The Right Choice

Last updated 3 Jan 2017 . 5 min read

A couple of months ago, I was hooked on to an American TV series Revenge, its protagonist a young woman named Emily Thorne, wronged by a well-heeled and well-muscled business tycoon and his family - The Graysons - staged in the Hamptons. The series was bold, the performances impeccable, the story tight and thrilling but the dialogues were stunning. I remember this one particularly, although not word for word perhaps – “The question is not about how tough the choices are. The question is whether you can live with the choices you make in life.” That got me thinking for a long time.

Yes, life is all about choices. And, many have said, “You always have a choice”. So, we go make them. Go for that club sandwich when a salad would have been healthier. What follows is a guilt trip that makes us forego dinner and then look for a midnight snack right before sleeping. Alternatively, we pick a salad when everyone else orders ‘a real meal’ and then wait desperately for people to share, but no one shares with us because we made it amply clear that we choose to eat healthy. At dinner time then, it’s time to binge “coz I only had a salad at lunch”. Either way, we end up feeling like we let ourselves down. I hope most of my readers are not fixated on diet issues so much but the point I am trying to make calls for greater attention.

It’s not just about whether we speak up or not when a situation calls for our response. It’s about whether we can be at peace with whatever response we choose to give at that moment. If you, dear reader, don’t believe how important this is, maybe a lot many of us would be spared the painful dilemma of the “what if…” What if I had not spoken those words to humiliate them? Suppose I had expressed myself clearly? What if I had chosen the career of my dreams? If I could just stop feeling so miserable about the choice I had to make… Maybe I could have just spent a few minutes longer in the changing room and I would have known I was throwing my money away… Maybe I should have listened to my mom… What if I had chosen love over power? Why did I ever say yes to this marriage… I had to say no to that deal, but maybe I could have made it work…? If what I did was right, why do I feel so wrong? – the eternal conflict.

Have you gone through any such situation? Where you have said a yes or a no, but you still wonder if that was the right choice for you, and when chips are down, you find it difficult to accept that person you were when you made that choice. You will survive but will you thrive? All a survival needs is a compromise, to thrive instead means to not just accept your choices, but to accept as well as celebrate the person who made those choices.

So, what can we keep in mind at a time when trying to decide whether to say yes or no? I’ve drawn on my own experiences and prepared a mental blueprint for myself that I have tried to put in words here:

Understanding Choices:

Priorities: The choices I am thinking of making, will it compromise any of my values?

Simply put, our values are those concepts, beliefs, or ideas that make our life feel worthy or valuable. Usually these are seen in terms of attitudes, concepts, beliefs, or ideas such as truth, non-violence, spirituality, etc but a value that you only wear as a wristband and not apply in your life in almost every instant where it may be called for, is not your value.

Happiness: If I am not happy, will I be able to make others happy?

Through my counseling sessions with students, executives, and even friends, I personally have worked out a pyramid of relationships: Myself, my family (or my loved ones), and work, in that order. Most of us make an inverted pyramid of this. Focus on being happy yourself, so that you can be a medium of happiness for others; and then success at work will work out, and even if there are ups and downs there, you will still be happy, cared for, and loved. In case you are beginning to wonder if the ‘myself’ here refers to selfishness, go back to point#1 where I have talked about values.

Acceptance: I made a wrong choice; will hating myself for it lessen my pain?

Make a course correction as soon as you feel you have made a wrong choice: and best is to align your choice with your values first, happiness later. Consult people you consider wise, but listen to your own heart. Above all, love yourself!

Prof. Himanshu Rai
Professor Himanshu Rai is an educationist – an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA), he used to teach PG and Doctoral students at Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow (IIML). Himanshu is currently the Dean at MISB Bocconi His core area is Human Resource Management, wherein he focuses on Negotiation; Mediation; Arbitration;Strategic HRM; and Leadership. He frequently conducts training programmes and workshops for executives as well as bureaucrats around the world. He has earlier taught in the HR area at XLRI Jamshedpur.

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