A podcast episode that I come back to every now and then is that on Transformative Experiences on EconTalk. The image that has stayed with me was when they talked about this hypothetical scenario of a man deciding whether he wants to turn into a vampire.
How do you even go about making that decision? Perhaps, you can calculate how much you would like the ability to turn into a bat versus the need to drink blood constantly. You may even ask for advice from other vampires about the pros and cons of their lives. An irreconcilable problem however is that becoming a vampire transforms you fundamentally. You cannot really imagine what being a vampire would be like unless you are already one. Becoming a vampire changes your preferences and transforms how you see the world. Similarly, the other vampires’ advice to you would be limited because they cannot anymore fully put themselves in your shoes as they are now thinking like a vampire.
A few months ago, I had the chance to finally become an assistant professor, something that I had always dreamt of becoming. It was a great opportunity. I would have great colleagues in a wonderful city. I would have my own travel funds and would be able to hire my own PhD student. I can do whatever research I was interested in. The only problem is that I would be away from my partner and it would also jeopardize my nationality procedure for Spain.
Making this decision was difficult as it would fully transform my life. I did many things. I started with a simple pros and cons list. I drew decision trees with expected values of various outcomes. I talked with my friends and mentors.
In the end, I decided to reject the opportunity and stay in my current position. It has been months now since I made the decision and honestly, every now and then, thoughts come to my head about whether I made a good decision. At the same time, I have been feeling too that if I made the move, maybe I would not also be happy.
But honestly, my biggest regret is that I spent too much time stressing about the decision instead of just making it and moving on. Recently, I listened to another podcast about making big decisions and I liked the idea of slow slow quick quick:
they took more time to gather the information, they took a bit more time to comprehend the situation, and then when it came to making the decision, they were much faster to be able to choose what the right option to them was.Neil Shortland
My takeaway from this experience is that even when many decisions in life are difficult, things may work out either way because when you make the decision, you will be fundamentally transformed and thus, will make the best out of whatever path you choose. It might be best to just choose whatever decision resonates with you the most and find the best way to move forward.