Opinion > Star Staff
Simple choices determine the bane or bounty of life
By Doug Smith, Reminders for the Journey
I think we have the possibility of actually making choices for ourselves, though I am not sure it is to the degree that some think it is.
The psychological field of behaviorism, whose hero in the '60s and '70s was the notable B.F. Skinner, was inclined to think that if we just had a little more information, we could predict the choices that people would make with great certainty. This school of thought was that we really don't have the freedom to make choices, as they are actually made for us by genetic and environmental factors that are beyond our control.
As an aside, I find it interesting that we don't hear much about behaviorism anymore.
Regardless, I am a bit more optimistic that we really can make choices and that, in fact, we do so constantly. The tough part about our choices, though, is that we have to live with the consequences, and sometimes they can be dreadful or worse. Consider an evening out in which an individual makes a choice to go to a club or bar for an adult beverage or two, which generally speaking is not necessarily a poor choice (though it's not one I make, as I have other temptations with which I deal!). However, the intention of two drinks over four hours leads to eight and by the time our guy heads home, he is legally drunk. Then, with his judgment impaired, rather than call a friend or a cab, he "chooses" to drive home, is then involved in an accident, and lucky for him that time, only his car is injured, but the accumulation of his choices still results in a charge against him by the police of driving while intoxicated. One poor choice after another!
We all know people whose choices we just shake our heads over as they seem to constantly make decisions that lead to a bad end. We are typically amazed and will exclaim our bewilderment of, "How can they make such poor choices!" However, none of us escape making at least some of our own poor choices, which, if we are honest, we all do.
Abraham Maslow, a psychologist of yesteryear, researched and wrote quite a bit about the notion of self-actualization, which basically deals with the hopeful potential all humans have of making consistently wise and sound choices. Maslow, in one of his books, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, writes about some behaviors that lead to actualization. One of them has to do with choices. In summary, he says that throughout a day we are all faced with a great number of choices, and that a significant amount of them present a "choice of progression" or a "choice of regression." He contends that in his studies of self-actualized individuals, that when faced with these kinds of choices, they will consistently make the choices that lead to progress or growth, and not regression or decay. Furthermore, their ability to do so ultimately results in positive qualities of life that most can only dream about having.
Simple choices begin with the choice to get out of bed and begin our day, or perhaps to stay in bed and seek to avoid the day. Of course, if one is ill, the better choice is likely to stay in bed. Then we have the choice of eating breakfast or not, which includes what we choose to eat.
Depending on whom you believe, some choices of what to eat are healthy and some are absolutely not. And on and on it goes throughout the day. Probably the most constant choice we are faced with daily includes dietary choices, and with such a vast array of food available these days, most of us are in constant conflict. In fact, some people ultimately arrive at a position in which they say they become "afraid" of food.
For the most part, choices that delay gratification are the better choices for most of us in the long run. However, lives become wrecked at worst, or compromised at least, because of our frequent practice of not delaying gratification. This is not new in our culture, and perhaps is just the musings of the older among us, but it seems that we used to do better in this regard than we do now. Undisciplined lives rarely provide much satisfaction or fulfillment.
Doug Smith is a licensed professional counselor. Reach him at 972-436-6227, email@example.com or visit his website at ccclewisville.com.
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