Move Past Go

We’re often put in positions to make decisions we are ill equipped to make (especially when we’re young), yet some have lasting impacts on our lives. If only we could see how they would turn out, or at least have the wisdom of more advanced years to pull from.

Most decisions eventually lead to more decisions, though our usual goal in making them is to reduce or take away options. We had an option. We decided. Now it’s settled. No more decision…except the next one.

We have to watch out for decisions that result in the drastic reduction or changing of options. Do something deemed wrong and choices get taken away. You no longer have a say. An obvious example is breaking the law. Get caught, go to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect your $200. Options drastically reduced, and most of the remaining ones aren’t so nice.

So many decisions get made on auto-pilot, often with little real reflection about where they will ultimately lead. On balance this is good thing. We build guidelines and shortcuts from our environment and experiences to make us more efficient. We don’t have to actually decide because the decision is made for us and/or seems obvious. Of course…that can backfire.

Know that you have imprisoned yourself with your choices? We have all done it to an extent. Our lives are moving along a trajectory we set through decisions, most of which were simple or obvious. Decisions to comply. Yet as we choose, the more we find our options appear to be dwindling as time plays it out. How likely is it to end up where you want?

This is extremely hard to gauge in many cases, so we muddle along. We have to make them. Even choosing not to decide is a choice. So what can we do?

We inherently tend to weigh all we’re capable of factoring into our decisions as we go.

Really? If you believe that, I have a $200 bill in jail waiting for you.

What really happens is more limited. When we actually stop long enough to think about it we size choices up relative to past experience, what we want, and how much perceived risk there is. That’s usually about it.

Past experience is the weight we carry that informs us about the relative consequence of our choices…even though much of what has happened is probably more random or just the result of circumstances we didn’t have much control over. We’re also subjected to the perceptions others have of their experiences or beliefs, which in turn were fed from people in their circles of influence. We have little ability to be objective about it. Whether by our decision, influence of others, or simply some circumstance, what we believe in is the correlation of cause and effect. There is usually a lot more to it than what we perceive.

How good are we at figuring out what we really want? We really just want to be happy. For the most part happiness comes from within. It’s a perception all our own. And thus…supremely elusive.

We’re pretty good at sizing up risk most of the time, self preservation (or discomfort) being what it is and all. We tend to make decisions that minimize risk, but when we make a bad one we lose more than we want. Thus is the delicate balance of deciding how much we’re willing to let risks limit us. So when we encounter the unknown we decide to shut down or run away to reduce our exposure to things that might be harmful.

And let’s not overlook how our sociology (our need to fit in or look good to others) plays into these.

What a pickle. We guess. We reduce risk and hope nothing bad happens. If things turn out moderately okay we often find solace in knowing it could have been worse.

But it could have been better. Maybe a LOT better.

Religion provides a pass. A way to tranquilize ourselves. Suffer through the shortcomings of today in exchange for the promise of a better tomorrow. As long as we get to pass go and collect our $200 occasionally some of us can be content.

Oh, how I envy thee.

If that’s not working for you then maybe it’s time to modulate the parameters above. Change the balance. Get uncomfortable. You don’t want jail, but do you really need the metaphorical $200? Is that where happiness is? Running in circles?







13 Responses to “Move Past Go”

  1. 1 babicka September 26, 2014 at 11:41 am

    So many forks in the road on life’s journey with many made for us, ie where you were raised, how you were raised, relationships or lack thereof of family and friends, etc. Childhood often leads to decisions that you feel that you need to make for others, ie obligations that are rarely clearly stated. You touched on inertia which can be a powerful life force, almost as powerful as the fear of the unknown, of losing what is “okay” when you recognize that the clock never runs backward. The big decisions are likely made with some analysis of the pros and cons. But, it is the little decisions, the ones that don’t seem so permanent, buying a particular house, taking some job or dozens of what seem at the time to be temporary steps that indeed can become permanent, restrictive and almost impossible to change along an ill defined journey. Suddenly, or so it seems, you are no longer in a place physically or mentally because of age or finances or relationships that also come with baggage to “undo” what you did along the way when you didn’t give those decisions more than a brief thought because the price was right, the salary was good, and so on. That lack of thought and the failure to re consider periodically may have been because you did not recognize the potential importance of the decision perhaps though ignorance, naivety or carelessness but still the decision was made and the impact is long lasting.

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