Mon, 11/04/2013 - 11:10 — Dr. Brad May

The Trouble With False Choices

While people know when they have doubts about an important decision, this is rarely true about making a false choice. Here the choice looks so good that people pretend that it is good.

Massive agreement from friends and relatives tends to reinforce this. If their pretense is strong enough, these people might even convince themselves. The only giveaway is often that gnawing emptiness inside signalling that you're not truly satisfied. 

Woman thinking

Don't make decisions based on everyone else's opinion. (Photo by DANYBOUZAS)

An example of false choice was demonstrated by one of my clients Emma. She went to law school, largely at the urging of her parents, passed the bar exam years later, and then discovered that she hated to practice law. By then, however, the time investment, the prestige and a good salary made it very seductive to remain a lawyer. Not all of us have the courage of a Gauguin, to leave a successful banking career (presumably a false choice) and become a painter in the South Sea Islands.

To discover elements of false choice in your life, ask yourself the following questions: Would I do anything differently if I found out I was going to die in six months? In one year? In two years? 

To maximise our experience of satisfaction in life, it may be necessary to choose again.

This was an extract from 'Feeling Good About Feeling Bad: A Brief Guide To Optimistic, Practical Existentialism' by Brad May, Ph.D.

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