(Yes. I live dangerously. Wandering around Target with a credit card in my pocket.)
After two seconds in front of the display, I saw a red one and thought, hey, I don't have a red tank top, I only have a blue one at home. And it's so deliciously soft. And it's my size.
What better way to kick off the summer? For $10 bucks. That's pretty good.
I decided to get the baby-soft, perfectly-fitted crimson bro tank, and, at first, everything was fine and dandy.
Until I found a different tank top - on clearance. Only $5. I mean, it wasn't exactly my size, but it was only 5 bucks.
Uh oh. This was a toughie. What was I to do??
Yes, I do know that this story is a simple, if not silly, example of a difficult life decision. Yet I believe this situation exemplifies more significant moments in life. The same logic I use here can be applied elsewhere.
So I actually let myself wrestle with this one a bit, and attempted to bring all my decades of hard-earned experience and wisdom to the table to answer...
Which item should I choose?
Well, I thought to myself: let's examine my options.
1) Do I buy the red one, in my size, for $10? Was it worth expending a double-digit amount of my hard-earned cash? Remember this was my first (and, at one point, only) choice, and one with which I was already satisfied.
2) Or do I get the grey striped one, in a slightly larger size, for $5?
The second option was tempting. It was half as much money! (That's like....50%!) It was quite prudent to be reducing my expenses like that. It wasn't too big, just slightly, and it was also pretty soft and nice. (see: anything can be rationalized given enough time).
There was a third choice, actually. My other option, not stated, was getting nothing at all. But let's break this down. Choosing nothing can be a wise move, but can also be chosen immaturely and irrationally out of impatience and frustration. Just forget the whole thing, this is stressing me out, I'm not going to get anything. This could look a lot like avoidance.
Yet, it could also be demonstrating self-control - resisting an impulse. Being big enough to walk away.
Examined closely, this third one was more complex than it appeared.
Well, shipyard shishkabobs - where in the heck do we go from here?
At this point, with all these possibilities weighed together, my life-experience voice was yelling something at me very clearly: the most tempting option was the worst one.
The $5 tank top was the impostor.
It was the choice that should elicit the same feeling as the good guy in the movie who turns out in the end to be the bad guy, and you get hit with the sinking realization that twists your stomach and tells you - run. Get the hell away and alert the authorities and don't look back.
When you shake out all the options, the $5 tank top is the one not to choose. It's the safe choice, chosen simply because it's safe. It's the watered-down compromise. It's trying to please everyone and make everyone happy. It's the choice that plays into the fear of stepping out, of taking a risk, of letting go of something good to leap to a life that's better.
Don't. Whatever you do, don't get the $5-grey-striped, slightly-too-large tank top.
Do what I did, and buy the damn red shirt.
There's always that option in life. The cop out that lets us rationalize anything really, because we were too lazy or too timid to do what was right, to do what we truly wanted.
I have too many shirts in my closet (literally, and figuratively - "shirts in my closet") that I purchased because I told myself a story in the store, a story that sounded nice but wasn't based on the truth. As if I didn't want to let that shirt down by rejecting it back to the shelf. I didn't want to hurt the shirt's feelings. But if I were truly honest with myself, I would admit that I'm not totally in love with it, so sorry-I'm-not-sorry, I'm putting you back, I'm leaving this store empty-handed. It's so much better than collecting junk I don't really want. Either love it, or say goodbye.
And yes, the third option actually is a choice. Don't just avoid a situation. But you can decide to walk away. Be decisive about it. I'm deciding not to make this purchase. I'm choosing responsibility. I'm choosing self-control. I'm choosing a story based on the truth.
Or, do what you had already decided to do from the very beginning, do what was in your gut all along, do the thing that you knew would make you happy before you gave in to doubt and second-guessed yourself.
Do what I did, and buy the damn red shirt.