On April 26, 2003, Ralston, a 27-year-old mountaineer set out on a day of adventure in remote southeast Utah, alone and without telling anyone where he had gone.
“I dislodge – I pull – a large, like, 800-pound rock loose, that falls with me and eventually traps my right hand against the canyon wall.
He had only a liter of water, and no jacket. “I didn’t have plans to be out overnight,” he said.
But he was out overnight – five nights in all – 127 hours between a rock and a hard place
Ralston says it wasn’t long before he realized he faced an almost unfathomable choice.
“It was a conversation I had out loud with myself. You’re gonna have to cut your arm off, Aron. ‘I don’t want to cut my arm off.’ Dude, you’re gonna have to cut your arm off,” he said. “I said that to myself out loud in the canyon.” Link
Aron Ralston had to make the Choice to amputate his right hand in order to survive a mountaineering ordeal.
Each of us make a choice every second or fraction thereof, be it, to wake up at a specific time, to eat breakfast, to drive or take public transport, to take medication or not when we are sick and the list goes on.
Choice, be it trivial or life altering, and a choice whether it is in the affirmative or negative or not making one at all, is an integral part of our life.
To be able to choose, we must evaluate all available options and select one for the greater good especially in those that touches and affects the lives of others.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) located in the front part of the brain just behind the forehead acts as the brain’s command center. It is this part of the brain that allows us to choose rationally, to plan ahead, develop strategies, and also to adjust actions or reactions depending on situations. The PFC improves with age and process of growth and development continues well past adolescence. It enables us to focus our thoughts, thinking whilst learning or analyzing different concepts or activities including complex ones.
Many times the desire of choice is so strong that it could interfere with one’s ability to determine the best option possible out of all those presented. A perfect example is a retail binge which we yield to in that impulsive moment when we see something spectacular, though if we had exercised the power of choice, we may have decided to wait till later.
Today, we have many choices to live our life contrary to two or three decades back. The desire to choose is natural and one that is required for survival. But do we exercise our choice properly and what happens to those who are denied the choice of basic rights ?
Sheena Iyengar in her Book “The Art Of Choosing” (a must read) explains that humans voluntarily create and follow systems that restrict some of our individual choices to benefit the greater good. We all face situations in our lives may be at work or in day-to-day where things happen beyond our control. She refers to several studies that have found that stress increases when one works in circumstances where they had less control or brain perceives that they have less control than what they expected. But in addition to the stressors at work , we suffer from the daily grind that is beyond our control be it the pollution, traffic jams, delayed public transport leading to frustration and health issues.
However, we have the ability to create choice by altering our interpretations of what is around us. We have the choice to determine how we behave in challenging and less comfortable situations and it is this that distinguishes each of us.
I have been inspired by her book to write this post. She has also done a Ted talk on the same topic.
So how can we exercise our conscious choice for betterment of “You” and the world at large. Choose to
- Be positive – life is not a bed of roses. Roses grow with thorns and life will throw challenges which may throw you off the cliff, but a negative attitude makes it worse. Choose to be a realist but be positive.
- Be You – look at a child. You see authenticity, spontaneity and children just love being who they are. Always make it a point to be you and Choose You without hypocrisy.
- Be kind – You would like to be showered with kindness and that goes for each soul in this world. Pass on the kindness. Surprise yourself and others by a random act of kindness.
- Be happy – there is no Vitamin to be happy but “being one.” You control your happiness by the choices you make, don’t make or not choosing at all.
- Be helpful – don’t walk away and turn your face to someone in needed of help.
- Be appreciative of your life, people you have around you, and every little thing that matters. The fact that you wake up to a new dawn which may have been denied to someone else is one to be thankful for.
- Be Committed – Actions give power to your words, stay true to your word and the responsibilities that you have chosen.
- Be responsible for your 2*2 space, for protecting the environment, for spreading the right values and for leaving the world a better place than when you came in.
- Be Mindful – no matter who you are or what you are be human first and be mindful of what you do, speak and act. Remember that, “be who you want someone else to be”, make your deeds worthy of being emulated by others.
- Not give up – know when to walk away and when not to give up. In fulfilling your dreams don’t squash someone else’s dreams.
No matter what our background or differences it is the choices that connect us. Choice could be something as simple as to Smile.
Every choice you make has an end result – Zig Ziglar.