12/31/2012 10:25 am ET Updated Mar 02, 2013

Why the Worst Choices are the Best Choices -- A New Kind of New Year's Resolution


As the New Year approaches and everyone's starting to reflect and resolve--evaluating what they've accomplished last year, and looking towards what they want to do in the next--I've been thinking a lot about one of the key pieces of advice I share in my (upcoming) book: make "unreasonable" choices. Because it's one of the things that I'm going to try to do more of next year.

No, I'm not going crazy here. Hear me out.

Many of the decisions that seem the most unreasonable to our families, our friends and often even to us, aren't actually unreasonable at all. In many cases -- dare I say most -- they're totally and completely right for us.

In fact, I'm starting to think that if someone tells you that an idea is insensible or ridiculous (like you're going to break up with your boyfriend -- the one that adores you and pays all your bills -- or you plan to leave your steady, well-paying job to become a writer), it's probably a great idea. Because there are some things you just know, no matter that the numbers of logic and reason don't add up.

In some cases, I think it's easy to make an "unreasonable" decision. When you're so overwhelmingly moved to act -- you've fallen madly in love with someone "impractical" or you're so unbelievably miserable at your job that you'd rather move back in with your parents than work one more day -- it doesn't really feel like you're making a choice at all. You're so sure -- so driven by emotion -- that it doesn't matter what anyone else says or how your calculations of practicality shake out.

This was certainly true for me when I graduated from law school but didn't want to practice law. Despite the fact that I had a hefty deal of debt (Sallie Mae is relentless!) and spent all of that time and energy getting my law degree, I didn't so much as blink before I blew off my dreadful law job for a totally blank, unplanned future.

Recently, though, I've become acutely aware of what an anomaly my post-law snap decision was in this world of practicality. Most of the time, the unreasonable choice is of the scary, gut-wrenching variety. Our heads are so caught up in our decisions -- they are so deliberate and demanding of reasonable answers and control and guarantees --t hat we are crushed by "rationality" and spun into doubt and dread and angst. And fear. Fear is the worst of all for me. It's hard not to fear making a mistake, especially as everyone watches with scorn or disapproval or even just a lot of tough questions that you simply can't answer.

So I've been thinking about how to manage this. How can I do more of what feels right in my heart and gut despite what the world -- or even my logical brain -- tells me?

I've settled on this: rather than focus on all of the risks of following my instinct, I'm going to focus on the risk of not following it. Because isn't that the biggest risk of all? ? Never doing what you really want, never going after what you know should be yours? Who wants to live a life closed in by walls of practicality and sensibility? It makes me claustrophobic just thinking about it.

I know, it is a huge act of daring to leave reason and logic behind and make your own footprints. But I know you've had that intangible feeling that you can't explain that pulls you with some sort of magical magnetism.

Here's to a new year of following that magic.

Alexis Sclamberg is at work on her first book, BORROWED WISDOM: THE BEST ADVICE THEY NEVER TELL US. A former attorney, she's now a personal development writer, speaker and media personality. You can find her at

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