making the decision right
how to build a life you don't want to escape
Then she asked me if I thought it was random. Is love just a game of odds?
This question stayed with me for days.
What made this relationship different?
Is love a numbers game? Yes that’s possible, but I dated for years in New York without any success.
The more I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t a matter of the number of people, but rather the type. I chose people who refused to commit and I protected myself by always keeping an eye out for a potentially better thing.
What I’ve come to learn over the past year is that there are two types of people: people who make the right decision and people who make the decision right.
For years, I was the first type of person. I was obsessed with making the “right” decision.
For everything, I obsessed over which college I should attend and which internships I should apply for, reading blogs to decide what clothes to wear and apartments to live in. I made pro and con lists, researched ad nauseam, and asked anyone with a pulse for their opinion on what I should do.
More than that, I had an informal “board of advisors,” a list of people I asked for advice before any major decision. This worked well for many years. My mentors were able to give me advice about promotions, salary negotiations, and climbing the corporate ladder, because they had done it themselves. I was successful, objectively, in the realms I wanted to be. I lived in New York. I worked on Wall Street. I was walking a clearly defined path.
But my life did not feel like my own.
In many ways, it wasn’t. I didn’t commit to anything. My life in New York was all about optionality. People who work on Wall Street love to talk about having good exit options. I was one of them, never going all in on anything. I prioritized my potential life over my present life.
Optimizing for optionality seems like the rational thing to do, until I really looked at my life. I had all these “options,” but I hadn’t done any of them.
When I moved off the beaten path, leaving the well-defined trajectory of a career in New York to move to Spain, work for a start-up, and write as much as I possibly could, I began to see that my old advice-seeking way no longer worked. There was no guide or bootcamp or discussion forum to get all the answers for the life I was living.
I had to figure it out. I had to be okay with being wrong. If I tried to make the “right” decision and gather all the research, I’d be paralyzed by lack of information. If I needed to be “right” all the time, I’d never make any decisions at all.
Suddenly, I had to trust myself.
Right before I left for Spain, someone who worked in tech cautioned me from leaving New York.
“You’re going to lose all the progress you’ve made in building your career if you leave the city,” they said.
I thanked them for their input. Then I chose to ignore it. For me, my intuition called me to Spain. I trusted that I would figure it out or I would learn a much-needed lesson.
What neither of us knew then was that there would be a European conference circuit that needed speakers and that I would be tapped to keynote a conference every month. Being in Spain put me in the right rooms at precisely the right times, places I never would have been if I was still in New York.
More than that, neither of us predicted that I’d make life-changing friends, uncover a knack for interior design, and meet the love of my life.
In living this way, I learned that instead of spending so much time analyzing what would be the right decision, I could make decisions with my intuition and use my brain and willpower to make the decisions right.
Since I moved to Spain, I have made every decision with faith and intuition and some have worked better than others. But what’s different now is that I no longer delay my life for the next best thing. I choose the next thing and make it the best.
What I know now is that the greatest killer of momentum isn’t the wrong path, it’s not getting started. Now, I am much more biased towards action. I make the next right decision and act. I let myself be wrong. I sit and notice how things feel in my body.
Never again will I make a decision that looks right on paper while my gut screams no. I know that my physical body has information and my subconscious recognizes signals that can only be accessed through feeling.
So when I think about why this relationship is so different, I think it’s because I’ve met someone who, like me and even more so, is comfortable making this decision right, instead of protecting the optionality to look for a more “right” relationship.
There is something particularly magical about not having to play it cool or act like I don’t care. I don’t need to diversify or protect myself from being hurt by an undefined, ambiguous situationship.
A few weeks in, I felt he was the right person. I knew it in my bones. All the energy I might have spent analyzing whether or not he was the “right” person or trying to keep my options open, has been channeled into more productive means.
We don’t spend time debating if we’re right for each other, or trying to prove who cares less. Rather, we jokingly compete on who cares more. Every day we build the foundation of our relationship with communication, care, and trust. We make the decision right.
The surprising thing is this: Commitment is liberating.
I don’t want the freedom to search for something else that appears 1% more “right” on paper. Rather, I want to continue to grow in this secure and safe relationship, where I can take risks, be myself, and make mistakes.
Together, we’re making this relationship right for both of us. Nothing is more freeing than that.
All this time I was optimizing my life for exit options. Now instead, I’ve built a life I don’t want to exit.