Choices

In my most recent blog, I mentioned that this one would follow up on the thoughts I presented; specifically, I’d offer some insight on how we apply our choice-freedom in our daily lives.

To get your mind in the same general space mine’s operating in, I’ll highlight for you what I think are the most important factors in the last blog:

  1. Choices abound; there are always choices
  2. Often, we don’t like the choices presented to us
  3. Saying “You gave me no choice” or “I had no choice” is a fallacy and, further, an abdication of responsibility for our own lives

If you want to see more about my thoughts on those topics, please feel free to refer back to the previous post.

Going forward! I want to begin by pointing out the picture above; we’ve probably all seen it, or variations on it. If you don’t know who Zig Ziglar is, then click here for more information. Who knows, he may be something you need in your life right now! The point is that what’s written in this picture is the very essence of decision-making. Decisions can be driven by fear; we can give the fear control, or we can control our actions despite the fear.

Before I dive in to this, I want to offer up two definitions.

Freedom (Merriam-Webster)
  1. the quality or state of being free: such as
    the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
    : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : independence
    the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous — 
    freedom from care
    unrestricted use — gave him the freedom of their home
    : ease; familiarity —  spoke the language with freedom
    the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken — answered with freedom
    improper familiarity
    boldness of conception or execution

Responsibility (Merriam-Webster)

  1. the quality or state of being responsible: such as
    a : moral, legal, or mental accountability
    b : reliability; trustworthiness
  2. something for which one is responsible : burden — has neglected his responsibilities

For today’s discussion, only definition 1 under Freedom pertains, with descriptions a and b being our focus; however, both definitions 1 and 2 pertain under Responsibility.

Now, on to the fun stuff! The first thing I wish to point out is what I touched on lightly in our previous discussion — when you begin to understand that you do, in fact, have choices or options, your horizons; your world; your entire life opens up, and you realize how much you’ve been limiting yourself. Under Freedom, if we look at the first two descriptions of “the quality or state of being free,” then you’ll start to see what I’m talking about.

Once you realize you have the power to make your own choices, you are removed from having to comply with an outside entity’s necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. You further become liberated from slavery or restraint or from the power of another. How’s that, you ask? Simple, answer I! Let’s imagine another scenario or two!

Scenario 1 has us at work. Now, back up a second, because this is something most people don’t realize, and don’t think about. When you accept a job, or are accepted as an employee — cuz yeah, both happen at the same time! — a contract is entered into, largely verbal but portions are also written. In short, this contract between you and your employer ensures that 1) you receive fair wages for fair work and 2) your employer receives work done for wages paid. Vacation pay, all that other stuff — that’s just icing on the cake. The most important part of employment is realizing that these objectives are the underlying purpose to the employment agreement. I wanna be paid, so I’m agreeing to work for you; you want a task performed, so you’re agreeing to pay me to do it.

One day, you’re blithely going about your work/tasks/etc, doing your thing, when your boss walks in and demands something from you that’s outside your responsibilities. In short, you’re getting paid to do this, and your boss wants to add that to your workload, without increasing your pay. To really explain this, I need to spell out that I’m not saying an accountant is asked to help another accountant with their work; more along the lines of an accountant also being asked to perform in a supervisory role without gaining the title (pay, recognition of authority), or is also being asked to assume administrative roles without the position you’re currently working in being revised.

What are your choices here, and what will protect your freedom? Again, let’s list’em out:

  • Comply without question
  • Question the nature of what your boss wants done (information is never bad!)
  • Explain to your boss that you’re overwhelmed as it is, and ask for what you need to comply with their wishes
  • Refuse

Naturally the first thing that goes through our heads is the cold, hard reality that we really need this job, and we’re terrified of doing anything to jeopardize it. That must be recognized; we have to support ourselves. And/or we have to support and provide for our loved ones. It’s that whole Responsibility thing being tied up with choices … the option we choose to pursue will impact our, and possibly others’, lives. Losing or potentially jeopardizing our jobs, for most of us, automatically inspires fear of not complying; however, making a decision this important from a position of fear is, perhaps, not the most healthy way of operating.

Recognizing that fear is important (and I’ll discuss fear in another post, it’s on the list), because until you acknowledge your fear, you’re liable to react, rather than to act. Reaction would look something like this:

Boss: “Hey, Isende! You’re doing such an awesome job, I want you to take over doing X, also!”

Me: Blank look
Me: *stammering* “Oh, um, sure, if you think I can handle it …”

Boss: “Great! The first thing I need is blah blah blah …”

Have you made a choice here, or have you blindly followed along what appears to be the path of least resistance? Sit back and think about that for a moment, cuz it’s important!

Action, on the other hand, is taken after one has obtained as much information as possible and then chosen an option, and it might look something like this:

Boss: “Hey, Isende! You’re doing such an awesome job, I want you to take over doing X, also!”

