What Are You Going To Order?

If you’re anything like me, then ordering food from an extensive, mouth-watering menu is an arduous task.

So much so that when Hannah and I go out for dinner I don’t speak for the first five minutes.

Instead I’ll dissect the menu options and inevitably wrestle with what’s the best outcome.

Alas, indecision leads to personal tension, which in turn leads to acceptance, which then culminates in bitter regret when you end up ordering the very same thing you order every time you eat in this restaurant!

Surely I’m not alone?!

I’m reading a wonderful book at the moment called Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman.

If you’ve never heard of it then I would strongly encourage you to give it a go.

It focuses on a lot of hard-hitting concepts, many of which appear a tad bleak on the surface – such as accepting our limited time (‘finitude’) and embracing it head on – but there are some incredible things to take away.

I wanted to share one with you – our approach to decision making.

Let’s face it, choosing between A and B is incredibly hard.

Whether it’s something as trivial as opting for soup over salad, or something much greater like how are you going to spend your precious time when you retire from work…

Making a choice is never easy.

Often when we choose one course over another we fail to savour the chosen route because of the question niggling at the back of our minds: ‘what if?’

What if the soup today was my favourite and they serve it with those little tasty croutons that I love?

What if I carried on working for another 3 years? Would I be enjoying a more comfortable retirement now?

In his book, Burkeman asserts the following:

‘Making a choice – picking one item from the menu of life – far from representing a defeat, becomes an affirmation.’

So what exactly does this mean when it comes to living and enjoying your life?

Instead of dwelling on what might have been you should instead focus your attention and efforts on enjoying what is currently playing out.

We need to change our perspectives completely and consider it a positive thing to be ‘doing this instead of that’.

Indeed, this instead of an infinite number of other thats.

We simply don’t have enough time to do everything.

There will always be stones left unturned and regretful salad choices that should have been soup.

Yes you could have made a better decision.

You maybe shouldn’t have taken a lump from your pension as soon as you reached the minimum age.

You maybe should have gifted more of your wealth to your loved ones when they needed it years ago.

When it comes to your finances there will always be regrets because life never plays out in a straight and predictable line.

But rather than lamenting about what could have been, you should instead accept that your decision has been made.

Embrace it and move on.

Be comfortable that you could have chosen from an infinite number of other paths, many of which will have undoubtedly lead to better outcomes but … you didn’t.

You chose this path. Today.

Burkeman summarises it better than me:

‘In other words, it’s precisely the fact that I could have chosen a different and perhaps equally valuable way to spend the afternoon that bestows meaning on the choice I did make.’

So if you take anything away from this ramble of mine, it’s that you should have confidence in the decisions you do make and the roads you do take.

Life isn’t a rehearsal and it’s certainly not perfect.

When I make financial plans for clients, I explain to them that the plan is almost instantly outdated by the time it’s put in place.

But therein lies the beauty.

Adapting and changing the plan when life gets in the way.

And when the inevitable changes do come, accept that the action you’re taking might not be (read: statistically cannot possibly be!) the perfect course of action.

Stop reaching for something beyond reach.

Instead be happy with the decision you have made.

I’m sure the salad was delicious anyway…

Thanks for reading.


Benjamin Mitchell

Benjamin Mitchell

I’m a chartered financial planner that can help you plan for tomorrow and also live for today.

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