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the ups and downs of choices

Posted Feb 10 2013 12:33am

Someone was talking to me about choices. 

She was upset that a choice she was about to make, while it was going to lead to a gain that was important to her, was also going to involve some loss.

It got me thinking how each choice we make is like that. Clearly, some choices involve greater gains and losses. Sometimes the gain and loss are quite small- like, for instance, what I choose to have for dinner tonight- I chose a sandwich, which was great because it was a very delicious sandwich. At the same time, I lost the opportunity to have, say, a burrito, or pasta, or... chocolate... 

Here's another example. I'm about to get to have a beautiful painting come live at my house. It's painted by a very talented artist and I absolutely love the painting. The artist recently emailed me pictures of about 6 frames from which to choose from. It was a really hard choice to make! I tried to imagine the painting in each of the frames.

Eventually I settled upon two that I super liked. They were different styles and I could easily see the painting in either of them- and I'd be very happy with either of them.

I finally chose one. Then I emailed the artist and asked which one he'd like to see his painting in. He was pleased with the one I chose... so, that's that.

This was a situation where no matter what I chose things were going to work out terrific. I mean, how could I go wrong with a beautiful painting in one of two gorgeous frames?!! And, at the same time, there was a little loss- the painting won't ever sit in that frame I didn't choose. 

So, what's the point of this rambling? Well, I think the point is that we often somehow assume that if we make the "right" choice everything will be perfect or golden or whatever. That if we figure out the "perfect" choice everything will feel great and there will only be things gained. The point is that, in reality, even the best choice we can make in any moment can have some gain and some loss. And that's not a reflection of us being lame or of us having made a bad or wrong choice. It's just the nature of choice.

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