How to Make Hard Decisions – Advice From Comedian Kevin Hart
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Learning how to make hard decisions will allow you to improve the quality of your life.
I started writing this article at 10:03pm on a Friday night.
Instead of having drinks and laughs with good friends, I decided to sit alone in a dimly lit room and attempt to write something that wasn’t a complete waste of your time.
I made a choice, and while I’m only three sentences in, I’m not sure that I’ll ever know if it was the right one.
Is writing this article worth giving up time with people I care about?
That’s the question I confronted. And while I tackled it with a quick pros and cons analysis, there is no right answer. I made a choice, and I’m living with the consequences.
We all confront this dilemma many times every day. In a world of limited time, energy, and resources, we need to make decisions without complete information or clear answers. It’s not easy.
And while these decisions often seem insignificant in the short-term, they matter a whole lot in the long-term. Life is short, and your daily choices determine the quality of your life and who you become.
Over the course of five or ten years, my weekly choice to write or drink with friends determines whether I become a best-selling author or that guy who always dreamed of writing a book but never got to it.
I just finished Kevin Hart’s book, I Can’t Make This Up, and he had a useful framework for how to make these ambiguous daily choices:
At every moment in life, there is a fork in the path you are on. And you can choose to go right or you can choose to go left. Every right you take leads you closer to your best possible destiny; every left leads you further away from it. These forks are not just decisions that lead to actions, like saying yes to a job offer, but thoughts that lead to beliefs, like blaming your father for ruining your life.
Like Hart, I’ve always tried to go right. I’ve made a lot of lefts along the way, but that’s life. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we choose what’s expedient over what’s meaningful. Sometimes we have no idea what we’re doing.
But the goal is not to eliminate the lefts. That’s not possible. The goal is to learn from the lefts so that you can make more rights and get closer to the life you desire and the person you want to become.
When you make more rights, you live a life with more joy, gratitude, and achievement. When you make more lefts, you end up resentful and blaming the world for the shitty cards you were dealt.
While it’s not always so clear in the moment, going right has always served me over the long-term.
When I grew up poor, I went right.
Instead of blaming the world for my circumstances, I took responsibility for trying to improve them. I worked my ass off in school, applied to the best schools in the country, and continued working my ass off once I got in and graduated.
I was grateful for every opportunity that crossed my path. I showed appreciation for those who supported me on my pursuit. And eventually, after two decades of hard work, persistence, and a little luck, I escaped the shackles of poverty.
When I hated my first job out of college, I went right.
Instead of complaining about the 15 hours a day I spent in a cubicle doing work that didn’t excite me, I decided to look for another job. I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I would excel.
But I talked to dozens of people in other industries, applied for a bunch of jobs I didn’t get, and eventually landed something that I felt comfortable taking a bet on. Along the way, I learned to start with why. It ended up being an excellent choice that accelerated me down a meaningful path.
When my mom took her own life 8 months ago, I went right.
Instead of crumbling in the face of the soul-penetrating pain that threatened everything I had worked for, I decided to find a way forward. I found meaning in my suffering.
I spoke with other people who experienced loss. I wrote about my pain. I shared my mom’s story with the world. And along the way, I refused to crumble or turn to any drugs or bad habits to mask my pain.
These are some of the significant rights that I’ve made that have shaped who I am today.
But these big decisions are few and far between. More often than not, we’re operating in the realm of the daily minutiae. Learning to exercise sound judgment with the smaller choices is critical. Because when you build the habit of going right every day, you will be prepared when the tsunamis of life flood your world. You will be prepared to go right when you lose your job, your parents, your wife, your kids, or your house. You’ll find a way.
To get started, identify a few important daily choices in your life and start going right.
When you wake up tomorrow morning, go right.
Instead of staying under the covers and resisting life for 15 more minutes of sleep, take responsibility for getting excited about your day and continuing to improve yourself. Read. Meditate. Exercise. Smile. Relax. Do something that will improve your day by 1%.
When you’re too drunk and your friend offers you a tequila shot, go right.
Instead of accepting the shot because it’s more comfortable than saying no, value your precious health and decline the offer. No one will care or remember that you didn’t take the shot tomorrow.
When you hear a political statement you disagree with, go right.
Instead of scorning the person who’s spewing what you believe is nonsense, get curious and get humble. Figure out why that person holds those beliefs. Ask them questions. Don’t judge, understand.
Even if you don’t agree with the person in the end, you might walk away calmly with an expanded understanding of the world instead of remaining angry in the echo chamber of your beliefs.
Life is a series of choices. Some are easy; others are hard. What matters is that you take responsibility for those choices and make as many rights as possible along the way.
Because while you can’t control the events that happen in your life, you can control the story you tell yourself about what those events mean. And when you control the story, you control your response and your ability to make decisions that serve you in the long-run.
And those decisions become your life.