Friday, February 25, 2011

Your Choice!

Choices, choices, choices. I am discovering, however, that the real question is not so much what one chooses, but rather what one avoids. The difference in posture is readily apparent upon even the slightest analysis. For example, to debate a choice of alternatives almost inherently suggests that one or the other will go ahead; whereas a consideration of whether one wishes to avoid something altogether does not imply engagement. There is another respect in which the two views of dealing with the world are distinct. Merely choosing one course of action over another prefers the value of adopting that course for the sake of that course alone. On the other hand, determining to avoid an undertaking prefers the higher value to oneself of letting that matter slip away.

We would be an unenlightened lot if we imagined that others in the world are not motivated, some in the same way as ourselves, others in quite different ways. In either case the important feature is that people have motives and we are best served when we keep that in mind when determining how to interact with those people. Without being cynical it would be equally naive to ignore the very real possibility that others are driven by objectives which often do not coincide with our own. If one turns a blind eye to that purpose, it is inevitable that our personal objectives and theirs will collide, often with disastrous results.

At the very least one must be alive to the background of features which are likely to arouse another to action. To the man of action life’s daily exploits are an unraveling plot, a plot with purpose. It is unreasonable to assume that the plans of others can be made to meld with our own. Certainly arrangements can be crafted but the point is that one mustn’t assume all such intentions can be carried out. While this may sound obvious it is my experience that very often people jump into associations (and here I am speaking primarily of commercial associations) without first considering how well the proposal fits. To answer that question one must of course first have a settled idea of what it is that one wants to derive from the confederacy. If the determination is made that there is a mutuality of purpose between the two parties, then it follows that the objectives will be achieved. On the other hand a candid assessment of competing goals may foil the partnership at the outset.

There is a tendency to dismiss the utility of this line of examination. The risk that one runs is unwittingly to ensure that there is lots going on but nothing happening. Being busy for the sake of being busy is not good practice. If nothing else it merely defers the inevitable.

On a more abstract level the decision to avoid interaction can be liberating. The decision is after all founded upon a consideration of one’s own values. To be neglectful of those values is not only self-contradictory but it also contributes to stress which in turn contaminates the outcome. Furthermore it is a useful reminder that one cannot be all things to all people. The corollary of differences of objectives is simply that dissimilar things make the world go round. This concept is sometimes captured in the adoption of a niche market approach, a decision which by definition circumscribes what we do. The underlying thesis is always a combination doing what one knows best and what one likes. Anything else is a gamble.

Making the wrong choices in life can become complicated by the inertia of our decisions. Once we step onto that merry-go-round we’re in for a bit of a ride unless we’re prepared to take a hazardous step off. The machinery doesn’t always accommodate our change of heart, often because we’ve become entrenched. Bad decisions can then become bad habits, even harder to break. If we’re more clever than lucky we’ll be able to avoid the hidden dangers.

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