The choices we make and the lives we live
“Do you remember what Dumbledore said to Harry Potter in book 2, mom?” My teenager asked me this morning, a mischievous grin playing on her face. She knew I would have an answer on the tip of my tongue. My love for the Harry Potter series is no secret; the book set occupies a place of pride in my modest library. So I gave her the answer, without missing a beat, “ It’s our choices that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
My daughter is always amused at the way I can quote from the book, so she makes it a point to pop up with questions like these just to make sure I’m still good at it. Smiling and rolling her eyes for good measure, she went off to tell her dad, “How does she even remember all of this?”
It was then that I realised the wisdom in the words of Albus Dumbledore (actually J K Rowling), and how it applies so well to all our lives.
Choices. We make choices every day, maybe every hour. In fact, we make choices even when we choose not to!
Every choice we make determines our path ahead. What influences these choices? What are our choices based on?
Whether or not we realise it, our choices are based on our ‘unique internal philosophy’, which in turn is influenced by our experiences. A simple way to comprehend this is by using an example of a river. Visualise a river — as she flows, she absorbs the surrounding environment, the soil from the banks, the organisms, the foliage. She absorbs both good and bad, not differentiating between the inherent nature of the substance.
Our minds are just like that. As we live, we absorb life’s experiences, both good and bad, and these make us who we are. We absorb things from our own experiences as well as from the experiences of others. We absorb from the books we read, from the people we interact with, from the people we hear about, from incidences, occurrences, natural disasters, man-made tragedies , pandemics — each and everyone of these influence and build our internal philosophy, shaping it as a potter would shape a lump of clay.
We are very aware of what we choose when we are making big decisions in life, but it’s the little things that just slip by past us that actually create a path and influence bigger decisions and ultimately, our future. This is when our ‘internal philosophy’ builds up and influences our choices.
It is important that we learn to understand the rationale behind the choices we make and through this we will make better choices in the future. It’s a simple concept, really.
Let’s put this in perspective using an example of 2 fifteen year olds offered a choice of study courses. The similarity between both kids is that their fathers are artists. Now, kid 1 chose an art course, because her dad is an important influencer in her life. He teaches her, they have fun with art, so an art course becomes her obvious choice. Whereas kid 2 has problems with her dad. She does not like the way he chooses his art over his family. So, she chooses a science course (maybe unintentionally) to prove that she does not like the way her dad’s art takes precedence over her. Both kids made choices, but their choices changed their life paths. Each of these kids have had their dad’s behaviour shape their internal philosophy and they made their choices based on this.
Delving down into the reasons why we make choices, may help us know ourselves better and will enable us to move ahead with confidence. I have tried to uncover my internal philosophy to help myself make better choices.
Here are 2 simple ways to I use to understand the reason behind my choices:
- Question why: Every choice has a reason. I just try to ask yourself why. Being curious about why I do what I do helps me to find my internal philosophy and in turn helps me be more aware of my decisions and make better choices.
- Really listen to the answers: Being brutally honest with myself is not easy. Sometimes I don’t like the answers that I uncover. But accepting these answers as a part of who I am, helps me make the choice of absorbing it or discarding it from my internal philosophy.
I dig deep and hard to find the answers. It’s a constant process, but its very rewarding. With every choice I make, I understand my internal philosophy better and I’m almost always surprised! Ready to try?