in: Advice, Character, Sunday Firesides

• Last updated: January 22, 2024

Sunday Firesides: There Are No Trade-Off-Free Options

You want the safety, comfort, and stability of a long-term relationship without a reduction in the excitement attendant to new love.

You want a high-paying job without having to work long hours.

You want to educate your kids at home without them missing out on the social development they’d get at school. 

You want to live close to family without having to get involved in their interpersonal drama.

You want a high-powered career without it impinging on your ability to be the best possible parent. 

All of our lives, we seek after the holy grails of living: trade-off-free options. Our belief in their existence, though it isn’t typically conscious, nonetheless spoils our contentment, creates a sense of restlessness, and keeps us ever looking for where the grass might be greener, and wholly unspoiled by weeds.

Sometimes we think we spy a trade-off-free option a ways yonder . . . but we are misled by the problems of perspective. 

As Benjamin Franklin observed, while we keenly feel all the downsides of our present situation, “we neither see nor feel those of the future.”

And so we change jobs, schools, churches, relationships, or states, thinking we’ve finally found a situation free of trade-offs . . . only to run smack dab into a different set of them.

Making decisions, then, is not about finding an option that doesn’t come with any downsides, but choosing the option that comes with the downsides you’re most willing to accept.

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