I recently watched a TED lecture given by Ruth Chang on “How to make hard choices.” According to Chang, the definition of a hard choice is one in which we must choose between two equally good options.
In the research Chang sites, it seems that we construct our own reasons for these choices by trying to employ quantitative measures.
Chang states, “We unwittingly assume that values like justice, beauty, kindness, are akin to scientific quantities, like length, mass and weight. Take any comparative question not involving value, such as which of two suitcases is heavier. There are only three possibilities. The weight of one is greater, lesser or equal to the weight of the other. Properties like weight can be represented by real numbers — one, two, three and so on — and there are only three possible comparisons between any two real numbers. One number is greater, lesser, or equal to the other. Not so with values.”
At this point, I was wondering what the tipping point would be. It surprised me to learn that the tipping point is usually around the area of security. We tend to choose, in the end, not by the emotion that makes our hearts soar, but rather, we choose the option we deem to be safer. The problem with this paradigm is obvious. In Ruth’s case, she chose law when she felt she “should” have chosen philosophy. Many wasted years ensued. I know exactly what she means.
Values breathe in the qualitative atmosphere. Normal weights and measures do not apply. So how do we decide amongst competing values? I think that by trial and error, we can come out with the right mix: a little bit of love, a dash of security, a whole lot of variety, and 2 heapings of growth and contribution. What would happen if we chose based on the emotion we wanted to feel doing that activity, and not by the quantitative measures we are taught in school?
I think that is a challenge worth exploring this week. How about you? What if you renamed all of your activities by the emotions you feel doing them, how then would you structure your time?
Thanks for reading.
Until next time,
Chang’s Ted Talk: