Life seems to present us with an endless stream of choices to make. Some of them we make without really giving them much thought. In fact most of them are like that. Every time we do something during the day, like get out of bed, brush our teeth or drink coffee, is a choice. Because we always have the choice to not do what we did.
But those types of choices don’t really deserve much of our thought or energy. They are just the things we do. But then there are the big decisions in life. The ones we contemplate and mull over, trying to find just the right answer. Which job do I want? Should I get married? Do I want to buy a house or condo? What should I do about care for my elderly parents?
Sometimes there are clear answers to complicated questions. Either we have a framework that leads us to a clear answer or sometimes one answer is just obviously better. In those times we feel good about our choice, we feel we “made the right choice.”
But what about those times when we don’t have a clear framework for making choices or none of the choices is clearly better than the others. What do we do when there isn’t a “right choice” but there are just choices?
This can happen in life fairly often. Life isn’t perfect and often it gives us imperfect solutions. No matter which route we go, that choice has negative results along with the positive. And as difficult as it can be to choose between two good things, it seems we often have more trouble when our choices are limited to only less than desirable options.
These are the options that can paralyze us. We are so sure that we ought to be able to find the “right choice” or “perfect answer.” When in fact it doesn’t exist. What exists is “a choice.” That’s right, sometimes we just have to make a choice…and live with it.
But often we don’t want to do that. We want the “right choice” and when we can’t find it, we start to feel like we have failed. If only we worked harder or were smarter we’d figure it out. There must be a “right choice” and if we can’t find it there is something wrong with us.
But here is the problem with that thinking. It just isn’t true. And worse, not making a choice is actually making a choice. By not choosing we are in fact saying we are unwilling to take control We will let whatever happens, happens. We often talk about feeling powerless but sometimes we actually give that power away. By not using our power to simply make a choice, we are giving our power away.
And here is the other interesting thing about choices. Once you make one…you’ll never really know if it was the right or wrong one. Why? Because you can never know how things would have turned out if you had made a different choice. No matter how well your choice turns out, another might have been better. The opposite is also true. No matter how badly your choice turns out, the other options might have been worse. So you can never know.
While at first blush that may seem discouraging and pessimistic, it really isn’t. In fact, if you embrace the idea it is very powerful and liberating. Think about it. If those difficult choices are just choices, you can just make the best one you can…even if it comes down to flipping a coin. Then, if things don’t go as well as you hoped it doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice. It just means you are experiencing the negative parts of this choice. Other choices would have had negatives, too. And you have know way of knowing if they would have been better or worse than the ones you are experiencing.
You may want to be perfect…but you aren’t. Life isn’t perfect either, so why should you be? So the next time you are faced with imperfect choices stop seeing them as a failure in you. Recognize that they are the result of life’s imperfections. Seize your power and make a choice. Life moves forward…move with it.