I’m going to be honest: My ideal day looks very different from my average day. My current routine includes a 2.5-hour commute, a job that I enjoy but that doesn’t satisfy my creative impulses (writing), and more hairstyling, makeup applications, TV watching, procrastinating, complaining, clutter, and downright negativity than I’d like to admit.
Until now, this disparity frustrated and discouraged me. I balked at making any changes–even easy ones–because I was trapping myself in false choices.
In the name of being rational, I was talking myself out of positive changes. I hamstrung myself before I even let myself move past square one.
Do you recognize any of the following?
- I’m a realist, not an escapist.
- I want to learn to be happy with what I have, not spend my time wishing things were different.
- If I’m going to pursue the career I really want, I need to leave my current job.
Gretchen Rubin explains how to recognize and sidestep false choices in her book The Happiness Project and in her lovely blog. She suggests that our minds invent false choices because they reduce “a bewildering array of options” into a “few simple possibilities.”
We create false choices in order to give ourselves an easy out. It’s easy to say, “Sure, I’d love to be an artist, but I have to stick to my real job.” If there’s a disparity between our dream career and our current career, it’s really, really hard to spend nights and weekends doing what sustains us–what we want to do–and then figure out how to make some income from it.
But once we realize that the hard choices we’ve created for ourselves–either I marry this guy or I’ll be single forever–don’t really exist, new possibilities open up. They may well be bewildering, but they exist. We can have our cake and eat it too.
I know what I want to do. I want to figure out–day by day–how to make time for what I really want to do. I want to stay grateful for all the good things in my life but not let myself get complacent or ignore the daily things I can do to improve my happiness, productivity, and creativity. I intend to do fantastic work at my job, and there’s no getting out of that 2.5-hour commute, but maybe I can use that time more productively. And maybe I can come home and write and create and throw dinner parties and spend time with the people I love, having conversations I’ll remember forty years from now.
Every time I feel as if I have to choose between work and play, relaxation and productivity, gratitude and the desire for change, I’ll remind myself: false choice! And I’ll move on with my not-at-all-bad day.