The Power of Choice

My sister asked me last week if I was planning on going to our Kettlebells class that night.  I told her I really wanted to but I had to do this, and I had to do that; but for sure, next week..  I had been coming up with lame excuses for a few weeks, and once again I told her that I found the time to be rather late, and it’s hard to get out of the house after a certain time, and it’s inconvenient, and it’s far… blah, blah, blah.  But, I really really want to though, I told her.   Then she just looked at me and said, no problem L, it’s up to you if you want to go or not.  “You Choose.”

She didn’t pressure me, she didn’t cajole, she didn’t lay any guilt trips, she simply articulated the simple, but hugely important truth that it is indeed my choice.  I choose.  As obvious as this seems, it came to me as a sort of revelation, this concept of choice.  

Choice is huge.  It’s everything really.  It is what will define you as a person; what will lay out your personal boundaries; what will give you satisfaction and fulfillment in your life and most importantly, it is what will boldly empower you. 

We all understand choice at a basic level.  We make hundreds of little decisions, or choices, every day.  We decide to go this way or that way.  We choose to eat this or that; take this road or that one, talk to this person, or not; make this call now or wait until later  – go to Kettlebells class, or not go.  Choice seems like a simple idea, and on a basic level it is, but I think it remains a concept that must be internalized and fully absorbed to be truly understood and appreciated.  The power to choose our life direction, whether in small ways, or in big ways, is not only an inherent right, but a hefty responsibility as well if indeed we are to live the lives that we wish to live.  And given that we all have only one shot at life, this idea of choice takes on a particularly significant meaning in the scheme of things.

As simple a concept as choice appears to be, it is in fact not so cut and dried.  There exist a myriad of reasons and environmental influences to choose not to make choices, or not to make certain decisions in our lives.  Erik Erikson, a German-born American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst best known for formulating the Psychosocial Stages of Development would tell you that the ability to make choices, or make decisions, is a by-product of your formative years, and a matter of how you progressed through various stages at that time.  The ability to take decisions in your life, according to Erikson, is dependant upon the number of opportunities you might have had to make successful choices in your teens.  In order to be able to take any kind of decision during that phase of life, you need to have been challenged in some way.  Without challenge there is no need to assume a position, take a decision, or make a choice.  Absent those successful outcomes, confidence to make decisions or choices later in life falters, and one may in the long-run, become complacent, take a back seat, and allow others to make decisions for them.  When you give up your right to make your own choices in life, you give up a part of yourself – your life really – to someone else.  It`s a big loss.

There are other reasons why we might relinquish the chance to make choices in our lives.  We may feel impotent in the face of family obligations.  We may feel pressure to conform to societal norms.  We may feel the potency of destinies already written on our behalf usurping our right to choose.   We may even look towards the study of neuroscience and be compelled to accept that neural patterns in the brain decide for us and that in fact, our conscious choice is relegated to science. 

As huge as the concept of choice is, it is clearly not a simple matter.  It is neither black nor white.  But I for one like to think, perhaps naively, that we do have a conscious role to play in choosing the course of our own lives.   It gives me hope to believe that I have this power and that I hold the key to my own destiny and my own existence.  

This entry was posted in Existentialism, Happiness, Humanistic Psychology, Meaning of Life, Personal Growth, Psychology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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