What was the cost of that choice?

Pen illustration of a tree with multiple colors

I’m lucky to have regular coaching sessions (you should too if you can) and in today’s coaching session, as we were talking about my journey to this point and specific choices I’ve made to change (jobs, teams, companies, countries), my coach asked me “what was the cost of that choice”?

When we make the choice to change, we do it to either move away from something or move towards something (metaphorically or literally). With any benefit, there is also a cost.

David Foster Wallace had one (very bleak) perspective on the cost of choice:

“I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’ll lock me in, it seems unavoidable—if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.”

David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

Rather than go down a road of despair, I’m going to choose to think about the cost of a choice as an “opening up” rather than a “narrowing down”.

In my case, I’m thinking about my choices to change jobs and roles so often. One of the costs of those choices is that I’m not developing deeper relationships with those that I work with. I recognized that I also moved a lot as a child, and my intuition says that avoiding attachment is a strategy I developed to protect myself from the pain of separation.

This strategy has served me well. I’m very self-sufficient and have been a superstar at change, but is it still serving me now?

Maybe I want to make different choices based on the cost that I am willing to pay now versus the cost I was willing to pay then.

Do you see a pattern in your choices and the costs associated with them? What underlying need are those choices in service of?

It’s worth wondering what the cost of your choice is.

🖼️ The featured image at the top of this post is a sketch from my pocket notebook using Sakura Brush Pen + watercolor

4 responses

  1. So I looked you up on LinkedIn after this post, and I was expecting to see more roles and companies for shorter times than what I saw. I talked to a recruiter once who told me “wow, you have been at your current company for 3 years. The average in your industry is 2. Don’t you want to change?” Now, I don’t agree with that sentiment, but it seems true. A nice thing about changing roles at Automattic is that it is seen as a positive change.

    1. I had (at least) seven different roles at Microsoft over the course of 14 years there so there was maybe more change than meets the eye. 😉

  2. I like the framing.

    I had similar conversations with my coach. She helped me surface and appreciate the tradeoffs that I made with certain choices.

    Another thing I’ve come to appreciate is that life has many seasons. A choice and tradeoffs that are good during one season might not in another. For example: I have two little kids and many of my choices when it comes to work are geared towards maintaining flexibility .

    1. Definitely I like the seasons mentality as well. It is really helpful to keep in mind that what seems impossible now won’t always be necessarily. Thanks for that note. 👍🏼

Comments welcome!

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