Chess is a game of choice. Each move sets in motion a myriad of possible games and a single misplay can drastically turn the tables. A skilled chess player will deliberate on each move as they try to predict how the game will flow on from the decision they make, but in an infinite sea of possibilities, choosing the best outcome is extremely difficult.
However, there is one situation that is the direct opposite. Zugzwang is a state in which the most viable, ideal move is an impossible one – to not move. In zugzwang, whatever decision you make will reduce your odds of winning compared to skipping your turn. In some cases, you are even forced to make a choice that will spell your inevitable doom.
Life is similar to chess in that we are always faced with choices. What outfit will you wear today? Will you sit in the front seat or the back? Who will you ask to be your date for the ball? Should I take this job offer to change my career path, or stay in my current, stable job? Some choices are simple and appear inconsequential, yet others make us feel stressed even considering the implications. We often regret choices we made, looking back and wondering “What if?”. How would my life be different had I chosen differently?
But in the grand scheme of things, how important is it that we make “the best choice” each time? A majority of the time, it is highly unlikely that a single poor decision will completely ruin your life. Sure, your life may turn out different for better or for worse in a certain way, but we neglect to account for all of the other ways our life may change. Chaos theory teaches us that even a small change like a butterfly flapping its wings can wildly and unpredictably affect the future. For example, it could be that changing jobs results in your career progress being delayed by five years. However, by changing jobs you may meet the woman or man of your dreams, when you would have not met them had you not changed jobs.
We often trap ourselves in a state of zugzwang – pondering all the horrible ways our decisions may cause regrets in the future. Our fear of the unknown causes us to be paralysed by these choices. But as discussed above, our choices do not cause purely good or bad outcomes, but instead result in a simply different future due to the sheer number of variables that can change.
Ergo, there is no point stressing about each and every choice you make – you might as well pick one, see how it plays out and learn from the experience.