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How To Make Big Choices

“We are our choices.” – Jean Paul Sartre 

It’s almost time for one of our favourite events of the year – TEDxToronto. For the 2013 TEDxToronto Conference, all talks, performances and demos will be rooted in their selected theme, “The Choices We Make.”  It got us thinking about some of the big choices in our lives, and our different strategies for navigating those decisions.

“Our choices may be logical, based on moral principle, made by gut instinct, or determined by the heart. They can be singular actions or collaborative ones. In the event of too much choice, we can face confusion and indifference. We are who we are today because of the choices we have made in the days that precede it. Sometimes our choices are forgettable, sometimes life changing, and occasionally, they change the world.” – TEDxToronto 2013


Shiera Aryev, The Working Group - The Choices We Make TEDxToronto 2013

“Moving to Spain on a whim taught me the value of intuitive decision making. A three week family vacation to Barcelona became a two year stint living in the city, and that one decision has fundamentally helped to shape my life. It was a lesson in listening to my gut feeling – I’d just left a job in Toronto and felt very lost in terms of what my next career move would be, having completed an animation degree but knowing that the industry didn’t offer enough creative freedom or job security for me.

My friend had just moved to Barcelona from Malaga. I met up with her, and by the fourth day I had fallen completely in love with the city. European culture introduced me to the idea of “working to live” – in North America it’s so often the other way around. I met so many people with different perspectives on life. My intuition told me that this city was the place for me, and even though it was hard to leave friends and family, I listened to my gut and decided to stay.

It was here that I discovered design was the perfect career for me. I got a job working as a graphic designer for a promotional product company and found the work to be the perfect blend of creative thinking, communication and digital.

The lesson is that sometimes you have to be risky. The best things in life, the best experiences, come with a little bit of risk. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know – and sometimes that door is only open for a short time so you have to seize opportunities when they arise. You learn the most when you’re the least comfortable, when you’re faced with unknowns. But this experience taught me that change is good and not to be afraid.

Listen to your gut. If it feels right, it probably is.”


Andrés Aquino, The Working Group - The Choices We Make TEDxToronto2013

“I believe that the choices we make are guided by our awareness of the things that matter to us most. I’ve recently been inspired (through the unfortunate tragedy a friend’s family has faced) to revisit the qualities in my life that are most important to me.

Here are the five things I consider when evaluating big choices – the things that matter the most to me:

1. Following my dreams.

2. Nurturing personal relationships.

3. Creating Success I believe in.

4. Having fun being myself.

5. Helping others follow their dreams.

What’s on your list?”


Holly Knowlman, The Working Group - The Choices We Make TEDxToronto 2013

“Imagine yourself on your deathbed. Be generous. No car accidents or getting struck by lightning or freak bowling accidents. The ‘end of your natural life’ kind of deathbed. You’re in your 80s and you know how to knit. There’s lots of soft, fluffy pillows propping you up.

What does this old version of you think about the choice you’re about to make? Are they happy you took a leap into the unknown? Are they proud of what you’ve built? Did it propel you forward into a life that was more surprising, more rewarding, more fun? That’s the deathbed test.

Thinking about life in this context reminds me of two things. The first is that variety of experience is incredibly important – in fact, new experiences can positively impact our subjective experience of time so that it feels like we’re actually living longer. Old me is a cheerleader for the slightly-out-of-budget vacation, or the conversation with the stranger on the subway. Old me also advocates for a minimalist lifestyle – reminding me that it’s better to spend on “doing things” than on “having things.”

The deathbed test also helps me to map smaller decisions against my long-term goals and stop being reactive – life is full of amazing, exciting opportunities but knowing when to jump and when to pause means I’m much more likely to end up where I want to be.”


TEDxToronto is Canada’s largest TEDx event, a platform for exceptional ideas, and a catalyst for profound change. In addition to their annual, one-day conference, which draws a diverse and passionate array of speakers, performers, demos and audience members, TEDxToronto runs community programming throughout the year exploring issues with local relevance. Talks from the conference have been viewed millions of times around the globe and six of our speakers have been featured on, one of the world’s leading platforms for big ideas.

The Working Group is a partner of TEDxToronto. This year, the event takes place on September 26th at Koerner Hall. Find out more at   


Read More: Top Five TED talks for playful innovators

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