Decision-making or not

August 5, 2007

We make decisions every day.  Most are unconscious: taking a shower, brushing teeth, putting morsels of food into the mouth and chewing mindlessly.  Some are conscious: which pants look good with the flower print shirt, should I have leftovers or eat out for lunch.  Then there are decisions that take a little more hemming and hawing: Am I comfortable spending that much for a pair of bookcases? Should I get the car repaired once more or start looking for a new one? (Can you see where I’m going with this train of thought?)

Next are the life-changing, everything rests on this moment, what am I to do decisions.  Some are reflexive and may fall more into the area of reactions as you swerve your car away from the child that darts into the road.  Some you can see coming from a long way off as a significant personal relationship grows or withers and results in the move towards marriage or divorce.  What all of these decisions have in common is that there seems to be a choice involved and we have at least a little control over the path we choose.

I’m not so sure about this.  I believe we have a lot less control over our lives than we may believe and these decisions we make are a product of many other factors that lie outside of our sphere of influence.  We go along as if we are in control of our fate when in truth we move along pre-programmed paths, the routines we cling to in reaction to the experiences we’ve had.  When there seems to be a great change in our lives there may be a shift and it may seem to stem from a specific decision we have made when in reality we had no other choice and our decision is a reaction to the environment around us.

Now this is not to say that we should all just give up and do nothing because our lives are already fated.  Truly I don’t think any of us could if we really tried.  I’ve got my routine and you’ve got yours and we both have things to take care of in a typical day.  We’ve got to believe that the decisions we make throughout our lives are made by us and therefore they are significant.  I think that they still matter but may be less self-generated than we may believe.  I could also be wrong, these are just my observations from investigating my own life.  What do you think?


6 Responses to “Decision-making or not”

  1. Khambagirl Says:

    I believe in serendipitous meetings based on our decisions. Self-generated or not? I don’t know. I just want to enjoy the ride!

  2. Colton Says:

    After Spending an hour composing and recomposing a response, this is the only paragraph that I’ve left unchanged:

    I would hate to accept a theory that would suggest that all of our limitations are pre-defined and not within our realm of control. Even if we fooled ourselves into believing that our lives were not fated and found ourselves to live happily… What would be the point of living be except to merely exist?

  3. Matthew Says:

    Khambagirl-Yes you are right enjoying the ride is certainly important. And yes I don’t know how self-generated really plays into it…mere speculation.

    Colton-I would be curious to see the parts that you left out 🙂 The main reason I wrote about this topic is my fascination with the subject. How much control do I really have over my own life? If I let go of outcomes, does my life improve, stay the same, or get worse?

    And I think that your final question I will ponder over. I love the essential questions and this touches on one of my favorites: Why are we here?

  4. Colton Says:

    If you consider the unchangeable outcomes of our own, or others, past decisions to be the phenomena of Fate, then I would agree that it exists. To endlessly mull over the idea that there is an invisible force keeping us in some predefined “pathway” is just useless masturbation…

    “How much control do I really have over my own life? If I let go of outcomes, does my life improve, stay the same, or get worse?”

    I think that you and I have the ultimate control over your lives. You can achieve as much or as little as you can dream up. The people who let go of the outcomes are the ones you never hear of; they are watching Surreal Life, eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and cursing the world because they have control over their life…

    Wouldn’t letting go of an outcome just be exchanging your grasp on one desired path for another? Is it possible to let go of all outcomes?

    Our potential is limited by certain defining factors such as genetics/heredity, chance circumstances, past experience, and our willingness to persue something; this a fact. And of course we can not control all of these factors, but saying that those factors are under the control of some all-knowing and intangible source is a silly proposition. Although, Maybe that’s not what your saying.

    I don’t want to sound disagreeable, but I have always been one to question the validity of mystics, superstition, religion, and other beliefs of the suppositional sort… I think there is a point where asking “why?” becomes a futile endeavor, and that relying on experience is the most definite thing we can do as humans.


    This isn’t intended to challenge your viewpoint, but it certainly rants on my own, and possible cold, idea on the possiblity of the dictionary’s definition of fate. I hope it doesn’t offend you, or make myself feel like an ass when I re-read it after hitting the Submit button.

    … Six years of parochial school was a scarring experience lol.

  5. Colton Says:

    Wow, I knew what I ment to say, but I didn’t say it very well lol.

    *unchangeable outcomes of our own, or others, past decisions effecting our lives in the present to be the phenomena of Fate

    —past decisions affecting present situations

  6. Matthew Says:

    No I don’t believe we are “under the control of some all-knowing and intangible source” although I don’t rule out the possibility because I’m not eliminating any of the options. I’m not interested in establishing a belief system rather investigating the extent of control I have in my own life. I like to think that I am in control of my destiny but I’m not entirely sure this is true. Most likely it does not matter, I live my life as if I am making the decisions (maybe so, maybe not).

    I know that part of my decision to write this post was the influence of reading books that bring into question fate and control. (Right now I’m thinking of Kurt Vonnegut and ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’) Now was that decision under my control or am I just reacting in a sea of influence?

    Regardless, I appreciate your feedback and the opportunity to reflect a bit further on these issues.

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