There’s No “Right Choice”: Choose What You Want, and Then Make It Right

I’m with a friend on a cold day in late November or early December. We’ve inexplicably agreed to meet at the local zoo, despite it being about 40 degrees, cloudy, and snowy. We sit bundled up, rub our arms for warmth and share a bag of gourmet popcorn while our kids run around the zoo’s playset.

“How did you decide to strike out on your own?” I ask. My friend is a talented designer and artist. She owns her own company, and is the creative director for another local business.

She talks about her decision: her desire for more ownership over her work, the freedom to do things the way she believes is best, the ability to devote her time where her passions are. It’s exactly what I’m hoping for.

But what about the financial side, I wonder aloud, worrying about how the loss of my steady income could affect my own family and our money management. Has that panned out?

She smiles wistfully and shakes her head. Her business, her work — she’s poured so much into it including her own money. It’s probably put her years behind, she says, and she’s not sure when or if she’ll be able to catch up.

But then she looks at me. “It doesn’t matter. It was worth it. Knowing what I know now, I would do it all again. Money comes and goes, but I wouldn’t give up this experience.”

Forget about making the financially “right choice”

Writing about finance is my day job and my hobby. I spend a huge amount of time discussing how to make choices that are good for your money, and understanding what choices are bad for your money. But my friend’s statement stuck with me.

My friend wasn’t measuring her success or even shortcomings by monetary goalposts. Even though her choices didn’t put her ahead financially, she didn’t have regrets.

But like, how??

We all want to make the right choice. We believe that making the One Right Money Choice will magically lead to the outcomes we want.

I often get stuck trying to make the “right” choice for myself and my family. Inevitably, indecision leads to analysis paralysis as I weigh (and fear) all the possible paths, pitfalls, triumphs, and outcomes. In trying to find the failproof choice, I hold onto all the possibilities too long and start to sink under their weight.

The truth is, there is no One Right Money Choice. We want to believe it exists because it gives us the illusion of control.

But there is no such thing as full control over our lives — financial or otherwise. There are good financial bets and bad financial bets, but ultimately no guarantees that any one choice will lead to riches or wealth or prevent financial hardships.

Even worse, we run the risk of focusing on the financial impact of choices to the exclusion of other factors that might matter even more. In aiming for the perfect money move, we might totally miss the mark of creating a life centered on what matters to us most.

Choose what you want and make it right

If there’s no One Right Money Choice, that also means there are no Totally Irreparably Wrong Money Choices.

No decision is final, and each day is a chance to learn, grow, patch up missteps, and choose again.

Knowing that, how can you make the choices that are right for you right now? Ask yourself this:

What would I do if I could not fail?

And then ask:

What would I still want to do even if I knew I might fail?

In other words, what choices do you believe are worth making regardless of the financial outcome?

Asking myself these questions challenged me to free myself from my fear of financial failure. I knew I wanted to freelance and build my own blog more than I needed to rely on the predictability of a salary.

Knowing this, I was able to more clearly see which choices would get me closer to those goals — and which would take me away from them. Following years of burnout at full-time jobs, these questions showed me that the “best” financial choice had to take a backseat to my health and, ultimately, my dream of writing for myself.

Ask yourself what you really want, and choose it. Then show up and make it the right choice. Pick a direction and start moving toward it. Remember to course correct as you go so you can stay aligned with your ultimate goal as the path inevitably twists and turns in unexpected directions.

I chose to freelance months ago, but I’m making the choice now to show up each day, work it, and improve. The choice hasn’t been failproof, but I’m learning from failures and figuring out what successful freelancing looks like for me based on more than just my bottom line.

It’ll be scary — but every new challenge is

In talking things over with my friends and thinking about our conversation after, I realized that I already knew what to do. Why? Because I already knew what I wanted.

I thought I wanted answers or the ability to divine the “best” way forward. In truth, I simply needed to brace myself — to find the bravery to start walking the path I already knew I wanted to take.

