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One of the most powerful things my old manager ever said to me was so simple and yet profound, “Lauralee, life is a series of choices and tradeoffs.” It didn’t seem very powerful when he said it. I was talking about the guilt I carried with me for having my children so young. I shared that having my children in my early 20s, basically at 20, that my kids didn’t experience the best of me. Starting in my mid-twenties I began traveling a lot and missed out on many of their little kid moments.

My old boss went on to explain, that I traded those years for a career and my kids benefited in a different way than had I stayed home. Essentially, I made a tradeoff. I traded attending some of their childhood special events and moments for a career. However, that career later enabled me to be home for their big kid moments. My career path weaved, dipped, dodged, and landed in a place I was able to trade traveling (which I LOVED) for time with my children (which is so limited and I LOVE them too 🙂 ) Within a few years, I was only traveling once or twice a quarter. But, most importantly, I was home with my children when likely they needed it most.

At the moment, ‘life is a series of choices, and tradeoffs’ didn’t seem like profound advice.

However, with time I’ve come to realize we control 90% of our life through the choices and tradeoffs we make. It is the word, tradeoff, that is so empowering. Essentially, we are in control by trading one thing for another thing. You are in control of your life. If we do not like where our lives are headed, we need to consider what are we willing to trade to get the life we want.

There are things that are outside of your control. That is true. If you were just laid off, you are likely thinking “I do not have control over being laid off!” And, you are right. However, you have many choices after that. Everything, after you’re laid off, is defined by your choices.

Seeing Choices As Tradeoffs Is Empowering

The choices you have to make if you’re laid off are tough. But, if you consider them as tradeoffs and not forever decisions it will make making them a little easier. The choices include staying calm or freaking out, hiring a resume writer or not, networking or not, applying for any job or only applying for specific jobs, being active in the job search or passive, etc. Minutes after you are laid off, you have hundreds of decisions to make.

For example, you have a choice between commuting 50 miles for a job that pays more or taking a lower-paying job locally. What do you do?

Well, that should depend on what you are trading for what you are gaining and for how long. Do you want to trade time with your family or friends for more money? There are other factors like wear and tear on your car, how much more money, are benefits included, the culture of the organization, and so on. However, to get in control of a choice, use tradeoffs. Get clear on what you are willing to trade.

When we outsource our choices to our ego or other people.

We are left unhappy and frustrated. We allow others to encroach on our time and we justify it by saying “I have no choice. I had to volunteer for that, they needed me.” Then, moments later, we complain that we don’t have enough time to do the things we enjoy. We allowed either the ego that longs for feeling “special” or “important” to make this decision. Or we outsourced the decision to the person asking us to volunteer. Either way, we traded our time to make someone happy or to satisfy our ego. Yet, we aren’t happy.

Seth Godin put best in the blog article; Choice and Obligation.

If it’s an obligation, then you don’t have a choice.

Pretending you do is simply a way to create frustration. Free yourself to simply do what you have to do.

On the other hand, if you do have a choice (and you probably do) then it doesn’t make sense to treat it as an obligation. Own the choice.

Too often, we feel we are obligated to do this or that. However, the reality is we have a choice. We can choose what we trade.

Finally, I’ll end this article with this… life is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice and tradeoffs.

About the AuthorLauralee Hites

After nearly 20 years in corporate America, I decided to serve the world in a new way. Today, I operate a boutique consulting firm that specializes in Strategy and Management Consulting. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Lauralee Hites
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