I can relate. Under pandemic stress, we made choices based on new realities. And some choices brought unexpected consequences. Moving to the country? A hassle now, driving long distances for supplies. Raising home-grown chickens? Who knew they needed so much care and concern? When they get sick or injured, pros recommend butchering (no one feels up for that) the bird. Creating a home-gym? A mojo- killer in my own reality. And, bailing-on-corporate- life to bliss-out as a Self-Made ‘whatever’? Paycheck uncertainty can feel harsh. There’s a solid truth about trade-offs in life. As long as we have options, we can consider our choices. And with those choices come trade-offs that we either embrace, or decide to revise under the category of life’s lesson’s learned.

What is a ‘trade-off’? Life’s checks and balances. Knowing that, with any choice, there’ll be upsides and downsides. The acceptance that life choices require being both flexible and resilient. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Like most people growing into adulthood, I was taught to “Always weigh the pros and cons of every major decision.” Another lesson: “Do your research!” These days I see poor choices on blast everywhere: “S/he/They didn’t do their due diligence!” We’re schooled to be cautious. It’s pounded into our generational DNA. Why is it then, that when some decisions seem to blow up in our faces, we feel caught off-guard? Time to try to recover from yet another mistake.

A favorite question of my older, wiser relations in my earlier years: “How could you not see that coming??” In matters-of-the-heart – relationships – especially. I lived by the famous quote (author Mark Twain after he made a tragic, life-altering mistake), “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.” I made decisions based mostly on instinct. And blind faith.

Trade-offs in my 20’s

I never really believed in trade-offs. Why did my personal happiness have to involve, “give something to get something”? Why couldn’t I just go after and have what I wanted?

Trade-offs in my 30’s

My career went into super-nova mode. I was offered an amazing job in a beautiful seaside town. In making my decision, I got the ultimate opportunity to understand a key feature of trade-offs in life. Before I accepted the job, I did the checklist:  Salary? Excellent. Location? Ideal. My title? The chief executive I’d always dreamed of becoming. But the glaring trade-offs were formidable also. A nasty commute until my husband and I could buy a new home. We had a 3-year-old that I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with. My husband’s job wasn’t transferable, so he’d have a super- long drive to work.

Like a wise couple, we did our due diligence together. We agreed that I should take the job. What we didn’t know, couldn’t know, was that a corporate shake-up was imminent. A “coup” was happening behind the scenes and I was just the latest leadership-pawn in a much bigger game. After one year, everything collapsed. I’d calculated the trade-offs in my situation, but disaster struck anyway (there was massive re-structuring, and my position was eliminated).

Could I have seen that coming?

I didn’t see how. Did I beat myself up about it anyway? For sure. Our lives had been totally disrupted. The whole situation rocked my self-confidence and forced me to question my decision-making skills.

And the icing on the cake? The politics around my company’s re-structuring impacted my ability to find another position. It took a long, painful year of unemployment. So — after prepping for the inevitable trade-offs of my decision, it was a corporation’s internal implosion that took me down.

What I’ve Learned

A simpler life doesn’t always mean fewer trade-offs. Also:  decisions made from a “feeling” place still seem to have better outcomes than when I act on what I think I need to have, to be happy. Most important of all, when I’m confronted with trade-offs in life, that means that I have some choices lined-up. The freedom to switch things up. So instead of analyzing and stressing over trade-offs — what I’m getting, versus what I might be giving up in some life-equation — I need to celebrate the very fact that I have options for moving forward bravely.

person on a bridge near a lake
Photo by S Migaj on Pexels.com
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