Pursuing what I wanted meant facing my financial insecurities head on. Putting myself out there through Brave Saver has both been one of the scariest things I’ve done in a long time. Here are just a few of my anxieties that bubble to the surface:

  • I fear that I find good-paying work — or that my work won’t be worth what I charge
  • I face impostor syndrome writing a post and worry I have nothing worth saying
  • I’m prone to financial stress and scarcity anxiety that makes me worry that the opportunities in front of me are the only ones I will ever get
  • I feel pressure to contribute more to my family and our household
  • I feel guilty about having to tighten the family budget, and even more guilty whenever I fail to stick to our budget or have to spend more

These anxieties are a regular challenge for me. I’m not someone who feels comfortable with fear. In fact, it’s the negative emotion I spend the most energy coping with. And unlike other feelings that come and go, fear doesn’t always pass on so quickly. Sometimes it gets sticky and grows curved spines that hook onto the inside of my chest and just sit there.

But I’ve let it. I’ve let the fear come, go, stay as it will. But I haven’t let it stop me. I’ve had freakouts over our finances — and I know I’ll continue to have them.

But I don’t act on them. I let time pass, acknowledge the fear but let simmer. I don’t let it decide which direction I’ll move in next.

“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda.

“Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.”

Deepak Chopra

Remember, choosing your way is not about getting a decision exactly right (or at least not wrong). Financial considerations will carry weight in every major life decision, but don’t let them outweigh what’s in your heart. Choose precisely what you want, right now, and trusting that you will have the opportunity to course correct and adjust as you go.

Photo credit: Oliver Roos via Unsplash

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  • Reply
    Joyce @ Financial Impulse
    March 6, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    I love this post! A bit random, but it reminded me of a quote from the book, The Dive From Clausen’s Pier:

    “Bad isn’t the issue. Meaning you do what you do. Not without consequences for other people, of course, sometimes very grave ones. But it’s not very helpful to regard your choices as a series of right or wrong moves. They don’t define you as much as you define them.”

    I really appreciate your friend’s insight that she’d do it all again if she had the chance. So encouraging for wannabe entrepreneurs. I freelance while working full-time, so I also have these thoughts about ditching the stable job… Maybe down the road, pending freelance work. Best of luck to you with your next moves!

    • Reply
      Elyssa Kirkham
      March 7, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      “They don’t define you as much as you define them.” I love this.
      Freelancing/becoming a solopreneur is the stage of life at which I’m making this choice… but I’ve learned to apply this principle elsewhere in my life, too, for things like growing our family, moving, that kind of big stuff that can have lots of financial consequences. I think the financial piece is a big deal, but it was also encouraging to see… maybe there’s a different way to view and evaluate these big choices and maybe not every life decision has to be made with the aim of becoming rich. A fulfilling life is worth so much more.

  • Reply
    Abigail @ipickuppennies
    March 7, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Honestly, I don’t think I’m brave enough for this. Or put another way, I just don’t have anything I want badly enough to do knowing that it’d fail. I love my blog but I have no desire to do it full-time, and I don’t have a special skill that I could market (other than freelancing, which sounds like a personal hell — trying to always come up with new ideas plus blog… blech) to make my own company even if I hated my job, which I don’t.

    Still, if there’s something you want badly enough that you’re willing to risk financial setbacks, then yes don’t hold back. Take precautions where you can, but don’t hold back on something you truly desire if it’s something you can reasonably attempt. And that’s coming from someone with a crap-ton of anxiety about failure and not meeting financial goals and so on — so my advocating it really says something!

    • Reply
      Elyssa Kirkham
      March 7, 2019 at 4:03 pm

      Agreed, I don’t think everyone should or is able to freelance full-time or start a business — that just happened to be the experience in which I’ve been working through this. And I agree that it’s important to weigh the financial risks and potential setbacks, and do what we can to make it financially feasible. I know for me, sometimes I’ve been too quick to start with “What makes the most financial sense?” rather than “What do I want, and how I can I make it work with my finances?” Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Reply
    Savvy History
    March 10, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    I like to be reminded that there are very few circumstances in life where there are sure-fire wrong and right approaches. Thank you for the reflection presented in this post. I can have some black and white thinking problems at times! As you said, we want an obvious right and wrong way because we want the illusion of control. I like the flexible idea of going with what is working, thinking of each day as a new day, and going forward slowly and realistically. I’m actually a lot like Abigail at this point, but I’ve been more extreme in my approaches to entrepreneurship in the past, and I’m a swinging pendulum with a lot of ideas I’d love to give the light of day! We’ll see… thanks for your insight as I’m trying to figure it out.

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