The paradox of “choice”

It gets me thinking whenever I come across an article or a talk from highly accomplished people relaying a message along the lines of,

  • You can choose to be whatever you want to be.
  • Whatever you demand from the universe, it gives it back to you.
  • Don’t live a mediocre life. Don’t let society choose what’s best for you.
  • And so on…

While thinking logically about these things, I always get stuck with this paradoxical question,

Do I really control what I choose?

And the thing is this question can be answered plausibly in both affirmative as well as negative. For the affirmative answers, there’s already so much explained in self-improvement contents about how I need to be in-charge of my life, or else I’ll be stuck in mediocrity. But what really is rare is the other (negative) type of answer. Fewer people talk about it, because it’s kind of weird thing to talk about. Here’s my weird attempt at explaining it,

Let’s consider the choice of me writing this post. I could say I deliberately made this choice. Hence I was in control of what I chose. But, to be honest, it doesn’t feel like this to me. To provide more context, here’s the backstory behind this post,

  • Back in my college days, I read books like “Think and grow rich,” “The Power of subconscious mind,” “Many lives, many masters,” and found them to be full of cherry-picked events that planted an idea of “delusion of control” around your life.
  • And then I watched this TV-series called Westworld which portrayed the idea of “what if everything’s around me is programmed (including myself)”.
  • And a few months back, I read some tweet on Twitter. I forgot the actual content, but it was some rant on books that promote having delusional amount of self-confidence.
  • And then yesterday, while watching a documentary, I realized how random “uncontrollable” events could yield random results in your life despite your true intentions. I related this thought to anecdotes from my life, and it made sense.
  • Then this morning again, YouTube recommended a video title “Dying: A guided experience” (typical click-bait video titles), I watched it, and it was based around the same damn idea. Here’s the link for those interested (great video btw).
  • And finally then thinking back forth about these events, I decided to write about them here, because I found the idea mildly interesting.
  • And here we are.

It’s funny how at every occasion in the above sequence of events, I was choosing and not-choosing at the same time. What I experienced had a direct influence on what I chose to do (like choosing to write this post), but what I experienced is influenced by much more than what I choose (things like YouTube recommendations, scenes in that TV show, the tweet, and the time gap between these events, me having nothing else to work on at the present moment, and so on). So what’s my takeaway from this?

  • I do choose what I want to do next. But “how and why I choose what I end up choosing” depends on my environment (a.k.a the universe). This further implies that how I really act is the consequence of everything around me, most of which is uncontrollable (this can also be an answer to the questions like “Who am I?” “Why me?” and “Why I’m the way I am?”).
  • So there’s no point in regretting any decision of the past, or regretting not taking a decision when I should have, because “choosing not to choose is still a choice.”

Just like you can curse yourself on spending time reading this profoundly pointless post, or you can simply let it go because it wasn’t you who chose it for you, it was the universe!

So would you let the universe guide you now?



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