A few days ago I was feeling overwhelmed at work. It was Friday afternoon of what had been a very busy week. My productivity was down and tasks were taking much more time than usual. Being a 23 years old project manager isn’t that easy.
A part of me wanted to just stop and quit for the day. I wasn’t being much productive anyway. I could have gone to my bosses and told them the same. but then a question popped up in my mind which helped me push through the day:
What’s the alternative?
Whenever stuck or facing some issue. When the motivation is down, this question can help you clear your mind. Things get tough even if you love what you do. These are the days which specially define how your journey turns out to be.
I had a way out of the situation, just like we all have in 99% of the situations. I could have gone to the boss and told them I’m done for the day. That I’m spending way more time on work these days. They’d have most probably understood and reduced my workload and responsibilities. It was a fair alternative. But not the one I’m ready to settle for.
Everyone Has An Alternative
No matter what you tell yourself. 99% times, you do have an alternative. Be it a crappy job, tough relationship or what, you always have an alternative way.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote about the life inside of concentration camps. But as he noticed, even then each prisoner had alternative ways to deal with their hardships. While some lost their way and became disheartened, others found meaning even when their life appeared so bleak. While some submitted to their hardships, others dealt with them with courage.
And no matter how hard your current life is, I bet it’s not as hard as in inside a concentration camp. Just like them, you do have alternatives to your current situations. All you have to do is measure up your reality against that alternative.
Overworked or dead-end job? You can quit. That’s the alternative. How that will impact your life is a different question.
You can always pull the plug on that unhappy relationship. Stop talking to your discouraging family. But are you ready to live without those things?
Either You Go All In or You Change the Lane.
Finding and thinking about the possible alternatives is a great way to deal with any situation. Either of the 2 things will happen:
1. The alternative will be a no go for you.
It doesn’t align with your dreams, goals, values or lifestyle. It doesn’t align with the person you are and want to be. Congratulations, you just came up with a reason to keep pushing through your current situation, even if it’s hard. Use this to overcome the bias of current hardship. Remember and reinforce why you started doing what you’re doing, why you are here. Use this as your motivation to continue. As your Why.
2. The alternative will make much more sense.
It will bring you happiness, even if the path sounds scary. You may not have the necessary skills for it, but you can always level up those. You may be scared of the change, but is the present comfort worth the happiness? The alternative promises you a better version of the future, and a future you actually want. Choosing the alternative may be tough, may require much hard work. But as long as it brings you happiness, what else matters?
You can quit your 9–5 job to work on an entrepreneurial project or a creative pursuit. An honourable alternative. But can you make enough money to survive/ maintain lifestyle? You can decrease the risk by working on the alternative as a side hustle first. Test the waters before you jump in. Make sure you actually want the alternative and are ready to work for it. That it’s just not a shortcut idea in your head to escape your present reality. And once you’re ready, make the switch. Or the question will let you remember why you do what you do. That despite the long hours, you actually enjoy what you do.
You can quit the relationship with your significant other or family. Decrease the contact with them. The downside is that you may feel lonely or guilty. If this is not something you can live with, you need to work on strengthing those relations.
I could have quit my role, and go back to being a software engineer. Less workload, less stress. But that doesn’t align with my goals. So I pushed through that day. And I keep on pushing every day.
Call To Action
There’s always an alternative. No matter the situation. The alternative may be better or worse, that’s for you to decide. Use the alternative to reinforce your current why, or to change the direction of your life.
The choice is yours.