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Home » Features » Our Relationship with Choice

Our Relationship with Choice
by Jorge Waxemberg

What can I do?

First, I can review my present situation and identify those things I cannot change. I cannot change, for example, my age, my experiences, those things I have done and not done during my life, my real capabilities. Nor can I change my commitments, such as those to home and children. The only way to liberate myself from a commitment is to fulfill it-that is something I cannot change.

To accept what I cannot change is a matter of common sense, and it helps me to stop daydreaming about impossible fantasies and illusory escapes. It would not make sense, for example, to imagine that I don't have any obligations when it is obvious that I do. Nor is it realistic to imagine that I have a particular talent when it is apparent that I do not.

To accept what I am is simply to accept my past. That, in itself, cleanses my mind and heart of something that may seem like a limitation but which really is the foundation on which I can constructively move ahead. I have to learn to use what I cannot change . Knowing this enables me to determine what my options are, what my real possibilities are.

Then I am ready to choose.

How then do I choose well? Some people, facing the real choices before them, ask: How can I choose if I am not sure? Shouldn't I try different things, investigate all options, until no doubt remains about what I want?

Certainly it is helpful and necessary to investigate. But if we wait to make a decision until we are absolutely sure, until there is no doubt left, it is not likely that we will ever fulfill anything of value.

Our choices always imply an element of risk, a margin of uncertainty. Doubt is ever present in the human condition. Sometimes doubt is hidden in a corner of our minds and only surfaces at moments of great difficulty. Yet there remains only one thing that is certainty in human life: we are going to die. It is this certainty that in fact generates all our insecurity, doubts and vacillations. "Doubts" are really an aspect of our certainty, a condition of our reality.

Sometimes we do not face a decision because we would rather play around with our imagined possibilities, with all the things we would like to have and make. But nothing is achieved if we don't make a clear choice, and then make the effort needed to fulfill our choice.

In life, there are two kinds of fundamental choices we make.

The first we could call exterior choice. It is the choice of how I am going to use my life: what I am going to do, how I am going to do it, how I will support myself. Exterior choice implies career decisions, training, commitments to other people, lifestyle, and concrete accomplishments in work and human relationships.

But my real possibilities are much broader than the realization of my exterior choice. That is why, regardless of the success I might have in the realization of my objectives, I so often do not attain the happiness and fulfillment that I hoped for. After all, nothing can prevent me from growing older, declining physically, and gradually having fewer exterior possibilities.


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