Choice is the act of choosing between two or more possibilities. Control works alongside choice and is the power the influence or direct the course of events.
Our lives are the sum total of all the choices we make. So, while one choice does not seem so important it is when we consider that one choice leads to another and then another and so on. Each choice we make means it is more likely we will make a similar choice next time. Our choices build momentum.
In the late 70’s Judith Rodin and Ellen Langer explored the effects of decision-making and responsibility on residents in a nursing home. In the experimental group residents were encouraged to make meaningful decisions including when and where to receive visitors and watch films, as well as being given a houseplant to take care of. A comparison group was also given a plant but were told that the nurses would take care of it and were not encouraged to make decisions for themselves.
The results of the experiment were quite dramatic. The group given the extra responsibility showed dramatic improvements in health, happiness, longevity and vitality. Those given more responsibility were found to live fuller lives for longer time. This was a result of having increased choice and decision-making, as well as being given something to care for.
What does the above study teach us about the importance of choice and control?
Read the following anecdote and discuss it:
After a long, hard climb up a mountain a group of seekers found themselves in front of a great teacher.
‘How do we become wise?’ they ask.
‘Good choices’, replies the teacher
‘But how do we make good choices?’
‘And how do we get experience?’
‘Bad choices’ smiled the teacher.
Write about a time you made a good choice. What was the outcome? How did you feel? Write about a time you made a bad choice. What did you learn from it?
Discuss the following questions:
How do we choose one thing over another? How do we make decisions? Do we look to the world around us or do we look inside? How do we know when something is the right choice? Is it a feeling? Or something else?
How can we learn to make wise choices?