From the end of 2016 to the first few months of 2017 I questioned myself a lot, wondering what I wanted for my future. I had been in Australia for six months at the time, working and saving for… I didn’t know what yet. I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go with my life, which dreams were the most important for me and which projets deserved my full commitment. In other words, I needed to decide where I would go and why.
Among the options: commit to a master’s degree I have always been deeply interested in, prepare a trip around the world on foot, work in Russia and trek across all of Georgia.
Stuck at a major crossroad, having realized most of my childhood dreams, I had to choose the direction my life would take in the short and medium terms. Nothing less.
Looking for an answer to my endless questions and a way to take the impossible decisions, I took a few steps forward. I found solutions and motivation in those who had inspired me and impressed me, among other things. And then I found a way. An answer that fitted my anguish like a glove.
The first stone was placed by a book offered by my mother on Christmas. I didn’t expect reading “Conversations with God” to be particularly revealing to me, agnostic to the bone, but it is both surprised and pleased that I got a powerful question – and concept – out of it:
“What would the best version of myself do?”
To repress rancour, envy or jealousy isn’t an easy thing to do. But in a given situation, to imagine a version of yourself at your best allows you to remember your own potential and to aim for it. To remind yourself how good you can be, how generous, wise and how you would like to be all that more often. It is not a perfect version of yourself (nor a different one!), but a self reaching the maximum of its capacities, of its qualities.
I rarely felt as good with myself as when I act the way I am convinced the best Alexandre Bilodeau Desbiens possible would act in the same situation.
Tough decisions, whether they are existential or common and daily choices, are difficult because the balance between the pros and cons of each option does not clearly point toward an answer. Each possible option is valid and a good choice in its own way.
A few years ago, to do a bachelor degree in Philosophy had a lot of pros and several cons. To choose the bachelor in Intervention in outdoors activities (basically for adventure and mountain guides) also had a lot of pros and several cons, which equalled those of a philosophy degree.
How to choose?
Sometimes, all we have to do is think about the version of ourselves that seems to be the “best”. The most admirable, courageous, honorable or happy, it doesn’t matter. As long as we have this feeling that it is indeed the best possible version of ourselves, we can assess the choices that lead to it and make those choices. Consciously.
Several years later, that is last January, to start my master’s degree in International Law and Applied International Politics had a lot of pros and a few cons, while crossing Georgia on foot and visiting a region that deeply fascinates me had just as many. Except that this time, the pros and cons were… different, in their very nature.
How can someone take this kind of decision where totally different values, but just as important, collide? Everybody knows that we can’t compare apples and oranges…
Actually, according the American philosopher Ruth Chang, we can. The idea (which we could almost consider as an extension of the previous one), is simply to decide what we want to represent and defend as a person.
Too simple? Almost.
To weigh the consequences of two options one can choose does not always lead to an informed decision for a very simple reason: we cannot predict the future. It is impossible for me to know if I will really end up happier or more accomplished if I pursue my studies in politics or if I trek through a panoply of wild mountains unknown from most of the world. Anything can happen.
What I can choose, and control, are the values I want to defend. The interests and the lifestyle I would like to represent. The principles I wish to embody.
I can decide, between the two possible Alexandre Bilodeau Desbiens in front of me, of one I would like to be associated to. I can decide of the one I would like to see become the best version of himself.
And even if that does not answer all the difficult decisions sometimes impossible to make, it’s a damn good place to start.
P.S.: Tomorrow, Julie and I will have crossed Georgia on foot.