Ruth Chang is a philosopher at Rutgers University whose research focuses on decision-making and the human condition. Her burning question: How do we exercise our freedom though the decisions we make?
In this TED Talk, she examines why some choices are hard to make. While anyone who has struggled with a seemingly impossible choice,"Do I move to Boston or New York?" "Should I stay at my current job or start down a new career path?" will relate to Chang's insightful talk, this is especially relevant for those who are in a position to help people make business or career decisions that will shape the future of a company or alter the life of an individual.
Watch the video below and read on for three key takeaways from her talk.
"We shouldn't think that all hard choices are big."
What was the last hard choice you had to make? Was it was your last career move, a decision to hire or fire someone or maybe whether or not to move for a job? You probably recall a "big" decision you had to make, says Chang. But, our association of hard choices as big choices is misguided. For example, deciding what to wear to work can also be a hard choice if the options are similar. By realizing that hard choices can be big and small, and you likely make them everyday, they can become more manageable.
"Hard choices are hard... because there is no best option."
Easy choices are easy because one alternative is clearly better than another. Therefore, what makes a choice hard is not ignorance or stupidity, but the way the alternatives relate. When making a hard choice, there are merits and drawbacks to each choice but there is no right answer, so you get to determine your reasons for going with one over the other, explains Chang. By exercising our normative power—the power to make reasons for ourselves—you can view hard choices as an opportunity to take agency over your future, instead of as an opportunity to mess up.
"The world of value is different from the world of science."
As humans, we tend to assume that things can be judged or assessed based on numbers and quantity. But our values cannot be quantified by real numbers, says Chang. A choice is hard because it is making you choose between two different things you value similarly. Next time, advises Change, instead of beating yourself up over a hard choice, ask, "Who do I want to be?" and then become that person.
Header photo: TED