Me: “What would that entail?”
Me: “How do you see me being able to do that, as well as what I already do?”
Me: “Which task has priority, in your opinion?”
Me: “Will I have a new title, more pay? This isn’t what I was hired to do, and it’s going to mean I have to juggle my responsibilities, just to make it happen.”

Regardless of how our boss answers, we now have the information we need in order to make a decision. Further, we’ve put our boss on notice — we’re not a pushover, and we’re not just gonna jump for the sake of jumping. Understand that with that first question, and any subsequent question, we’re letting our boss know we’re not just going to blindly accept these new tasks. That, already, will be affecting our boss’s view of our value as an employee. A stupid boss would get pissed. A good boss, who values their company as well as their employees, would respond positively. Period. Now, let’s ponder our list of choices again. How we view these outcomes has shifted, because we’ve filled in the blanks with information. Maybe the supervisory role is only for a day? Maybe the administrative responsibilities only mean that we’re being asked to copy more people on a report? In other words, maybe these new tasks won’t be onerous, and will enhance our value as an employee.

Again, I submit to you, we wouldn’t have known that without asking questions first. Further, blind compliance locks us on to paths that can be destructive. If we just said “Sure, whatcha need?” then we’ve established a pattern of blind compliance — obedience, in short, but obedience which can cost us. The supervisory role may be permanent, and we may be given an employee who makes us grind our teeth, pull our hair out, and go home screaming. The administrative tasks may include attending meetings that take time away from our ability to perform our agreed-upon tasks without having to work overtime (paid or unpaid, but usually unpaid!), or it may include responsibilities for which we don’t actually have authority — which is, trust me, its own headache. In short, our work life has just become less ideal, and more frustrating. This directly impacts our lives; socialization, satisfaction, self-worth. Aren’t these things worth your taking the time to ask questions, so that you can make a responsible, rational decision?

With careful, reasoned questions; adequate information; a clear direction of where we want our own path to go, we can make calm, reasoned decisions that will positively or negatively affect all other avenues of our lives. No longer must we do something because “It’s expected,” nor must we give over our own ordering of our lives to someone else. Seriously. You can be a good employee — an amazing employee! — and still choose what you will do in each situation.

Scenario 2 has us out with friends. Everyone’s hanging out, having a good time, when one of our friends pulls out a joint. Or K2. Or whatever floats your boat. Now, friendship has its own contract, its own expectations. To be succinct it could easily be said that I’ll respect you, you respect me, and we’ll do our best to support each other even if/when we disagree. So, we may well know our friend smokes weed. However, not only does said friend pull out a joint in a public place cuz, don’t forget, we’re hanging out; no, the friend takes it a step further and passes it around.

Choices?

  • Point out that we’re in public and maybe that can wait til later
  • Take a hit
  • Pass it on
  • Chew out our friend for being an idiot and insensitive lout
  • Leave

Notice, I don’t have questions on this list. I mean, this is a friend, right? Someone whom you know, and who knows you? Someone you like, respect; and who likes & respects you? So no, no need to ask questions, unless you just want to point out the friend’s idiocy by asking “What in bloody blazes do you think you’re doing? We’re out in public!

Again, however, each choice has a price/cost/consequence attached to it.

If we point out that we’re in public, we’re operating in a protective mode; protection first and foremost for ourselves, but also for our friends. This can be good or bad, depending on whether the friends you’re out with are really friends, or just acquaintances. Oh, did I forget to make that distinction? Well, it’s an important one, but we’ll talk about all that at another time, as well.

If we take a hit, have we complied in order to be cool, or to not make our friend uncomfortable?

If we pass it on, have we made ourselves complicit in getting busted if/when cops show up?

If we chew out our friend for being an idiot and insensitive lout, will we damage that friendship?

If we leave, will we damage our friendships with the entire group?

I want to take a moment to make another point. Any time we’re faced with a choice, we have to find for ourselves a path leading forward that will do two things: It’ll help bolster our sense of self-worth, and it’ll cause us the least amount of regret possible. Until our eyes are opened and we begin to see that we actually do have choices, options; that our lives truly are within our own ability to control and manage, we often find ourselves following the path of least resistance. Shit flows downhill, as the saying goes; every choice we make including inaction will impact us in some future time. Blind compliance or inaction now can, and often does, lead to future regret; how many regrets can we pile up before we’re lost under the mountainous weight of self-loathing?

Now let’s jump to responsibility. It may not seem like that’s an important topic, but it is, and possibly most important when we’re discussing choices. You see, making a knowledgeable choice also requires that we consider all the possible outcomes of our decisions. Whoa! That’s a lot of work! However, it’s the absolute truth, as well. If we lost our job because we couldn’t — or wouldn’t — comply with our boss’s demand, then we’d have to find another job at the least. If we blindly complied with the demand, we would open ourselves to more demands being made and making ourselves miserable. So on and so forth. So, yeah, it’s a lot of work, and sometimes it’s all-important that we ask “Can I have a little while to think about this?”

