Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Illusion of Choice

40 Reflections: 40 days of raw recollections during the Lenten Season

No. 24

What is the illusion of choice?

When the kids were little I made the decisions on the biggies: diapers: Pampers or Costco—Lunch: mashed peas or sweet potatoes—Naptime books: Good Night Moon or Bears on Wheels. As they got older they matched their plaid shorts with striped t-shirts for school and none were the wiser. It was THEIR choice. They were at the helm as the drawers squeaked open and closed.

Then I moved to the either-or choices: we can go to either the library or the book store. Playground or zoo? Success! As the kids got older, the onus was theirs. Soccer or mountain biking? AP or Honors? Baseball or lacrosse? Bus or drive? Kidding, driving always wins.

Making decisions is tough. But what about the time when we think we are involved in the decision making process but it turns out to be the illusion of choice?

When defined, according to best-selling author, David James Clarke IV, “The illusion of choice is a psychological mental model that states humans are happy if they believe that have control over their own actions and can exercise free will. If free will is deprived, or seemingly deprived, from an individual, they will become resentful or rebellious, even if the choice forced upon them is identical to the one they would have selected of their own accord.”

My Dad always says, when it comes to the kids, let them decide their plans for college, trade school, etc. “It has to be their decision” he reminds me. There has to be buy-in. In any situation, most people want control. When that control is relinquished, you lose passion, interest, and connection.

At home, work, school, or the ice cream aisle, if free choice is indeed the goal, rules should stay flexible and maintain the integrity of the framework.

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