No choice

Hit and Miss #64

What do we mean when we say we “have no choice”?

Earlier this week, I was talking with a prof who’d forgotten when he’d scheduled the submission period for our class’s take-home exam. Off the top of my head, I was able to remember it. He noted that I must be very organized, to which I replied that, given my schedule, “I have no choice.”

But, of course, I do have a choice.

I don’t need to be organized. If I gave up on various priorities—marks, reduced stress, and so on—that organization would be less important. When I think that I need to be organized, it’s really a conclusion taken within a specific context, built on a set of assumptions. Rethink those assumptions, and the conclusion no longer holds.

This is true beyond my own experience. (Shocking, I know—I’m not a special snowflake!)

In most any situation in which someone might say that they “have no choice”, chances are that they’re taking that decision within a context of forgotten assumptions. Admittedly, it’s hard to probe those assumptions. (I certainly feel that I do need to be organized—those fundamental assumptions are so ingrained in me that I can’t easily see another way.) But closer examination often reveals a world of decisions that lead us to view a particular course of action as inevitable.

Though it may feel only tangentially related, I leave you with this piece by Charlie Loyd, on the California wildfires and our understanding of disasters. As I read it this morning, I thought through the world of decisions and forgotten assumptions that have led us to the currently dominant thinking about forests and forest fires. It’s excellent, I highly recommend you read it.

With that, I’m off to relax a bit—something I’d assumed I didn’t have time for as the term comes to an end, an assumption which closer examination has proven unfounded. All the best for the week ahead!