You need to think about your choices.”
This was how the teachers and staff in grade school would reprimand my daughter. It’s not a phrase I heard growing up. But I think I like it.
All humans have choices to make. Every minute I can make hundreds of choices. These choices happen in the framework of other society. We have a social contract of what is acceptable and what is not.
Laws, rules and customs.
But that doesn’t cover everything. I am largely free to make choices not constrained by laws.
Freedom is a slippery work. It’s easy to make choices that are exactly the ones I made before, running on autopilot of choices or assumptions made long ago before I thought about it.
How free are my choices? Am I the agent of my choices?
Being the agent of my choice is using my own will and taking my own action. Those choices add up to consequences.
The basic consequence is the experience of the action. I experience the thrill of jumping rope. And the further consequence of repeating that choice is I get stronger and my body is more fit.
The experience of eating chocolates is a delicious one, and the consequence of that repetition is my body gets fatter.
These are my consequences. I cherish my freedoms and I try to think about my choices.
I’ll be honest. I choose things I regret pretty often.
It’s those choices towards a goal I don’t regret. And they get easier with repetition.
Making the choice to do the hard thing takes practice. I want to point my agency at the best target. All those thousands of choices are coming at me all day. I am trying to think about my choices before I make them.
I remember one Lakers basketball game from 2004. One of my favorite players, Derek Fisher, was in the playoffs against the Spurs. I’d watched him for a few years and he was a solid player with many championships.
In literally the last second of the game, he made a choice. His team the Lakers were down by 2. I watched, knowing that there was no way for my favorite team to win, with less than one second left in the game.
But Derek made a 3-point goal in the last .4 seconds of the game. The crowd exploded. Jaws dropped in front of every tuned-in TV. Everyone watching that game remembers.
It didn’t happen by accident. He had made all the choices up to that point. He used his agency his whole life to arrive at that powerful moment. The choice to grab the ball, just when everyone had given up hope—it was a long trail of choices.
That moment, that story, inspires me. I want that in my life. I want to make the right choice at the right time to have the experience that I want.
I don’t want to save those choices like a fancy china. I do want to use it every day. I will drop the ball—metaphorically. But I’ll also sink the shots.
If everyone has a chance to make their own deals, why not me? With practice I will likely reach the goal. I’m a free agent.