THE BLOG

Should You Marry That Guy?

04/30/2015 01:37 pm ET | Updated Jun 30, 2015

Should you marry that guy? Should you take that job offer in Seattle? Should you go back to school? For many people, important decisions like these are sources of dread and anxiety. They dominate our thoughts during the day and keep us up at night. Our friends secretly pray we will hurry up and decide because they cannot stomach another "should I or shouldn't I" conversation.

According to Ruth Chang, professor of philosophy, this is a flawed approach to making hard choices:

At the heart of this model is a simple assumption: that what you should choose is always determined by facts in the world about which option has more value -- facts that, if only you were smart enough to discover, would make decision-making relatively easy. But the assumption is false. When we compute distances, there are only three possibilities: one distance is more than, less than or equal to another...But we shouldn't assume that goodness is like distance. Values don't have the same structure as facts.

When the options are "on a par," as they are in hard choices, Chang recommends engaging in some serious soul searching. Focus on who you are, what you value and what kind of person you want to be:

Instead of looking outward to find the value that determines what you should do, you can look inward to what you can stand behind, commit to, resolve to throw yourself behind.

DECIDE, Don't Slide:

Above all, be a decider, not a slider. "Sliders" make decisions by not making decisions--they go with the flow and end up making the default choice. For example, studies show couples who make a deliberate decision to live together, as compared to those who say, "it just happened" because one partner's lease expired, report greater marriage quality later on.

Having explicit conversations and making active choices matters in relationships and in all aspects of life:

People who don't exercise their own reasons on hard choices become drifters. They allow the world around them to dictate their lives - they follow the obvious rewards, punishments, and fears to define them.

Don't "drift" into a career or a relationship because it is the easy route or expected path. Actively decide about the big decisions and the small ones too. Each time we order the cheeseburger because everyone else is ordering one, we are sliding. Have the cheeseburger because you are actively choosing to order it.

Make the decision to decide:

We need to see hard choices as empowering. If life only consisted of easy choices, we would always pick the clearly better route...It is the 'on a par' decisions where we get to create our own reasons for picking one over the other, and define who we are. We become the authors of our own lives.

Embrace hard choices. They are opportunities to affirm your values and to commit to being the person you want to be.

On that note, will it be the cheeseburger or the salad?

To learn more, visit www.PositivePrescription.com