I’ve always been taken by the concept of choice. That may sound odd. After all how much thought can be put into what constitutes a choice or the act of choosing. It’s simply the determination of one option over another – right?
Well maybe it does practically amount to that, but I can think of what seem to be two distinctions within the general concept. I’ve named these myself as I’ve not done an exhaustive search of the literature to determine if this distinction has been hashed out already. If so, forgive me, and feel free to correct.
In life we seem to face Choices of Deviation (CD) and Choices of Absolute Direction (CAD).
Choice of Deviation.
These are the opportunities to choose something different from a current trajectory, be it relationship, job, living station, etc. Here we’re thinking of continuing along some defined path. Think career, relationship, etc. You take a job, then learn the job, then look for advancement in the job or other similar jobs. The boundaries defining the path may be fluid and varying, but they are in place. They may be derived from a societal or cultural standpoint, but none-the-less they are recognizable. Think about the typical relationship trajectory, you meet someone, you develop communication and intimacy, eventually the relationship progresses toward some form of commitment, then a family unit is developed and maintained, perhaps grown. Again, great variation in the specifics exist, but there are identifiable trajectories for certain jobs, relationships, etc..
Because there is a way forward that most likely will follow a natural tendency, with minimum effort, any choice along the way would be a deviation from that natural course: a change in job, moving to a different locale, ending a relationship in favor of finding a different one. This type of choice would seem to disrupt the current trajectory in some substantial way. But, if not making this type of choice, what can be probabilistically relied upon is the current path’s unfolding and eventual ending (baring other forced deviations not chosen by us). Forced Deviations (FD) are perhaps another category that lead to the other kind of choice, CAD.
An interesting tangent is the relation of motivation to choice. With CD, motivation seems to be a crucial aspect. The phrase “the path of least resistance” seems irritatingly true. Often, with minimum effort, we can continue along certain paths in life. Once the learning curve of a job has crested we can often ‘coast.’ Relationships often require a great deal of effort initially, after which, being together seems natural and comfortable, unfortunately often to a point of taking for granted-ness.
Change here, requires some discomfort more than any discomfort offered by the current path itself.
Something to cause us to reach an ‘enough-is-enough’ point is required. As we’ll see, this isn’t the case with the other type of change.
Choice of Absolute Direction.
This is the type of choice when faced with a realized end point. A common example for many is when we graduate high school. The end of a clear path is reached and now we are tasked with choosing from a multitude of ways forward. There is no longer any deviation from a current path in that a new path is to be decided/formed. There is simply no given trajectory the day we are done attending high school classes. If college is an option (and perhaps this could be considered a defined trajectory), then which college (there is certainly no recognizable path here). There is no status quo which to maintain.
A motivation for choice here seems less important as a choice must be made regardless of your wanting to make one. There is no warrant for the actual choice, but warrant for each of the available options. So in this sense the motivation may be a meta-motivation. It may require us to more fully assess our values in life and let those guide our to be chosen CAD.
All of this just seeks to examine the idea of choice a bit more. How many times in a week do we hear, or perhaps say ourselves; “I have no choice.” Is this true and if there is a choice, can you specify what kind of choice. This then allows a careful examination of the factors affecting the choice for a more self-aware informed decision. And that’s good, right?