Strong Guiding Values We need strong virtues to direct choice By: Troy Murphy |October 2015
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The felt experience of living is complex. We discount the power of perception. Internally, after soaking up experience through senses—sight, sound, touch, and smell—we order, extract meaning, and record. This is a biological process. The structure of the process remains stable but the results are extremely individual. Assigned meanings impact the felt experience varying the importance of experience. A single event may be registered as insignificant to one but devastating to another, leaving new psychological scars in need of healing. The building blocks creating felt experience vary, are complex, and compounding.
The underlying biological constructions intermingle with early childhood experiences creating the beginning basis for interpretations, strongly influencing whether we see the world as safe or dangerous. These biological and early social interactions form patterns of openness or protectiveness. These general attitudes then limit or expand experience moving forward. The sensitive child misses new and novel experiences creating greater disadvantages. Our lives build on the foundation of the past, brick by brick. The past is not the past at all. The past always remains in the present.
These inhibitions, inclinations, and childhood foundations are not death sentences. They will always remain but instead of a crumbling foundation ripe for lifelong justifications, we can confront them, reshape them, and ultimately use them to add to our glorious present. The past then becomes not an obstacle to success but a defining element adding to depth, wisdom and empathy.
As we mature, we can exercise some control over our surrounding environment, exposing ourselves less to harmful elements, and inviting more nourishing surroundings. Our choices, even the mundane ones, slowly reshape earlier foundations. Unlike the infant, we are not totally dependent, we can respond to events in constructive ways shaping the future and directing even negative experiences towards a more desirable life. Adults have the cognitive abilities to associate current behavior with future consequences. The more skilled we become with this marvelous mental capacity, the more power we have to shape futures.
Sensitivity to future implications of current choice is essential. We must escape the tendency to thoughtlessly react in an emotional stupor and then valiantly defend our stupidness with well-sounding, intelligently constructed justifications. This will not do.
Difficult choices bombard daily life. Often these choices appear insignificant, at least from the present they do. We must act without the comfort of a complete understanding of the long-term impact of present choice. We become more skilled with predictions over time if we consciously assess choices and their following consequences. We all make a few bad decisions. If we wait—over intellectualizing, worrying and avoiding--we miss wonderful and rewarding opportunities, surrounding ourselves with the sameness of not becoming.
We shouldn’t haphazardly chase every perceived rainbow for a promised pot of gold. This leads to chaos. We should wisely and cautiously approach novelty. We must invest time to avoid unneeded risks, seizing on the more promising opportunities while avoiding the riskier ones. Even cautious approach may fail. Persistence can bless and curse depending on the circumstance. Sometime cutting losses and abandoning objective is wiser than blindly chasing magical dreams. There’s no perfect science to effective choices. Wisdom helps, but unpredictableness of life interrupts. We will make errors. We will may stay in relationships we should leave, or leave relationships we should develop. We will never now the destination of the unchosen path. We must live with those decisions, move forward, and act constructively.
The choice between avoidance and pursuit are not clearly discernable. Living life in a forward-moving course requires risk, and a lot of courage. Inherited temperaments dictate allowable levels of risk and the amount of courage available for engagement. But remember, we’re not chained to inflexible genetics and pasts dooming futures to disappointment. We can break through these glass ceilings of biological and social givens. We can utilize the biological and early social givens in wonderful new ways. We shouldn’t curse our pasts; we must embrace our present. The small child underneath the rough protective exterior needs compassion. In the warmth of a self-accepting environment, the inner child can explore with safety.
The marble block of our biological and childhood experiences is formed and refined through present choices. Healthy choices, even the mundane ones, chip away the rough edges of our pasts. Being sensitive to the implications of the simple choices empowers us to create futures—not magical transformations but changes embracing the power of present choice.
To effectively navigate difficult decisions with incomplete knowledge, we need a solid set of standards. The conditions surround the choice are constantly changing. Choices made in the expediency of heated emotions will lead us off course. Without a structural foundation, our lives are subject to circumstances. Identifying and embracing principles of honesty, compassion, kindness, caring, fairness, and civic responsibility solidly anchors choice. Strengthening decisions and narrowing the possibility of error. With strong ethics as a guide, we no longer are tossed by the winds of change; we are a person of character. A person trusted to do the right thing--no matter what the outside circumstances.