How to Make an Impossible Decision

by Alexander Heyne · 6 comments

How many of you have an impossible decision to make?

People tell me that they want to start a business, but their spouse / parents / friends don’t approve or support them.

People tell me that they are going to school to be a lawyer to please their parents, even though they know it means they’ll die inside.

People tell me that they really want to do xxxxx in xxxx place but they’re just afraid… of everything.

So let me lay it straight for you here — there is a theme underlying all difficult decisions, and there’s a (relatively) simple way to know what decision to make. But it’s not easy.

Why you can’t make that impossible decision

I’ve noticed that almost all decisions are made difficult because of three things:

A. Your ego

B. Fear of change

C. Our individual perception of duty (what we must do for something/someone other than ourselves)

So when you say “I really want to go to school to be an artist, but I’m going to become a doctor” in 95% of the circumstances, you’re becoming a doctor because

  • A. You want the prestige and/or financial security (ego)
  • B. You’re afraid of potentially being a starving artist (fear/ego) or
  • C. You want to make your family proud

Here’s the problem — none of these actually involve you in the decision-making process.

Your ego is not you.

Fear is not you.

Feelings of duty or honor or pride are also not you.

So where is “you” in this decision making process?


The “simple” but not easy fix

The premise is simple: go with your gut.

If your gut says “end this relationship and move abroad,” then that’s what your gut says.  Fear (not you) will say “Oh jesus I’m scared shitless of starting something new.”

If your gut says “I know deep down I need to quit this job, because there’s something I’ve always wanted to start,” then that’s what your gut says.  It’s only that innate ambiguous fear of change (again, not you) that will keep you in the job killing you.

If your gut says “I can’t stand the thought of becoming a lawyer,” but you’re going to become a lawyer anyway to make your family proud (since they’re all doctors and lawyers), that’s not you.  That’s your feeling of pride, and again, your ego.

None of these involve YOU.

So how do you involve you?

Any time you are making a decision, notice when these three guys show up: Ego, fear of change, and feelings of “duty, obligation, or making someone proud.”

I’m going to cut through the bullshit and tell you right now that if you make any decision based on ego, fear of change, or feelings of obligation/duty/making someone proud, you’re going to sacrifice your own well-being.

I realize there is a massive grey area here — but guess what, it’s the grey area inbetween that keeps you from making a decision.

Only you complicate your decisions

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

-Leonardo Da Vinci

I strongly believe that the ability to simplify is one of the highest forms of intellect. Any person can overcomplicate, or add more pieces to the story, or toss in a grey area.

They’re all ways that we hold ourselves back.

When you get rid of ego, fear of change, and feelings of obligation, decisions become easy.

When you say: “I want to quit my job so I can finally do something I enjoy, but what if my successful parents think I’m a failure/bum/idiot,” you have your ego in the equation.

Take that out and what do you get?

I want to quit my job so I can finally do something I enjoy.  That is a fact. The second half is a made up story in your head.

When you say: “I want to get out of this 5 year relationship, but it’s so familiar and comfortable, and what will my girlfriend’s parents think? — they love me so much and want me to marry their daughter,” you feel a sense of obligation and fear.

Take those out and what do you get?

“I want to get out of this 5 year relationship.”   Intuition is clear as day.

When you say: “I really want to have a high paying job so I can make my parents proud (they’re all successful and wealthy), but I really want to just move abroad and live an exciting life,” you want to “prove” something to your family (ego) and you feel a sense of duty to your parents to make them proud.

Remove the ego and the sense of duty and what is there?

“I really want to move abroad and live an exciting life.”

Stop altering the equation

Too many of us start pursuing a path with good intentions, with our deep down desires, and then stop because we add another (sometimes false) part of the equation.

It goes like this:

  • “I want to move abroad but…”
  • “I want to change jobs but…”
  • “I want to pursue a new path instead of the one I’m on, but…”
  • “I want to start a business but…”
  • “I want to travel the world but…”

That first part is what our gut is telling us. Those are the undeniable facts about deep down what we want. Listen to those.

The second part is where our mind enters the picture. Our mind conjures up images of fear, and big powerful words like “duty, honor” and some useless words like “I’m afraid” and “I don’t know.” All of the words are useless though. Whether they make you feel powerful or whether they make you feel weak.

The kicker

Watch the internal dialogue going on in your head.

It usually starts with your intuition, the inspired part of yourself that really wants something deep down.

Then wait a few seconds and the mind, fear, ego, duty, will all start kicking in. Decisions suddenly become so difficult. But just a second ago they were easy. How is that possible?

My advice to all these people who email me is the same: Without the expectations of others, the judgments of friends and family and spouses, without the fear of change and the unknown and hard, bitter work — without trying to make anyone proud but yourself, which path would you take?

The decision is usually easy from there.

More Resources

On going with your gut:


Image: Eldkvast

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kat November 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I want to have sex with a child but it’s illegal.


Alexander Heyne November 20, 2012 at 11:16 am

You’re killing me smalls…


Dorian November 22, 2012 at 2:48 am

I know all about the law school experience. It almost killed my soul and caused other negative things to happen in my life. Yes, I was doing it for someone else and only because of the money.

I personally think Americans are enslaved by too many choices, therefore, hindering decision making.

How simple life would be if we only had a few channels to choose from, or a few stores to buy clothes. Some people see that as limiting. I see it as freeing.

Learning to live a moderate life is an art.

Simplicity is key.


Alexander Heyne November 25, 2012 at 11:40 am

Hey Dorian —

Yeah, I don’t mean to harass the law folks, it’s just a notoriously high-stress and “it runs in my family” profession, like being a doctor. I also have met many many people during my short life that have started/stopped law school.

I agree.. having so many options makes it damn nearly impossible to decide what to do. And that’s why I’m always a fan of simplifying.. or just going with your gut.

Without a doubt, simplicity is going to be emphasized more and more as time goes on, because of the massive amount of new everything that shows up every year in our society.


Deanna February 22, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I enjoyed the article until I got to the quote that used Jesus’ name in vain. If people called out to Him with respect and praise, then they would get the answers do their dilemmas or concerns! He delivers for me every time.


Miah July 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm

But these aren’t impossible decisions.


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