It’s hard to push the limits of your ability, but it’s harder not to – whether that’s because you don’t realize that you should, or because it just feels too dangerous. In the last Chasing Terror post, I compared it to a baby waiting to do a complete cost-benefit analysis before trying a step.

Today, I want to unpack that a little. There are three important things to say:

First, the baby would decide to walk. It’s worth the falls and bumps not to crawl everywhere you go. It’s delayed gratification, but the gratification is there.

Second, if the baby could ignore the primal urge to try standing and then stepping over and over again until she could do the cost-benfit, she would be far behind the developmental curve.

Third, delayed gratification means the price dominates the landscape. It looms large because it is immediate. Meanwhile, the benefit, because it is off in the future, looks small. Once you can put them side by side, it’s easy to see that the opposite is often true.

I contend (and certainly not alone) that the same developmental urges to grow beyond what you can understand and tendencies toward immediate gratification apply in adulthood even though the scale is larger. In the adult world, things are worse. We face a barrage of outside urges daily.

This makes due diligence tough. Wisdom takes time to aquire and sometimes life seems to require more wisdom than you’ve had time to get. I wish I had an easy solution for that – but I just have a couple thoughts that might help in the short term and the long term.

(Even if you’ve already heard these things, I think they bear repeating.)

In the short term: when you know you’re making a difficult decision, you’re probably going to put in the necessary effort to decide as well as you can. It’s easy to agonize over a career decision without taking any notice of a habit that will affect you much more over the next decade. When you feel a little afraid, that’s probably a good sign. When you don’t care at all, then be afraid!

In the long term: the situation urges a posture toward life that shuns foolishness and extracts all available wisdom – doesn’t it? Who knows when you might need it! In order to keep this post from becoming too long, I’m going to deal with that in a subsequent post.