“It is our choices, Harry, that show us who we really are, far more than our abilities.”

—Albus Dumbledore

Life is a highway of decisions, a nonstop series of forks in the road. And when you’re cruising at high speed, the toughest choices often boil down to this: what does good versus what feels good.

It’s like choosing between a solid, healthy salad and a dripping, juicy burger. The salad is the right choice, the one that does good. It nourishes your body, keeps the engine running smoothly. But the burger? It feels good, tastes like a party in your mouth, floods your senses with a decadent burst of satisfaction.

Similarly, in life, the salad choices are the ones that benefit others, that serve a bigger cause, that stand up for principles, values. They’re the marathon training sessions, the late-night studies, the extra miles walked for a friend in need. They’re tough, sometimes bitter, often less satisfying in the moment.

The burger choices, on the other hand, are those that feel good instantly. They’re the weekend parties, the Netflix binges, the indulgence in gossip. They’re the shortcuts taken, the little white lies that slide us out of tricky situations. They’re sweet, satisfying, but their euphoria often leaves quickly, replaced by a kind of emptiness, a nagging guilt or regret.

But life isn’t always as clear as a menu card. It’s more like a complex recipe. It’s not a simple dichotomy between salads and burgers. Many times, what feels good can also do good. And sometimes, what does good can eventually feel incredibly fulfilling too.

Grasping the wheel of life and navigating the salad-burger conundrum is akin to a tightrope walker balancing on a razor-thin wire. The wire represents our time, and on either side, there’s a precipice—one of short-term gratification, the other of long-term reward.

The salad choices are like the steady, measured steps of the tightrope walker, eyes focused on the end, aware of the greater payoff waiting. Each salad choice is a step forward, closer to that finish line. They’re the deposits into the savings account for a secure future, the sweat and toil poured into building a start-up, the sacrifices made for loved ones. They might not offer the immediate thrill, but they ensure a steady progress, a long-term success.

Yet, there are times when the wire trembles, and we must sway, let loose, enjoy the thrill of the gust. These are the burger choices – the impromptu road trips, the sudden laughter bursting out in the middle of a serious meeting, the decadent chocolate cake devoured at midnight. They’re not just slips or stumbles on the tightrope. They’re essential sways, little dances that keep the journey exciting and the walker motivated.

The art of life is knowing when to tread carefully, step forward, invest in the long term, and when to allow yourself to sway, embrace the short-term joy, savor the burger. It’s like a beautifully choreographed tightrope performance, where the walker is both the performer and the audience, the conductor and the orchestra.

Life’s wisdom isn’t about avoiding burgers or hoarding salads. It’s about savoring each bite, whether lettuce or patty, understanding its role in your journey. It’s about recognizing when to tighten your grip, when to let go, and when to simply enjoy the dance in-between.

And as we perfect this dance, we evolve from merely living to mastering life. One careful step, one joyful sway at a time.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.