Like many of you, I sometimes get confronted with tough choices that I have a hard time deciding on which path to choose. Both paths seem to have the same number of pros and cons, both as desirable or unpleasant as the other. Or maybe you want what’s down both paths, but of course you can’t be in two places at once, so what do you do? Which do you choose? Do you freeze and do nothing? The paradox of ‘Buridan’s Ass‘ might help offer some wisdom and insight into these predicaments.
Named after the French philosopher Jean Buridan, the paradox refers to a hypothetical situation wherein a donkey that is equally hungry and thirsty is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Being a dumb animal who can’t think rationally, it keeps looking left to the hay, then right to the water, trying to decide which to go to. Hay or water, hay or water? He’s unable to decide, and eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst.
The donkey, of course, couldn’t think of the future. If he did, he’d realize he could clearly go first to drink the water, then go eat the hay. Same goes for a lot of the tough decisions we face in our lives. Often, we just need to pick a path and go with it. If it turns out to be a dead end, or doesn’t lead to quite the place we thought it would lead, we can always go back and choose a different path, rather than be stuck at the fork in the road until we ‘fall over and die’.
Naturally, we want to have a reasonable idea of what’s down each path before choosing one, so we need to collect data to be able to make some sort of informed decision. Some people, whether because of laziness, ignorance, etc, tend to make spur of the moment decisions based on nothing but a whim or a feeling. Others, such as myself, tend to over analyze things to death, leading to information overload and having so much as to not know what to do with it!
Like in most things, the key is to try to find the ‘Goldilocks‘ middle ground. For example, when planning a hot holiday, I’ve been known to spend an embarassing amount of time trying to find the ‘best deal’, when really, it probably would have been a better use of my time to spend less time trying to save $50 on a flight, for example, when I could have spent that time and energy on growing my practice, potentially making me way more than the $50 I saved!
When faced with tough life paths, if you want less stress in your life, get adequately informed, pick a path and run with it! In short, stop being a donkey!