Choices

Lately I have been wondering about the importance of choices in our lives. The power to choose what we eat, what we wear, where we go, and more importantly what we do to shape our destinies, is undoubtedly a gift…don’t you think?

It is the choices we make at different stages of our lives that determine what the rest of our lives would be like. We make a choice, which sets the wheels of fate in motion. Then, slowly, the consequences of the choice made unfold, revealing the colours of our days and nights to come. It is evident then, that our choices define our lives.

So what if we had made a different set of choices. Sometimes, when I am particularly dissatisfied with the familiar monotony of my life, I am tempted to toss the ‘what if’ question at the skies. Do you think that if we had chosen differently, at some point, over the years gone by, our presents would be considerably different? This question probably has more than one answers, arrived at by following different lines of thought.

One such thinking route made me reflect upon the lives of some of our beloved fairy tale characters. So, what if Jack had not chosen to climb the beanstalk? Then he would have saved himself the trauma of being attacked by a giant and would have been a pauper the rest of his life. Or would he? Think again. What is apparent about Jack’s personality from the tale is that Jack is a risk taker and an adventure seeker. He traded his cow for a bunch of beans. Would a guy who can defeat a giant fifty times his size, be dumb enough to do that? No. Jack traded for the bean seeds because they were ‘magical’. There was a promise of adventure hidden in the seeds and the excitement of the unknown hidden atop the beanstalk; and Jack being the enthusiastic soul that he was took the chance. Jack’s personality traits evident from his actions make me conclude that if he had not climbed that magical beanstalk, he would have done something equally unorthodox and adventurous; started off on a voyage into the unknown seas on a magical boat, perhaps, and would have ended up saving a princess and living with her happily ever after. Over exertion of imagination you say?

Let us divert our attentions to the pretty Snow White. What if Snow White had not chosen to take a bite of the poisonous apple offered by the evil witch disguised as a good woman? Would she not have lost all that time of her life sleeping in a coffin? Upon critically examining Snow White’s personality, it is evident that she is a simple, trusting soul who apparently hasn’t learnt exercising caution even by her life’s experiences. One would think that having been tricked out of her palace by an evil stepmother and almost killed by a hunter, she would think twice before trusting a woman who magically appeared in the midst of a forest with perfect looking apples! But people are what they are…aren’t they?  Snow White’s extreme goodness (bordering on stupidity, probably?), makes me think that had she chosen not to bite that apple, she would nevertheless have got caught in a situation that would cause her to suffer. She would have probably made some other equally disastrous choices as her core characteristic was not putting too much thought into her decisions.

Going over the lives of these imaginary characters, and also scrutinizing some from the real world, I am moved to think that while our choices do define our lives, it is we who define our choices. So if I had not made a particular choice at a particular time in my life, I would have probably made a choice not too out of character with the one I actually made. Sure, that other choice would have given a different shade to my present, but that shade would still belong to the same colour palate. For example, sometimes, when I see people pursuing fun unconventional careers, the ‘what if’ question comes up and rests on my tongue. But then I realize that being the conventional, non-risk taker, approval seeking person that I am, had I not chosen to pursue engineering, I would have chosen a path equally standard and carrying my parent’s stamp of consent.

So I conclude that if we effectively want to change something in our lives, it is not just our choices that need to be altered, but ourselves as well. Our way of thinking, our way of perceiving other’s actions and our general perspectives, all form the core of our personalities. Choosing differently while not thinking differently would be the same as painting over walls to give it a new façade. The paint would peel off sooner than later, and then, the scars of discontentment would show up again.

You may agree only partly with my hypotheses. But then, there are no paradigms that provide ALL the answers, are there?

Thinking…the right way!

When was the first time that you read about the glass half full-half empty paradigm? It was a very long time ago, wasn’t it? Volumes have been said and written about positive thinking. And yet, I wonder, do we really understand what thinking positively entails? How does looking at a glass of water and saying that it is half full change anything? The volume of water and the consequential satisfaction derived from the glass would remain the same even if we call it ‘half empty’ instead of the much applauded ‘half full’. Wouldn’t it?

Recently, a friend shared a story about how a baby mosquito came home and told his father that he had had a great day as all the humans he met kept clapping for him. The metaphorical tale set me thinking. The baby mosquito had a great day because he inferred human actions in a manner which could not be more separated from reality. However, what he perceived became his reality. In our lives, perception could be defined as the act of observing certain events occur and then making deductions or drawing conclusions from those observations.

One of the theorems of quantum physics (the entanglement theory) proposes that matter doesn’t has a definite state. It is the act of measurement that determines the state of the matter being measured. Or in other words, everything in the universe changes due to our act of observing it. Then by this definition, there is no ‘one’ universal realty. Our perception defines our realty.

Having established the importance of perception in our lives, the question that arises is: how should we perceive in order to make our ‘realty’ a pleasant place to be in? One way could be to take a cue from the ever changing universe and postpone drawing conclusions. The minute we draw a conclusion, or close our observations, regarding a person or a situation, our reality changes.

Telling ourselves that a situation is hopeless suddenly makes us lose all strength to better the situation, which in turn leads to the situation never improving and actually becoming hopeless. Maybe if we had just observed a distressing situation but hadn’t concluded that it is ‘hopeless’, we would still find within ourselves the will to fight, to dispel the darkness and, by our sheer efforts, see the light.

Telling ourselves that we dislike a person makes us view all actions of the person through the grim lenses of aversion and makes any future dealings with the person absolutely unbearable, thus making our reality very unpleasant. Sometimes, even after observing an event which makes us want to dislike a person, we can do ourselves a favour by postponing judgement and not letting the observation define our perception. Giving chances to people doesn’t always make us gullible and naïve. More often than not, it keeps us sane and our reality/our world a better place to be in, than otherwise.

So I think, that while all that happens to us in this life is largely out of our control, (call it destiny or the randomness of the universe), we could probably better our life’s experiences by wilfully attempting to control our perceptions. Concluding that the glass is half empty would cause us to brood upon how little the quantity of water left is, and then worry about what would happen when that water finishes; leaving us utterly incapable of deriving any satisfaction from that half glass of water. On the other hand, if we just observed the glass with some water in it, and did not draw any conclusions as to the quantity, we would at least enjoy the water while it lasted, and who knows, maybe lady luck would shine through and refill our glass before we gulped down the last drop. Worth a try, don’t you think?