Most Of Us Are Overwhelmed By Decision-Making
We cannot rationalise everything we do, but we can be intentional about the person we are when we make our choices.
In the popular video game Life Is Strange, the protagonist discovers she can rewind time. The power isn’t limitless but confined to the latest event. For instance, she may say something stupid she immediately regrets; luckily, with some mental effort, the entire scene reverses a couple of seconds so she can keep quiet or express herself more eloquently. Of course, we can imagine the plot to take her to much more riveting scenarios, such as choosing her words when trying to talk someone out of danger or giving her friend another chance to wriggle out of a train track before an approaching train crushes her.
It is easy to imagine that such power in real life could send us in a spiral of lunacy. Even if we could only undo our latest decision, how often would we be tempted to use the ability? Every decision can be momentous: leaving home five minutes earlier or later might make the difference between life or death when crossing a generally safe road becomes risky because a drunk driver happens to blast through the traffic lights.
Choosing where to live or what job to have opens some doors and closes others. What would our life be like today if we hadn’t gone on that date, moved to that city or missed that advert? Millions of decisions brought us here and made us who we are. Some people believe in fate, and some in accidents. Regardless, unless we have the misfortune of being staunch determinists, we will agree we got to make most of our choices even when we had little say in them.
It takes far less than a superpower to make us lose our minds. If we stopped to reason about every decision we make on any given day, the effect would be similar. Thus, we cannot see every call as the potentially transcendental occasion it inevitably might be. Yet, we can choose the kind of person we are when deciding. We cannot know the best course of action, but we can decide how we take a specific path. We cannot be certain of the what, but we are in charge of the how. We cannot know where, but surely we know why. As long as we are happy with who we are when we make every choice, we are likely not to wind up living in regret.
Written while listening to ‘Transharmonic Nights’ by Peter Baumann.
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