The Sum Of Our Choices

Studies suggest that an average person makes 35,000 choices per day. And you will be surprised by this – “Assuming that most people  spend around seven hours per day sleeping and thus blissfully choice-free, [they make] roughly 2,000 decisions per hour or one decision every two seconds (Krockow, 2018).” You are about to complete one decision right now – and that is to continue reading. Thanks for that and I hope you decide to read on until the end.

 We are in constant decision-making mode. In a span of one minute, adults make more decisions than breaths. But it is not my intention though to dig deeper into the scientific details of this decision-making process  – like what behavioral scientists claim that 90% – 95% of our decisions are made subconsciously.

I just wish to point out what I consider as the ultimate consequences of the choices we made in the past and continue to make everyday.

You want to know? Read on.

The results of the collective decisions we made and continue to make are the following – what we have become and the kind of life that we live.

The person you are now – physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually (that is if you, like me, believe that God exists), whatever you have accomplished, and where are you in the established economic strata are the consequences of the all the choices you made in life. You and your life are the products of your choices.

To explain further, I could cite several studies  (the way I did in the first paragraph of this essay) and mention the contributions made by famous philosophers on the subject. But I decided not to go that route but instead share what our favorites characters in some movies said about making choices and how they shape us as a person and affect the quality of our life.

Before we revisit those quotes from movies, just allow me to drop what Albert Camus, a philosopher, said about the topic we are exploring – “Life is the sum of all our choices.”

I don’t believe in  the doctrine of predestination upheld by the followers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. It just doesn’t make sense to me why God would give us free will if after all He already preordained everything. What I subscribe to, even if I am a Christian, is what the Buddhists and Hindus believe that our destiny as humans is determined  by our actions, thoughts, and words. We therefore shape our own future through the decisions we make. The quality of our choices will  establish our value as a person and determine the kind of life we live. 

As Dr. Emmet Brown said in the movie “Back to the Future” – “We all have to make decisions that affect the course of our lives.” We have to do what we ought to. Subscribing to the doctrine of predestination would make us live passively waiting how the future that the God we believe designed for us would pan out.

Fatalism is fatal. To think that events in your life are fixed in advance and that you are powerless to change them is a death sentence. Tomorrow is yet to happen and you could control how the events would play out if you choose to. Your life is an empty script. You and you alone hold the pen. It is a travesty if you  allow others to write the story of your life.

The next hours (or days, or weeks, or months, or years) are yet to happen. You can plan ahead. You can control the events of tomorrow. But only if you want. Gandalf of the “Lord of the Rings” fame comes to mind. He said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

If you are not happy where you are you might want to consider what Chuck Noland in “Cast Away” told himself – ”I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean than to stay here and die on this s_ _ _hole island, spending the rest of my life talking… to a goddamn volleyball.

That exactly was my situation the year before I decided to cross the seas to become an expat teacher here in South Korea. My version of a s_ _ _ hole was that principal’s office which was like a lonely desolate island. I went there when I escaped from another s_ _ _ hole of place a year prior.

I chose not stay on those places for the simple reason that I did not have peace of mind, where I know I wouldn’t grow personally and professionally. So I did what I had to do.

What about you? How long have you been stranded in your own s_ _ _ hole island talking to your “Wilson”? When do you intend to make a move?

My loved ones and friends considered my going to South Korea in 2012 as ill-advised. I was being paid handsomely by the Pakistani owners of that Philippine school where I was. I had other sources of income as well. It was seemingly unwise (for them) for me to still want to work overseas at that time. That was for them but for me I don’t take risks (not even calculated ones) when it comes to my career. Teaching overseas was part of my career pathing.

I knew the path I was taking. I believed in what Santosh Patel said in the movie “Life of Pi” – “How can he find his own way if he does not learn to choose a path?” I chose the path that I felt would bring me closer to the realization of my dreams. I was  earning quite satisfactorily (as far as Philippine standards are concerned) at that time but I was still so far away from my dream of financial independence.

But it was not all about money. During those times, I was facing a personal crisis and I felt I had to do something. I had to do one life-altering decision. I was like Jake Sully, the main character in “Avatar,” saying – “Sometimes your whole life boils down to one insane move.”  The “Land of the Morning Calm” was the perfect place for me to tame Turuk Maktau – myself.

 There are times when we have to make difficult decisions. And I could tell you that leaving my family and my comfort zone to face the uncertainties that going to a foreign land brings was one of the hardest choices I had to make. And “the hardest choices require the strongest will” says the toughest nemesis of the Avengers (Yes! It’s Thanos.) Don’t be afraid to make hard decisions if you need to. Just make sure they are neither illegal nor immoral.

 Before I end, allow me to give one more line from a movie – “Life is a choice. You can choose to be a victim or anything else you’d like to be.” That’s from Socrates, not the philosopher but one of the characters in the movie “Peaceful Warrior.”

 It is my sincere hope that when your hair turns gray you would not repeat the lines delivered by Mike Banning (“London Has Fallen”) – “I am made of bourbon and poor choices.”

Let me end with an argument presented (not by a movie character this time but  by  Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher), “Predetermined nature, facticity or essence do not control who or what we are; moreover, one is radically free to choose one’s destiny and it is one’s moral responsibility to do so.”

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Krockow, E.M. (2018). How many decisions do we make each day?. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.sychologytoday.com

Sartre, J. P. (1956). Being and nothingness. (H. Barnes, Trans.). NewYork: Washington Square Press.

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