Day 628: There is no Ideal Choice

Think of a hard choice you'll face in the near future. It might be between two careers -- artist and accountant -- or places to live -- the city or the country -- or even between two people to marry -- you could marry Betty or you could marry Lolita. Or it might be a choice about whether to have children, to have an ailing parent move in with you, to raise your child in a religion that your partner lives by but leaves you cold. Or whether to donate your life savings to charity. 
Chances are, the hard choice you thought of was something big, something momentous, something that matters to you. Hard choices seem to be occasions for agonizing, hand-wringing, the gnashing of teeth. But I think we've misunderstood hard choices and the role they play in our lives. Understanding hard choices uncovers a hidden power each of us possesses.  
What makes a choice hard is the way the alternatives relate. In any easy choice, one alternative is better than the other. In a hard choice, one alternative is better in some ways, the other alternative is better in other ways, and neither is better than the other overall. You agonize over whether to stay in your current job in the city or uproot your life for more challenging work in the country because staying is better in some ways, moving is better in others, and neither is better than the other overall. - Ruth Chang

This Talk has brought up a few aspects of choice that I'd like to discuss, so this may end up being more that one post - let's see how it goes.

Let me start with the point of making difficult choices and how sometimes we make a choice based on fallacies of reasoning or allowing certain thoughts to convince us to go one way or the other. The first fallacy I will go over is the belief that there is a 'right' choice and that all the other choices are wrong - this is not the case when it comes to this life and this world (unless you're writing a test - but even there the questions and answers are designed and influenced by people who have certain beliefs - so consider that there is no 'right' answer, but rather that there is only 'the answer the examiner wants you to choose').

Some common fallacies that I'm not going to go into too much are fallacies of perception which basically lead you to make unrealistic plans and projections of the future. Check this list of cognitive biases. Obviously pretty much all of our choices depend on our perceptions - so when we are not seeing the world or some point objectively and realistically, chances are that the choice we make is not going to turn out exactly as planned.

As you can see, most of the time we are not making rational choices anyway - we allow far too much clutter and chit-chat in our minds that influences us in our decision making. This clutter includes fears, anxiety, desire, fantasies, anger, jealousy, ego, etc. Having said that, everyone will face hard choices, regardless of how they work through those choices. For tonight I am going into only one aspect of hard choices, and that is that there is no 'ideal' or 'best' choice. Even when you have all the information, most of the time you still can't see which way to go. Sometimes this 'indecision' is influenced by the clutter in your mind, but sometimes it's not.

There simply are not many situations that have a perfect answer to the problem. Most solutions have pro's and con's that end up cancelling each other out. This is the unfortunate reality - but we can at least make these choices less complicated for ourselves by removing the clutter that adds to the confusion. We can make sure that we are not including all the stuff that sometimes leads us to the position of just taking the easiest path (in a way you're giving up your choice by allowing life and circumstances to choose for you).

Here is where i am going to tie in with the next post: being the director of your choices.