5 minutes read | Podcast
On an average, we make more than 50 choices in a given day.
Should I hit snooze or get up from the bed? What should I have for breakfast? May be a just a cup of coffee is enought? What am I going to wear to office today (most of us may ask this question after the pandemic os over)? Should I work on something important or something urgent? Should I scroll through instagram or focus on work? What about binge watching a series in Netflix instead of playing piano?
So far I was talking only about the first degree choices, there are some second degree choices that we make, Which flavor of ice cream should I pick for my kids? How much should I donate for a cause?
This life is nothing but a mix of random choices science makes and some selective choices we make. We are influenced by lot of factors when is comes to picking one option over another. To demonstrate the same, I am going to ask you 3 questions about making a second degree choice and let you decide the answers.
You might be familiar with this expirement. Imagine you are driving a train, there comes a junction, you are suppose to go in track A, but you see ten kids are playing on that track, and then you look at track B, only one kid is playing (a track where no train is supposed to go). Here is your first question, what choice would you make? Do you pick track A and make that accident happen which would hurt ten kids who were not suppose to play there or will you change to track B and hurt that one kid who is playing in an unused track? You have to make a choice, you can’t stop the train because you are too close. This thought experiment in psychology is called Trolley problem. Now, remember the choice you made for a moment.
It is the winter of 1775 and the same incident I mentioned above is going to happen in Germany, this time you also have a super power to see the future of that one kid who was playing on track B, that kid is going to grow up to be a great composer and pianist. Will this affect your choice? Here is your second question, which track would you choose this time? Just remember this choice as well.
Same incident, same country, but it is winter of 1895. And this time you have another super power to see the future of all 11 kids. Kids who were playing in track A are going to grow up to become some petty criminals, the height of their crime is robbing a bank. That one kid who playing in track B on the other hand is going to grow up to massacre thousands of people and end up taking his own life. Here is your third and final question, which track would you pick now?
- Would you kill the kid who is playing in the track where no train is supposed to go and save 10 kids life just because the of the math?
- Would you take the life of 10 kids playing in track A, because you don’t know their future and trade their lives for one of the greatest pianist Ludwig van Beethoven?
- Would you take the life of Hitler knowing what is going to happen or kill those future petty criminals?
These are some psychological choices primarily based on ethics and human psychology. But there are also some mundane choices we make without looking for alternatives, like brushing our teeth in the morning, wearing an underwear when we are going to an interview etc., because, we know the consequences of not making these choices.
When it comes to making a decision to pick one choice over another, the major dilemma is not about picking the right choice or best choice, it is the feeling that we attach to the alternative choices that we did not choose. Take marriage for example, when you date someone and test the waters, you think so much before asking that person to move in or before getting married, because number.1 you have to feel this is it, and in order to do that, number.2 you have to let go of all the alternatives that you have gathered so far from the time you registered your first crush.
You see, to make a choice, we always look for the best option, but the problem is, sometimes two things are equally good. Why is it difficult to choose what is best, because real life choices are not like an aptitude test with marks to measure the best, instead it is all about the values and our reasoning behind those values. You evaluate your life partner’s values and give your reasoning to make that choice. Not just life partner, your career, your first house, your car and much more. When it comes to decision making, we are always looking for the values and add our reasoning to either feel good or bad about the choice that is in front of us.
However, most of the times these values are abstract and so we give the ultimate power to reasoning. As long as you have a reason, that choice you made has a great value. Which means, we don’t really have to worry about the alternatives. What we should worry about is, the number of options we have around us. The more options we have, the more difficult to decide.
I will finish with this quote from ― Roy T. Bennett author of The Light in the Heart
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make, makes you. Choose wisely”