During a session last week, a client was trying to decide between two alternative paths for her career. She listed the pros and cons of each and tried to decide which one would be the best choice. I recognized that the principles I wrote about in last week’s post about our obsession with results was relevant to her thinking.

I realized something else: There was no way to know for sure which choice would turn out to be the best and there was a very good chance that her second choice, if that’s the one that she ended up being forced to take, might well produce better results for her life in the long run than her fist choice.

I also realized that there was a principle here that I had not covered in last week’s post: Because we can never know the future for sure, and there is always a good chance that our second choice will produce as good if not even better results in the long run than our first choice. Therefore, we should stop being so concerned about getting exactly what we want.

Is our first choice always the best one?

In other words, decide what choice makes the most sense given all your knowledge at the time, and then go for it. But don’t make a big deal about whether or not you achieve your first choice, as you never know for sure that it was the “right” choice and you probably have almost as good a chance of the second choice turning out as well or better.

What difference will doing this make in your life? You will eliminate a lot of the disappointment, the upset, the frustration—in short, all the negative feelings and stress—that comes from failing to achieve what you set out to achieve.

Let me give you a couple of examples to make this real.

Brittany wanted to go to Brown

My daughter, Brittany, had her heart set on going to Brown when she graduated high school. She had visited the school, talked to kids who were attending, sat in on a few classes, read the catalog, and seen the campus. As a result she had decided this was THE college for her. It was ranked #14 in National Universities by U.S. News and World Report.

She applied while still in high school and was not accepted (they accept about 8.5% of all applicants) and, as you might expect, she was very disappointed.

Brittany also had applied to several smaller colleges, was accepted by Beloit, and off she went in September. She was not happy there for a number of reasons and applied again to Brown as a transfer student. Once more she was not accepted and again she was very disappointed about not getting what she wanted.

She was so unhappy at Beloit that she tried yet again to transfer, this time in the middle of her sophomore year. This time she tried several different schools, including Washington University in St. Louis, which is ranked #15, only one spot below Brown. She was accepted to several schools including Wash U., which she chose, and she moved to St. Louis in January.

She loved the school, made Dean’s List every semester she was there and was National Scholar-Athlete of the Year her senior year. It turned out to be the perfect school for her: small classes, really smart kids who provided interesting discussions in those classes, great teachers, challenging courses, etc.

She’ll never know how well she would have fit into Brown, her first choice; she does know that she was thrilled to have ended up at Wash U., a school that was a distant second to Brown.

 Is a promotion always the best outcome?

Carlos, one of my clients, had been telling me for months how he had been doing everything he could to get promoted to a managerial job he had been wanted for years. One day he started his session with me by exclaiming: “It’s not fair. I deserved that promotion. And they gave it to someone else. I didn’t get it.”

He was upset that he had not gotten the promotion he had worked for so hard, for so long. I helped him distinguish between the event (not getting the promotion) and the meanings he was giving it (it’s not fair; I’ll never get the promotion), so that the meaning dissolved. That stopped the upset.

But he still had not achieved what he wanted to achieve: a managerial job in the company where he worked.

He finally concluded that he probably wouldn’t get the position he wanted at his current company, so despite the fact he loved his co-workers and general working conditions, he quit and found the type of managerial position he wanted in another company. Several months after he took the job he sent me an email describing how happy he was in his new job and how the long-range opportunities were greater than they would have been at his old company.

He didn’t get his first choice. He had to settle for what looked like a poor alternative at the time.

Was his first choice (a management position at his original company) better than his second choice (leaving a company he liked to get a management position at another company)? There is no way to know for sure. But his second choice worked. And more often than it, it usually will. And because your second (and often even your third) choice usually works out, does it make sense to work yourself into a frenzy when your first choice doesn’t work out?


Thanks for reading my blog. Please share your thoughts about our need to achieve our first choice and our initial disappointment with having to accept a second choice.

Disagreement is as welcome as agreement. Your comments add value for thousands of readers. I love to read them all and I will respond to as many as I can.

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 If you haven’t yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to our interactive online belief-unlearning program where you can unlearn several limiting beliefs free.

You also can find out about Natural Confidence, an interactive digital program that enables you to unlearn 19 of the most common beliefs, which cause some of the most common behavioral and emotional problems that plague us.

Copyright © 2015 Morty Lefkoe


  1. Debra P. September 25, 2015 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    Love this blog. I’m going to share this on a radio interview I’m doing on Tuesday…..and, of course, will give credit to you!! Great examples of how we’re so attached to our first choice….I always think of the story of the monkeys in Borneo who put their little hands inside the hole drilled in the coconut where the hunters have put a banana and won’t let go until the hunters come and cart them away….

  2. Academic Papers September 21, 2015 at 1:24 am - Reply

    Its informative i like it. It’s a good article. Its more attractive and effective for people.

  3. Jane September 10, 2015 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    The South African economy is on the down and down at the moment and we’ve seen a couple of waves of retrenchment happen in my company and watched, miserable and feeling guilty ourselves, our depressed colleagues work out their time. So many of them though have come back after finally leaving to report that they’re better off now, in better paid jobs, closer to home, etc. etc.
    What seems like the worst possible turn of events, and feels like a huge vote of no confidence, can turn out to be what the universe needed to shake you free of something dragging you down and give you a shove in, perhaps the direction you should’ve been taking all along…it’s been an interesting lesson for me.

  4. Darlene September 10, 2015 at 7:02 am - Reply

    I listened to one of your free programs two weeks ago and noticed an immediate change within me that was greater than from other methods I’ve done before. I eliminated a limiting belief and, at the same time, I intuitively and unexpectedly heard inner music that validated the belief was gone. I felt lighter and more powerful and joyful. I purchased your life changing Natural Confidence method. Right now, I am up to Program 18. I knew some memories that resulted in limiting beliefs; others I didn’t know. It was amazing to recall the other memories, to understand how they added to limiting beliefs and to sense other people’s perspective, which wasn’t my perspective. It’s also amazing to know how one event or several events can lead to multiple or layered limiting beliefs. I am forever grateful. Thank you, Morty.

  5. Raj September 10, 2015 at 6:25 am - Reply

    Yea I had to re-read the emotional eating part too.

  6. Phil September 10, 2015 at 3:14 am - Reply

    I don’t understand this part at the end:
    “And because your second (and emotional eating your third) choice usually works out, ”
    That “emotional eating” appears out of the blue—how is it relevant here? Please clarify.

    • morty lefkoe September 10, 2015 at 9:49 am - Reply

      I have a program that turns a few letters into words. When I type “ee” the program turns those letters into “emotional eating,” a phrase I use a lot. I was typing the word “even” and must have typed “ee.” I didn’t catch the mistake when I proofread the article.

      Thanks for catching my mistake.

      Love, Morty

      • Nicholas September 11, 2015 at 2:59 am - Reply

        Oh great, I get it. Sorry for that…

    • Nicholas September 11, 2015 at 1:14 am - Reply

      Me too. I don’t get it. What’s the emotional eating there for?

      …But, yes, this is a great post. Thanks Morty. I love the post.

  7. thierry September 10, 2015 at 2:25 am - Reply

    Great point Morty and great post as usual. I like these stories to illustrate your message
    Take care

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