August 02, 2011

Open choices

You are free, but you have to choose something. My mother used to say: "an open oven bakes no bread" -- Paulo Coelho

Sometimes I feel like I don't have a choice. There is no choosing without alternatives. Well, alternative choices are all around us. Life itself is a series of choices: subconscious choices, immediate choices, well-thought-through choices, forced choices, emotional choices, hurried choices, bad choices, good choices. Living is choosing. And one recipe to give ourselves room to make good choices is openness. Openness about the direction a choice might take us in.

I am a social scientist, an intellectual, a people person, a traveler, but I might as well describe myself as a manager, an entrepreneur, an analytic brain, and a good networker. It's about the self-definition, not about the contents or skills of my person. By realizing this, a lot more choices open up to me. I don't have to follow a pre-drawn path that is determined by what I have done in the past. The Self that made those decisions does not exist, because every time a decision was made there was a random collection of (mostly unconscious) decisions about what experiences to pick from my past and what behaviors to nominate as "characteristic" of myself (my self!).
WWID - What Would I Do? in this situation is the question that many people ask themselves to feel consistent in their self-image. But a consistent self-image is a trap. It locks your choices into a cage that becomes harder and harder to break. To minimize the pain and anguish at our limitation, we proceed to rationalize the cage as the real us, our personality, and if we are lucky we can say of ourselves (our selves!) that we are what we have always wanted to be. there is so much more out there. Throwing the past overboard can be healthy. It's never too late to start looking again for what you wanna do with your life. Maybe you would love to start a new career, there are usually lots of new places that you would like to see before you die, or you could be looking for a hobby by crowd-sourcing the search.

What helps me are my advisors, the people around me that challenge my arguments for doing the things I do, but never stop me from doing something they did not really expect. Friends and family know me well enough to trust my decisions, once I have made them and still help me while I collect arguments for or against a certain idea. Change is always scary, but with people like this, it is half as bad!

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