During a brief chat (not the Blackberry kind, the real thing) with a friend recently, I discovered something that I might have overlooked or taken for granted. My friend took up a job not long ago and absolutely loathes this new gig. I asked why would anyone do that to themselves and I was quickly informed that there is no other CHOICE at this point. I recall having used that same line many times and I quite understood because it’s a concept I am all too familiar with personally.
How many times do we give excuses for our actions or in-actions by blaming it on lack of choice?
In an episode of the nifty American TV drama "SUITS", the Uber smooth lawyer, Harvey Specter says to a naive but insanely brilliant associate Mike Ross "...when they put the gun to your head, it's not just give in or get killed. There are 146 other options..." Now that sounded powerful on screen as it must have in the writer's imagination. I think 146 might be a tall order in real life options but heck there can be more than the obvious two.
We often resort to the excuse of choice when we feel we have been boxed into a corner or find ourselves on the edge of a cliff. None of these hypothetical circumstances are pleasant when we are confronted by them - we have all been there. We so often get serenaded by stories of how politicians, executives, preachers, administrators, elders etc did not have a choice and had to act in a certain way. It’s a fundamental human requirement of daily life to make choices every day. I'm not going to dive into the consequences now, because most of the undesirable ones seem avoidable if another option was explored.
I feel there is a key-ingredient we often overlook or rather deliberately ignore - COURAGE. Wikipedia says it's the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Now, that is a nasty bunch that any rational thinking person will want to avoid - after all ignorance is bliss. This makes FEAR the opposing state of mind to COURAGE in a lot of ways.
I am particularly fond of the manner Dr. Spencer Johnson of the "Who moved my cheese" fame put a really interesting spin on fear "What would you if you were not afraid?" I first heard this from my good friend Mr. Omotosho - He also told me that the answer to that is simply "Anything".
My recent interaction with my work-frustrated friend gave me the idea that there is an antidote to the fear of CHOICE, especially when we desire the power “to do anything”.
This cannot be easy, besides the we have been hypnotized to automatically see the image of a lion when we hear the word courage - and who wants to compete that? Watching a slew of documentaries makes you wonder how much courage do Lions really have without their brutish physicality. Does a Lion have any more courage than a crocodile? Not sure if there is an answer to that. I have learned from my hefty diet of nature films on lazy Saturday afternoons, that its not the nature of the animal to be brave but the circumstances that activate the primordial survival instincts that make it act courageously. A good example is the amateur video of a buffalo calf at the Kruger National Park, South Africa, that was caught by a pride of Lions, fell into jaws of a crocodile and was so bravely rescued by its herd. The calf certainly was able to work out more than two choices. And for the Lions? They found the courage to flee. It can be debated that the bovine youngster can't possibly make a choice but merely had its survival instincts kick in. But isn't that the same thing we humans do? Based on our past experiences we appraise a situation, the options and possible outcomes. Then our rationale ascertains the cost, pain, danger, or intimidation - and these are the things we fear. The outcomes not the confrontations and that puts us in the same shoes as the buffalo calf.
I must admit I lack the courage and admire the calf from Kruger National Park. I'm not even talking about courage needed for martyrdom, NO - That's not always very useful to us, or is it? but the littlest courage needed to do small things like killing sleep to finish that book. Or sacrifice that thing you have grown so fond of but in reality has outlived its usefulness. Or quit the job you used to love but now loathe and do what you love. Or taking that odd course that will emancipate you from paid employment. Or making that trip you always wanted. Or simply ask someone those difficult questions you have been avoiding. As silly as this might sound I had to find courage to write this piece. My last post was 4th of May 2011 - a year and 5 months. What was I afraid of? You never know.
The question then is how does one find this courage? On the pages of self help books or through the voices of motivational speakers? Or through the reverent voices of our preachers or in the soft and encouraging words of those most close to us? I'm not sure there is a panacea for finding courage but there certainly is a natural deposit inside us all - in our instincts to survive, to evolve and to succeed. We don't have to dig deep even. It's just the other choice we are usually afraid to make and that is why a lot of us miss out on accomplishing "Anything"
1st November 2012