Crossing the Rubicon.

It was a Republic before it became an Empire. Julius Caesar was a general for the Republican army, which was then based in northern Italy. He expanded the boundaries of the Republic into modern France, Spain, and Britain, making him a well-liked leader. His popularity, on the other hand, exacerbated conflicts between other prominent Roman figures.

Julius Caesar led his troops in the north and became governor of Gaul, now part of France. But his objectives were not met. He aspired to cross into Rome at the head of a large army. Such an act was expressly prohibited by law.

On January 10, 49 B.C.E., Julius Caesar led his troops from Gaul and paused on the northern end of a bridge. Caesar was considering crossing the Rubicon, which marked the border between Cisalpine Gaul—the region where Italy joins mainland Europe and is inhabited by Celts—and the Italian peninsula.

When he was deciding whether or not to cross it, Caesar considered committing a terrible crime.

Caesar would be making himself an adversary of the state and the Senate if he brought his troops from Gaul into Italy, stirring civil war. Caesar would be obliged to give up his command and likely go into exile if he didn’t bring his soldiers into Italy, giving up his military fame and ending his political career.

And so, Caesar’s legions crossed the Rubicon.

He is purported to have said:

> Iacta alea est

Which translates to “The die is cast”.

This phrase is often used to describe a situation where there is no turning back, where the decision has been made, and all that remains is to see how it plays out.

Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon was a pivotal moment in history, and the phrase has come to be associated with any similarly momentous decision.

And while we may not be facing a decision on the same scale, we all face Rubicons in our lives.

For some of us, it may be deciding to leave a comfortable but unfulfilling job. For others, it may be ending a relationship that is no longer working.

And sometimes, the decision is much more literal — like deciding to cross a physical Rubicon by moving to a new city or embarking on a new adventure.

Whatever the decision, big or small, it can be scary. We may not know what lies on the other side and worry about making the wrong choice.

But sometimes, we just have to trust our gut and go for it. Because while there are no guarantees in life, staying stuck in a situation that no longer serves us is usually worse than leaping into the unknown.

These types of decisions, the ones that cannot be reversed, are the ones that define us and that we remember the most. This is a key practical point is ensuring that we make decisions.

Each day, we must make dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions. What to wear, what to eat, what to do with our time. Some of these choices are so mundane that we don’t even think about them much. We just go through the motions on autopilot, which saves mental energy on the more significant ones.

They may not be life-changing, but they are still important. And it is worth taking a moment to think about these decisions. To pause and consider the options. Reflect on what we truly want and what is best for us in the long run. Because while there is no guarantee that any choice we make will be the right one, making a conscious decision is always better than letting life happen to us.

And when you are confronted with a genuinely irreversible decision, this is when you need to try and make the decision as late as possible, when you have the most information at hand. Not late enough that the opportunity slips you buy, but not as quickly as possible, as is the strategy for other types of decisions.

This is especially important if an irreversible decision is a keystone decision or a lead domino. A keystone decision is one where the outcome of the decision determines the feasibility of other options. It effectively locks you into a particular course of action, which means it is important to get it right.

A lead domino is a decision whose outcome will have a knock-on effect on other decisions. It may not be quite as binding as a keystone decision, but it can still significantly limit your options going forward.

So if you are facing an irreversible decision, take your time. Weigh up the pros and cons. Sleep on it if you can. Talk to people whose opinions you trust.

So, the next time you find yourself at a crossroads, take a deep breath, and remember:

The die is in your hands.

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