One of the fundamental freedoms we all desire in our lives. That sense of self determination, control perhaps. We want to choose for ourselves, not have others dictate the content and direction of our lives.
Yet, sometimes choice can become a burden rather than a freedom. When we are surrounded by too many choices, we end up paralysed – unable to choose. A restaurant menu that goes on for pages and pages, any tile shop these days with thousands of options, and – as Harvard Graduate, Pete Davis says in his 2018 Commencement Speech – the unending choice of movies in Netflix’s infinite browse.
And for me at the moment – the endless choice of housesits across the numerous housesitting sites I’ve signed up to. The ever growing list of ‘Today’s New House and Pet Sitting Opportunities’ that arrives not once but twice a day from TrustedHousesitters.com. Should I apply or shouldn’t I? What about the ones I’ve already applied for that it clashes with? What if something better comes up? What about on the other sites whose emails don’t arrive for another hour or so? Oh, I’ll just add it to my favourites for now and think about it….
We become the proverbial Kid In The Candy Store, who stares at an endless array of jars of sweets completely enthralled by the wonder of it all, yet unable to choose what to spend their few pennies on. Fear sets in – what if we make the wrong choice? Not such a problem if we’re talking about which movie to watch, a slightly expensive problem if we are selecting tiles – but potentially life changing if we are making choices in business, lifestyle or love.
A few years ago, as I became determined to climb out of the fur-lined rut that my life had become, I asked the universe for lots of opportunities to do business. But as we are warned – “be careful what you wish for”. The universe dutifully sent me lots of people with all manner of projects, products and services for me to get involved in. But how could I work with them all? Which one(s) should I choose, which should I turn down? I became that Kid In The Candy Store. I dabbled around, tinkering with one then another and so failed to give any of them enough focus to succeed.
When I finally made a choice, the sense of commitment I felt to that choice drove me to action. There was a terrific sense of relief that all the other options no longer had any influence or power over me. By committing to something I had focused my energy and was able to achieve so much more as a result. As it turned out, that first choice didn’t bring me the success I had hoped for (perhaps another tale for another day) but I do not regret making it for an instant as what followed gave me some of the best learning experiences of my life.
Then there are times when choice is taken away from us – or so it seems. Sometimes “I have no choice” is actually fear of change or a socially conditioned sense of obligation in cunning disguise. We perceive the obstacles and barriers that seem to be in our way as taking choice away when often all we have to realise is that we are still choosing – choosing to make those interruptions and obligations more important than our dream.
Sometimes we think we have to choose between option A and option B, without realising that actually we can have both. Perhaps we feel having both is too confusing, too difficult but then we are, without realising it, making another choice – we are choosing to believe we can’t rather than choosing to find a way so that we can.
There is also the question of how our beliefs, past experience and the influence of others affects our ability to choose. How many people have missed out on a fantastic cruise because many years ago they once got seasick and don’t want to get on a boat again? My father spent his whole life convinced that flying was dangerous and so he never travelled. When we allow all this influence in, we choose with our minds rather than our hearts. This can again lead us back to the Candy Store with all our experiences and fears and the opinions of others keeping us hopping from one option to another.
It is only when we quiet all those voices, both internal and external and listen to the quiet voice of our heart that we are able to really choose. Will it be the right choice? Who knows. Only time will tell. But it will be a true choice and one that, even if it doesn’t work out the way we expected, we will never regret