“There are always two choices, two paths to take. One is easy and its only reward is that it’s easy.” ~Anonymous chooser.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote the book “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, with all the clever ways to crack the ancient paradox of you can’t have your cake and eat it too. And every day since, I have grown into a much deeper understanding and appreciation of what the successful resolution of this major challenge actually means and involves. In a few words: Every choice has its price.

Freedom of choice does come with a cost that you have to accept, if you are going to have your cake and eat it too. Don’t and you won’t. And this is exactly what we are all after—the security of a relationship but along with freedom of independence, a money-making job with plenty of free time, or access to crowded city culture with country scenery and space. The trouble is we often carry the “greed dream” too far and want the freedom to make even wrong choices without the responsibility of the undesirable consequences.

There is one main way this ‘having your cake and eating it too’ chase goes awry: Not accepting the price of the choice—good or bad at either end. Wouldn’t life be much easier if: (a) we could accurately predict the consequences of all our choices, or (b) there weren’t any bad consequences from any of our choices? But let’s get back to reality: Every choice has its price and accepting the price is the only way to have what we all want—to have our cake and eat it too, as the only way to be mentally, emotionally, physically and soulfully full.

There are only a few import reality rules to follow in this game we can’t avoid playing:

1. The rules to the game were already established and we can’t invent our own new ones or change what is, at least until we accept that reality. The main object of the game is to find the rules and follow them. It takes some of us much longer than others to figure out this basic truth. It seems that one major choice in every aspect of our life is to either stay put at home or wander off to far-away places constantly searching for greener pastures. The world is about equally divided on this one. And the funny part is that we always end up at the very same place no matter which direction we go in. That was probably one of the rules that were already established.

2. We resist accepting consequences of choices because of two bad habits: (a) Having the delusion that we can make choices and not be held accountable with consequences (or not noticing the connection?), and (b) misjudging something as good or bad prematurely, as the Buddhists would say and are right about it. Getting rid of the delusion or lack of sensitivity to the connection between choices and consequences, happens naturally over time, especially when there are enough painful failures you can no longer continue ignoring. Unfortunately successful people, are just headed for the inevitable fall, which they haven’t prepared for adequately. In either case, overcoming the resistance to overcoming the resistance is the main problem that won’t go away until it is resolved.

3. The real key to all this is the humbling realization that no matter how dumb the choices or how bad the consequences (unless they were life-threatening or totally destructive) we live through them and probably wouldn’t have chosen differently, even with informed, retrospective thinking. At least that has been the case with all the people I know.

So what does all this have to do with real life? The short list of advice is:

• Have faith that you can eventually have your cake and eat it too—making a choice and avoiding bad consequences…if you take enough time to get enough of the right information, grow your patience for results, stop making pre-mature judgments about what is good and bad for you in the long run and tame your idealistic expectations in tentatively seeing what comes and how it can best serve you.

• Just believe in the truth that all choices have a price, but the price can always be worth it in the long run and not make things too miserable in the present moment. It just doesn’t make any sense to not believe this way and not believing this way has a strange way of shaping reality in the wrong direction. No explanations needed.

• See choices as a kind of test that you eventually have to learn how to get an “A” on. That requires slowing down to notice the connection between good-bad choices and good-bad consequences, learning from your failures, and refining the information as to what the better choices are that will yield the better consequences.

In summary, always try to translate this abstract decision-making principle into your own personal language:

Make the choice that is easiest for you at the time, which is most likely to get the best results for the majority of people involved over the long haul, with the least costly adverse side-effects in the short run. In the end that is what we all do intuitively without over-thinking it. How many choices would you have made differently in your own life, even knowing the outcomes and what you know now?

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA and also a business and personal success coach, sport psychologist, photographer and writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, The Prosperity Zone, Getting More By Doing Less, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, “P” Point Management, Reality Repair & Reality Repair Rx. He can be contacted with comments or questions at 425 454-5011 or bcottringer@pssp.net