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I was talking with a friend recently about his career trajectory. He was working at a smaller company, and doing well, but he was considering a new opportunity with a larger company. The new job would make more money, but it would also come with more pressure. My friend had a lot to consider: Was it better to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond? Would the increased pay and new opportunities be enough of a positive to offset the increased pressure of the new job? Would he be able to balance work and family life with the increased work responsibilities? Etc.

Talking with my friend caused me to start thinking about the idea of tradeoffs, and how I encounter tradeoffs in my life all the time, even if I don’t realize it. What I mean by tradeoff is that a decision for something also means a decision against something else. Rarely do I make a decision in which I don’t have to give anything up. Instead, I have to balance the pros and the cons, weigh the available evidence, and make a decision, even if it isn’t perfect.

I have to be honest: Even though tradeoffs are a reality of life, I don’t like them. I resist the idea of tradeoffs because at some level, I want there to be a ‘perfect’ decision. I don’t like it that I have to give something up. I don’t like it that there are drawbacks involved with the choices I make. I wish there was a direction I could take that would be ‘all good and no bad.’

However, my negative feelings toward tradeoffs cause problems in my life. Because I don’t like tradeoffs, I sometimes ignore the negative aspects of a decision, because I don’t want to think about them. Or I try to convince myself that certain tradeoffs don’t exist. Or I delay a decision and stay stuck in my life, because I don’t want to accept the tradeoffs that might come with a decision.

Here are two strategies that have helped me to deal with the tradeoffs in my life:

  1. Be aware of your tradeoffs. We need to live our lives with eyes wide-open, understanding the reality that there isn’t a perfect decision that doesn’t have any tradeoffs. Every choice we make involves a mix of positives and negatives. That’s just the reality we live in.
  2. Choose your tradeoffs. Once you are aware of the positives and negatives that come with a particular decision, weigh all the available evidence and choose the best path. Even the best decision probably involves some tradeoffs. That’s okay. If you run your life in this manner, you are less likely to be surprised or angry when the tradeoffs happen, because you were aware of them and chose the tradeoffs in the first place.

Discussion: What do you think of the idea of tradeoffs? Are most of your decisions a mix of positives and negatives? How do you react when confronted with the tradeoffs of your decisions?

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