I used to be one of those people who was in awe of the choices we have all around us. “Give me more information”, I used to say. From my career to my life at home, I used to utilize information – lots of it – to make any decision, small or big. I needed options driven by data to figure out which way to go in an uncertain and unpredictable environment. I figured the more you know about something, the better you would be able to make a decision. But not necessarily, as I was reminded of recently.
Since I have a very long commute to work every morning on the bus into the city, my wife asked me to do research on where we would go on vacation via all the latest apps on my iPhone. Off to Expedia, Hotels.com and TripAdvisor I went!
Chaos! Holy cow! So many options. Fly out of Phily or Newark or LaGuradia or JFK? Which is the best flight? Which is the better airline? How do you balance the price versus service? Should we go early in the morning so we have more time to spend when we land? Or is it too much of a hassle to get to the airport in the morning. But the mid day flights are filled and too expensive and don’t have four seats in economy next to each other. Searching for the ideal hotel in our budget was even more overwhelming! How do you decide, especially when you’re spending so much money for a family of four? What about all those conflicting traveler reviews on TripAdvisor? As I scanned the advice from recent fellow travelers, I got even more confused as I realized that for every 2 good reviews, there was one awful review.
Days went by and I continued to scour the web to find the right place to stay and the ideal flight to take. But I couldn’t find the perfect one because I had so much conflicting information in front of me. So I stalled, only to discover that prices started to go up. This is not a major life decision for crying out loud but I panicked because we desperately needed a vacation but now our little trip to warmer weather with the kids would cost us a lot more money that I wasn’t prepared to spend.
Frustrated at the array of options, all of which looked no better than the other, I froze. I was stuck. The more information I had, the less in control I felt because as an analytical guy, I want to be certain that I’ll have a good time if I’m spending all this money. And the evidence did not point to certainty in any direction.
After a couple of weeks, we finally made a decision we weren’t so sure about and went on vacation and had a terrific time. It was really a lot of fun. Partly because we managed our expectations and partly because we just made the best out of it.
But here’s what I realized : Sometimes, more information is not necessarily helpful in making a decision to move forward in life. In fact, it can be downright debilitating. You get conflicting information. You freeze. And time slips away.
As I learn to embrace the chaos of a life filled with uncertainty and unpredictability these days, I have learned that if we wait for just the right information, we’ll be waiting for a long time. Because in a life full of chaos and uncertainty, the perfect information will never come.
Instead, what I should do is move forward and learn to embrace the chaos that may follow. So what if I made a bad choice? I’ll figure it out and navigate around it. I will make the best out of a bad situation.
Whatever choice I make, be it selecting a place to vacation or my career path, I have no idea what’s going to happen after a choice has been made, no matter how hard I worked to identify a supposedly ideal choice. I have no way of knowing if the vacation will be fun or my career a stellar success. I cannot predict the future. So I learned to stop trying to make predictions at work and in my life. I learned to stop trying to be certain in an uncertain world. To stop worrying if my hotel will be a nice one or the sun will shine during our trip. Who knows?
What really matters is that I make a choice and move forward with my life. And whatever happens on my journey – just roll with the punches – go with the flow and embrace the chaos.
Rule #1: Expect and Accept Chaos | Move Forward and Embrace the Chaos! | Bob Miglani