The Psychology of Choice

The saying, “Choices have consequences” is a true statement that is sometimes bitter to hear. It is indeed a good example of the oxymoron – a bitter truth. Whether I choose to go right or left has direct consequences and this applies to every choice made by a person or group of persons.

Choices made may or may not be favourable to the person choosing, as other factors may be at play. Nonetheless, the ‘favourability’ of the choice is an important factor to consider because it is generally assumed that a person makes a particular choice with certain reason(s) in mind.

directions

Choices are made in order to achieve a purpose. It is expected that carries with it an awareness of what the consequences may be; however, this is not always the case. A choice may be made without a clear purpose in mind and much less an awareness of what the eventual consequences will be. Most situations cannot be completely controlled, hence the consequence of a choice made may spiral in unexpected directions and affect several and unforeseen ramifications beyond expectation.

Every day and every moment, a person is faced with making choices and decisions. That is why it is another oxymoron to say, “I had no choice.” Sorry, you had a choice. Choosing something cannot go hand in hand with not choosing. We always make a choice in every situation.

“To think that everyone else would feel exactly the way you do
in your very situation is merely an illusion you need to get out of.”

Arguably, we also choose our emotions. A person or an event may rightly provoke that emotion or feeling, but the choice to be happy, sad, angered, disappointed, calm, serene, positive, bitter, react aggressively, curse and so on, does lie with the individual involved. A proof of this is that different people would react to the same situation or provocation in very diverse ways and with diverse emotions. To think that everyone else would feel exactly the way you do in your very (same) situation is merely an illusion you need to get out of. Your choice power is at work.

Though there are circumstances that naturally provoke particular emotions such that any contrary emotion would be weird. For instance, the death of a parent, sibling or friend is naturally expected to provoke sadness, may be even anger, regret and/or pain. Nonetheless, the depth of this emotion, the length of it, and the continuing effect on the grieving person can largely be decided by the person. He/she may let the grief grow into depression, self-hatred, self-pity, psychosomatic illnesses, suicidal tendencies and so on. The power of choice here is for the person to seek help so as not to further go down to the point of hopelessness.

therapy

Yes, people react to same circumstances in diverse ways. This can be understood from what I refer to as the ‘psychology of choices’. A closer look at the psychology of choices would show that choices/decisions are made based on various factors. This could range from personality, temperament, history, background, experience, expectations, religious belief, fanaticism, ideology, personal philosophy, principles, interests, self-interests, goal, vision, to desire for self-preservation. This is why at every point in time, individuals are at different stages psychologically, and this is irrespective of age, physical look and any social class or status.

With this awareness that we are human beings carrying these existential psychological baggage on our backs, our interpersonal relationships and engagements with one another calls for patience, understanding, self-restraint, empathy, charity, humility, love and acceptance; acceptance across individual differences and diversities. This is required especially when it is most difficult to do so. Just remember, we are all carrying a baggage of choices, both past and present.

Choice of good or bad: Your choices today affect generations yet unborn and the ripple effect can go far beyond one’s imagination. This is what happens with the choice for good action or the decision to do bad. “Bad” here being defined as, with the intention to spoil, cheat, lie, bribe, defraud, embezzle, amass wealth, defame, defile, attack, hurt, maim, damage, destroy, and/or kill. The decision to be part of a gang that sets out to bomb people, kill and maim as many as possible is a choice that has far reaching consequences. Is this the best you can offer as your legacy to younger generations? Is this the purpose you were created?

Rather, the choice to do good (“good” defined as what is ethical and beneficial, not only to one’s self but also to society) also have far reaching ripple effects, no matter how insignificant it may seem. It simply spreads a humble ripple of goodness around.

right-and-wrong

Choice of who to help: To help or not help a relative, a step brother/sister or a friend has long term effects, though you can only do what you can. You are not expected to go beyond your means in trying to help others, but that help which can be rendered, if done or not has its consequences. A much younger relative may be in need of a mentor, demanding your time, advice or some resources to be able to find their destiny in life. Your choice to help that young man or woman may be THE one landmark that will set him/her on the road to a successful, happy and fulfilled future of achieved dreams.

The choice to educate someone: According to Victor, Hugo, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” As important as education is, it may be the best gift you may offer to someone. Doling out handouts or using the youth for your selfish political campaigns is not what they need. They need to have the opportunity to get a good education. You are rich, wealthy or blessed, why not set up an educational fund for the young people in your family, neighbourhood or community? You will be teaching them to fish rather than hand out fishes.

Choice of your own destiny: Your life is in your hand. You have more power than you may believe you do. Your daily choices shape, make or break your destiny (if you believe in destiny). Your life becomes what you make of it through your choice of thoughts, words, actions and daily decisions.  We are told: Life is God’s gift to you and what you make of it becomes your gift to God and society.

“Your choices today affect generations yet unborn and
the ripple effect can go far beyond one’s imagination.”

Faith amidst choice and consequences: For the man or woman of the Christian faith, a certain biblical quotation may come to mind, “For those who love God, all things work together for good”. The word refers to, those who have chosen to love God. This is very much in line with the power of choice. And as you may know, loving God has to do with intentionally doing good and hence all things working for good.

Another way to look at this is, even where challenges and seeming failure occur, which is a result of some choices somewhere, it still works for good for those who love God because there is already a basic positive attitude and hope for the better, and indeed, your faith works for you.

world-choice

Collectivity of choices: The choice of an individual contributes to what a community, a society or a nation becomes. This is irrespective of how little this choice may be noticed, recognised, or celebrated.
Think about this – The ripple effects of your individual choice goes a long way!

African saying: “You cannot sow yam and reap maize”. We reap the fruit of the choices that each of us make and that is how collectively, society either becomes better or gets worse.

Your choice-power is at play now even as we speak.

  • Linda Ellah

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