You see, just because someone else is making a demand of you does not mean you have to react to their urgency. In fact, I’d say that it violates your responsibility to yourself and to the people who depend on you to allow someone else’s urgency to infect you. Robert Carter, an author and very interesting person, coined the quote “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.” This quote has been a favorite of mine for decades, and it’s helped me when I’ve found myself in those situations that seem to require an immediate response. Taking the time, even just a second or two, to step back and engage our brains allows us to consider our choices and options from our own viewpoint, weighing the risks and benefits, and then to actively make a reasoned decision.

In my little pea-brain, our primary responsibility must be focused on ourselves. Why? That seems selfish, right? Well, more on that topic later too! But for now, I ask that you consider the following:

If you don’t consider your own benefit, then you’re also not considering the benefit of those whom you’re responsible for. For instance, when I accept my boss’s demand blindly, I’m not accepting that demand only on my behalf — I’m accepting it on the behalf of my husband, who’s going to have to listen to me gripe and whine about how unhappy I am with the new responsibilities. I’m also accepting it on behalf of my children — meaning I may leave them having to tiptoe around the house because “Mommy’s in a bad mood.” These are simplified examples, but they perfectly define the point I’m trying to make.

Further, we are the only ones who live inside our heads. Really, think about that. For the boss, his problem ends once he’s passed it on to someone else. He doesn’t have to stress while you stress about how you’re going to perform these additional tasks, keep your work up to par, and maintain your normally pleasant demeanor. His worries are over, but you’ve blindly accepted a commitment that is going to make you miserable. No, we are the only ones who have to live inside our heads, shoulder the day-to-day responsibilities that can make life meaningful or miserable, and accept the outcome of a poor decision. In other words, when we make poor decisions we — and those near and dear to us — have to live with the consequences.

How can we possibly disregard the importance of responsibility when we’re faced with choices?

Also, there’s the fact that constant failure because we’ve acquiesced to someone else’s decisions will weigh us down, drag us into the mud, and seldom, if ever, let us raise our heads up. Back to the boss example: I’ve blindly complied, and now I have a ton of work that I can’t do to my best ability. In addition, my normal tasks are falling by the wayside because I can’t do everything at once, and eventually my poor job performance as well as my job dissatisfaction cause me to be fired. Now, by this time, I’m probably grateful to be fired as I’ve come to absolutely despise that job! However, now I have to go find another job, and in the meantime the stress in my household, among my friends, and in my mind are going to cause my head to explode.

That could get really ugly.

In my pea-brain there is no way that freedom can be disconnected from responsibility. Further, if we don’t accept our own ability to make and live with decisions, then we’re abdicating responsibility for our own lives. Our own happiness. We’re putting that responsibility in someone else’s hands; someone who is constitutionally incapable of living inside our heads, and understanding our needs.

In short, it ain’t gonna work.

Wrapping this up, I’d like to make a final point. Life happens while you’re busy making plans. Ask any gamer about “wife agro” or “kitty agro” and you’ll see what I’m talking about; we’re immersed in our happy little fantasy world, working with friends to slay that final boss … and the cat jumps in our laps, onto our keyboard, or the dog lands in our laps, pushing the controller onto the floor …

In short, yes. There will be circumstances that absolutely demand an immediate reaction. I do not negate that. But when you’ve developed the habit of thinking through your options and you’ve come to terms with the demands you place on yourself for your own happiness, your decision will most likely be along the lines of what you can live with rather than opposed to what you can live with. Life is what it is, and it’ll throw curve-balls our way without notice. We have no control, for instance, over our car being hit from behind. We do have absolute control over our actions, though. When our cat jumps in our laps during that huge boss fight, we can throw the cat into the wall, or we can gently disengage the cat, restore ownership of our keyboard, then tell our friends “Sorry, man, kitty agro!” Yeah, the entire group has wiped, and your friends are definitely less-than-happy; but the kitty’s been removed, and is not too pissed, and you can after all refight the fight, right?

I wish you the best as you begin muddling your way through making your own choices, and I’m going to leave you with a video I hope you’ve seen before; if you haven’t? You’re welcome. This video portrays the subject of “Regret,” and each of the people who wrote on this chalkboard made a decision somewhere along the road that they’ve regretted. I found the nature of the predominance of these regrets to be fascinating.

What’s Your Biggest Regret?

Every day is, in fact, a clean slate. Hell, every moment, every decision, every single choice is a clean slate. Each that we can make from a position of consideration is an investment in a better next moment, or better tomorrow.

Peace out, friends.

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Choices

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