I love Ted Talks. And recently I watched “How to make difficult choices” by Ruth Chang. Wow.
While the talk mostly focused on difficult choices; I’d like to take this idea one step back. The idea of thinking we do not have a choice. I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where we used the excuse, “…but I didn’t have a choice.” What utter nonsense. This is the easiest way to lie to ourselves – what we really saying is, “I had a choice but the other option was too difficult.” And people around us will nod their heads and say, “yes, you didn’t have a choice; so sad.”
We ALWAYS have a choice. ALWAYS.
I always think of that scene in Disney’s Pocahontas (yes, I’ve admitted this before I think – I loved and still love Disney) when she’s on the river and it splits…and she chooses the narrower, clearly more difficult path. When I was younger I always thought that’s how everyone should live…and as I grew older I forgot all about this. Life, it turned out, became easier to live through by always choosing the easier path.
So, when I watched Chang’s talk, the lightbulb went off. I had fallen into that trap of doing what was the norm (in her talk, she calls this society’s reward/punishment system) and I became what she terms a “drifter” – making decisions so the outside world could reward me and not punish me. What a CRAZY way to live. What a boring way to live.
The craziest thing is I look around and see so many people I know drift through life; making decisions based on what others think is right or wrong. It’s become a disease. How are we (you and I) supposed to be the best versions of ourselves if we drift through life? Imagine what we teach those around us? That it’s okay to not live to your best potential because society won’t understand or that it’s okay not to be fundamentally happy (not society happy) because we will not be rewarded by others?
I’ve been typing these blogs for 2 years now and I finally understand what I’ve been searching for. I think about what will make me happy on my death-bed and it will be this: To have lived as the best version of myself; to have shown all those around me that the best gift you can give is by being fundamentally happy; to have taught adults and children alike that you first have to be truly (heart-felt) happy before you can share this pure happiness with others; and that this is normally only reached by making decisions that lead you to unknown places and down paths less travelled.
What better gift can be given to our future selves other than showing that drifting through life is a waste? As Chang said, “Choices are opportunities for us to create who we are. When options are on par, we can create reasons for choice and no longer be drifters looking to the outside world to reward or punish us.”