A Matter Of Choice
“The future depends on what you do today” – Mahatma Gandhi.
What a powerful quote from the legendary freedom fighter and the greatest proponent of non-violence! A tree is what it is today because of a seed that was planted in the past. Similarly, we are what we are today because of the choices and decisions of our past.
Think about it…our lives are just a result of the choices we make. We make hundreds of choices daily…from getting out of bed right through to going to bed. We choose whether or not to have that additional slice of bread at breakfast, we decide whether we should wear that pink shirt to work, and many more such harmless choices. These little choices don’t affect our lives in a big way. But what about those important, life-altering choices we make – what to study, where to study, what career to choose, our relationships, our jobs, and so on? Every single one of those choices has contributed to where we are today in life.
Do you ever wonder about what direction your life might have taken if you had made some different choices? Sometimes when I’m in a pensive or reflective mood, I do think back to some of my life choices. For instance, I might wonder what would my life have been like if I had chosen to take up the offer to do my post-grad in the US back in 1984? Or what would my life be like today if I had stayed in India and continued my working career instead of migrating to NZ? Of course, I’ll never know the answers to these questions but it is interesting to realize that, for the most part, we are the masters of our destiny. Yet, we often tend to blame bad luck, destiny, or someone/something else for our plight when we’re not happy with our circumstances.
WHICH ROAD DO I TAKE?
As we walk on the path of our life journey, we come across many situations when we’re at the crossroads and unsure of which road to take. Unfortunately, while we stand at the crossroads, we have no way of knowing where the different roads lead to. We’ll never know for sure until we start walking down the new road that we eventually choose to take. We can do all the research and homework we like, but in the end, it is at best an informed or educated guess. Unlike a regular highway, where we can take the wrong exit and always return to the original highway by taking a detour, it is not that easy in life to return to status quo if we go a fair way down a new path. If only we had a crystal ball to look into the future so we could make risk-free and successful choices each time! Why does everything have to look so much clearer from the rear windscreen of life than the front windscreen? The expression “Hindsight is 20/20” is probably the answer but knowing the answer doesn’t make it any less frustrating, does it?
The challenge with decisions or choices is that we have to be bold in stepping out of our comfort zone and taking calculated risks. At the same time, we must avoid being rash and reckless. Now that is a difficult balance to strike when we have no way of knowing the outcome for certain. The best way forward in such circumstances is to be better prepared. The better our preparation, the more likely it is that we’ll make the right choice.
PREPARE AND PROCEED
So how can we be better prepared when it comes to making choices?
1. Better to make an educated guess than an uneducated one! So do plenty of research beforehand and know all you can about the possible consequences, positive and negative, of the choice you are going to make. With the kind of resources available these days to find out everything about anything, there really can be no excuse for lack of preparation. Apart from books and online sources, it is always advisable to ask someone knowledgeable about the issue at hand for their inputs. You don’t have to necessarily follow their advice verbatim, but having another perspective from a trusted and informed source can be very valuable in helping you be better prepared.
2. Get clear on your WHY concerning the decision at hand. Why is it important to you? Clarity will help weed out unnecessary thoughts surrounding the decision and make it easier to choose.
3. Think about the long-term consequences of any choice. Rather than focus on immediate benefits or pleasures, consider what might be the long-term effects of your choice. For example, if you are considering upgrading your car to a fancier, more expensive one, do the homework on what effect the purchase will have on your financial stability long-term rather than focusing on the short-term dopamine hit that the purchase will bring you!
4. Be aware that life is not all about having perfect outcomes. If we lived in a perfect world, we would be making perfect choices – each time, every time. But we live in the real world, so we can only make real choices and these choices sometimes go wrong. Rather than allowing regrets of the past ruin our present, we should take lessons from past bad choices or wrong decisions and keep moving forward. The view may be much clearer from the rear windscreen, thanks to hindsight, but you don’t want to be driving through life with your eyes on what you’ve left behind, do you?
“When one can accept that all their circumstances and life events are a result of their decision making, that individual immediately gains back their power to create” – Michael Austin Jacobs