The Building Blocks of Choice The hidden motivators choice Troy Murphy |December 2016
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Which way do I go, which way do I go? Life pushes us in many directions; opportunities, relationships, investments beg to use our limited stash of resources. We can’t do everything; we must eventually choose. It’s not as simple as choosing the right over the wrong. Most choices include both positive and negative attributes. Without a crystal ball, we must blindly move towards one choice, eventually abandoning other options.
We never know the outcomes of paths not chosen; but we can’t choose them all. The uncertainty stirs anxiety, making the point of decision more difficult. We worry about missing out so we postpone committing to anything. But opportunities not chosen fade, the window closes eventually eliminating the need to choose. We lose perspective partners, employments and experiences as opportunity passes the indecisive by. By failing to make a choice, we submit to fate, usually drifting down the easiest path that beckons the loudest. Our magnificent brain fabulously prioritizes and propels us in the right direction much of the time; but not always. We instinctively know many things and respond appropriately without much thought. Conscious thought, at times, might even interfere. Something feels right; and only later do we discover the genius of our intuition.
Intuition is not the answer. Life is infinitely more complex. The blinding intuitions driven by unbridled passions need to be curbed, guided and often resisted. With maturity, we recognize the danger in impulses. The flourishing person balances intuiting inner pulls with a cerebral evaluation. For some, volatile past experiences taints their view; the world is dangerous (and it certainly was). New relationships (that are not dangerous) still spark fear; the past bleeding into the present. The immediate intuitive reaction is to run, construct walls and limit experience. Others, confused by the past, recklessly abandon caution and carelessly engage in stupidity, damaging futures they could have easily been improved.
We instinctively reach for our phone when it beeps, even when driving on a congested freeway—a dangerous impulsive reaction. The unviewed or unanswered text message continually yanks for our attention until we yield. The impulse is wrong.
We are a complex bundle of instinctive reactions, intuitions, faulty logic, hidden motivations, and deceptive justifications. But history has shown that despite all the imperfections of human thought, our brains serve the species well.
The belief in an infallible internal compass appeals to our needs for security. Personal experience teaches that some intuitions reward handsomely while other intuitions failed, leading down disastrous dusty roads. Even unbiased, uneducated choices occasionally are right but this doesn’t suggest we wildly choose without thought. Either our ability to distinguish between impulses stemming from flawed motivations and the impulses enlightened by a glorious internal wisdom is lacking or this touted internal guidance system has a few flaws. I tend to believe the latter is the case.
We stumble through an unpredictable world; yet the human processing powers make enough sense of the chaos to formulate plans, spark reactions, and encourage thoughtful investigations. We make errors, but respond with enough right choices to not only survive but often to flourish. Starting with simple instincts, we continue to develop expertise in living, promoting refined skills that improve management of biological, psychological, and sociological impulses.
Our individual constellation of empathy, compassion, security, self-confidence, successes, failures, knowledge, experiences, beliefs, hope, and fears all factor into impulses and decisions. Over-simplified judgments of good and evil overlook the complex hidden ingredients of choice. There’s no simple path to skirt around complexity. True change doesn’t happen from a single choice but through addressing the underlying building blocks that motivates choice.
The work of change is slow and tedious; but lives change. We can experience more richness, happiness and intimacy in our lives. We are not condemned to our current state. Quietly and patiently work to move forward in gratitude, and slowly new blessings fall upon our lives, reassuring with a gentle peace, testifying to our hearts that we have lived life well.