When you break it down to its bare bones, life is just a series of choices. One choice after the next, either contributing to or taking away from your future.
I got thinking about this concept when I spotted the phrase ‘Choice Architecture’ online and how you can build your life simply through the choices you make. It kind of blew my mind. We all know that we are in the driver’s seat of our own lives, but how often are we sat on autopilot, coasting through, day after day? I’d wager the majority of our lives are experienced on this setting and therefore most of the decisions we make are made unconsciously.
Of course you have the fundamental choices that keep you alive: I will have a drink of water, I will eat something now, I will run away from this fire. That’s all fine to be on autopilot in that context, otherwise life would be exhausting and potentially quite deadly. But when it comes down to character, the choices you make will be a direct reflection of just that: I’ll clean up after myself, I’ll help this lady carry her shopping, I’ll go to the gym today, I’ll start reading that book vs. I’ll leave someone else to pick up after me, I’ll let the old lady struggle with those bags, I’ll sit on the couch and watch TV again, I’ll spend the evening doom-scrolling and avoiding that thing I really should do.
I don’t generally like to see life dichotomously or in black and white – I think our options are so much more limitless if we choose a perspective that’s across the ‘colour’ spectrum and you’re open to flexibility in all areas of your life. But when it comes down to choice, it really is down to two opposing things: you choose to do or choose to not do. But there’s just the one teeny caveat to this.
As humans, we all have this built-in survival instinct/an identity construct that is designed to keep us safe: our ego. It’s the part of us that we think we are, that’s been built up of our life experiences and what we believe has shaped us. Though it sounds like it is, it’s not our friend (nor our enemy, more a teacher). While it likes the familiar, it thrives there because said familiar place is a dark and limiting one, built on the basis of fear. This is why we are so often stuck in the same tired (and often self-destructive) patterns that we can’t seem to change. But old habits die hard, right? Because we are creatures of comfort, because comfort = safety and for our minds (and ego), safety is the utmost priority. For our ego, this ‘safety’ is being stuck, even if that place is uncomfortable or even dangerous, because it’s predictable. But this illusion of safety makes it not so great for the conscious creatures that we are, because unlike other animals, we have the intelligence that provides (most of) us with this thing called morality.
Good/bad, right/wrong – some more dichotomies which also I don’t disagree with in this context – I think morality is a very subjective scale and there are always reasons behind why people do bad things (though not always pardonable). Like many things, morality – especially in the context of one’s behaviour towards others – is a muscle that should be trained often.
I don’t necessarily think morality boils down to solely the terms of other people; it also pertains to the individual. How you treat your mind and body and Self. How you go about your own life should also be in line with your morals (on the better side of the spectrum), because if you’re unkind to yourself and/or live without virtue, most likely, that’s coming from a place of pain or fear, which will inevitably be projected onto others one way or another. And there we have the full circle.
So in the context of making choices, the ego almost always will sway to the making of ‘bad’ ones, because the outcome is predictable and therefore safe. But in order to keep making healthy, empowering choices for ourselves (keeping in mind others too) we must first observe that we have an ego in the first place – the distinction between who we think we are and who we really are. Only then can we notice that we actually have a choice to be the architect of our own futures, rather than succumbing to years-old patterns that no longer serve us, that we never thought we’d be able to break away from previously. With every choice you make that serves who you really are, you will notice that while life starts to become a little more scarier in the unfamiliar, it will also become so much more colourful and humbling.
So there you have it. To sum up, life really is quite simple – it’s made up of the choices you make in every next moment.