you’re in the same boat. Every morning, endless paths present themselves to you.
First, there are the basics. Simple, supposedly easy choices, like “what do I eat?” or “which outfit should I wear?” Then, there are the heavy hitters. Which project should you tackle? Who do you ask on a date? Where do you want to live? Wow, that escalated quickly. As it always does.
Some of it is hardwired into our psychology. We know too much choice makes us unhappy. Analysis paralysis, regret before and after the decision, escalated expectations — we’re just not built to pick one path out of 1,000.
But if you’re working towards a life of maximum freedom like me, you’ll feel an even more acute sense of anxiety. You may not have full control over your work and time just yet, but still, what you choose to work on has far-reaching implications. Not just for your finances, for your happiness too.
For me, writing a book requires months, maybe years of work. Creating products takes time away from that. Even a long article pushes aside many other options for a week. These are short-term choices, but they add up.
What we work on today defines how we’ll spend our time tomorrow. Articles, books, products — soon, I’ll look back and see five years of my life, spread neatly across a small set of endeavors. What if I pick the wrong ones? What if they don’t fulfill me? What if I won’t see meaning and happiness when I turn back around?
Of course, there are no answers to these questions. No algorithm can maximize our happiness in advance. Unfortunately, my brain insists on finding one. I’ve spent thousands of hours obsessing over what goals to pursue, how to reach them, and who to spend time with. Not only have I failed to find conclusive answers — because the answers are always changing — I’ve also flip-flopped from one point of view to another countless times.
I think you have too. You want your choices — big and small — to make you happy and, ironically, you worry a great deal about how happy they’ll ultimately make you.