Decades of research have associated the ability to choose with many positive outcomes as well as increasing one’s sense of personal control and enhancing intrinsic motivation. Choice has powerful motivational consequences. But one who feels helpless without the ability to choose feels less satisfied with life, has lower well-being, and struggles with intrinsic motivation.
An interesting study of nursing home clients, found those who had a choice in selecting the food they could eat for breakfast or which night they could sign up for movies, or choose a plant to keep in their room, thrived in almost every way compared to the residents who were simply told what they would eat for breakfast, what night the movie would be shown and given a plant not of their choice to keep in their room. Additionally, those with choice and control had fewer deaths the 18 months following the study than those who had no choice.
Knowledge is an important tool in making good choices. Seeking knowledge should be a way of life. We should not go through life intellectually idle. Continuously learning new things, and increasing our knowledge can be developed through books or audio recordings, informative programs, using the internet wisely, or taking a class. What can help you grow intellectually, will better equip you to make wise choices that can impact your life in many positive ways.
Reason is also a very important tool. Since we cannot always know everything about a particular situation, or know everything about everything, we will need to exercise reason. We use what we know about a situation and then apply the principles we live by, the rules we have to keep, the laws that we are bound by, and good common sense. This can help us make good choices.
We use deductive and inductive reasoning to develop various rationales that can help guide our decision-making. We need to constantly work on improving our reasoning abilities. This can be done by meeting regularly with friends to discuss and engaged in stimulating debate/discussions/conversations. Taking a class on logic, philosophy, or debate can also help sharpen reasoning skills. Practice reasoning with yourself about different things throughout the day. The more we practice critical thinking skills, the better we become at making good choices.
Sometimes poor choices are made because we think we have no choice or very limited choice. This often happens when a person is under stress. Stress impairs our thinking and creates a feeling of helplessness. Learned helplessness can occur when the environment around us is seen as controlling events, with no impact from one’s own decisions or behavior having any influence on outcomes. Resolve not to let this happen to you. Determine to always exercise your powers of choice, no matter how persistent the adversity. This approach has the potential to improve your circumstances, no matter how desperate.
The ability to make choices has many benefits. For example, it has helped people stop smoking, lose weight, stick to a medical regimen, and attain higher academic achievements. You have the power to make healthy, life-giving choices. Making wise choices will bless you with abundant life, a life of purpose and joy. Choose life!