No choice, you say?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Very often, when we feel that we are unable to control the situations or life challenges that we are facing, we shrug our shoulders with a sigh, and say "no choice" or "I don't have a choice.". 

I hear this phrase very often, and it's like THE phrase we go to, to express our inadequacy at managing that situation. I hear it among teens who feel that they should be given more freedom from parents. I hear it often among the special needs community, especially when the child is newly diagnosed. When the parent tells me that she has "no choice" since the child is like that, I usually remind that one has a choice in almost all situations. One can definitely choose to walk away from that life, or brave the challenges with the child. 

To be honest, I used this phrase many times previously too, and it felt good that I could perhaps "blame" someone or something for the situation that I couldn't handle. Perhaps I was trying to blame God unconsciously so that I can be made a victim of my circumstances, and do not have to be answerable for my own actions.  

A friend recently wrote about this. His reflections aptly summed up my thoughts about this phrase "no choice" and I got his permission to repost it here. 

A Father's Diary (38) - No choice is a choice

That's one of the best Math lesson I had! No choice is a choice! Then my lecturer followed with the classic example," if your dad refuses to let you go for movie and you have to stay at home. That is a choice!" The whole lecture theatre objected the notion. We argued and by the second line, we knew we lost the argument.

Yes! No choice is a choice! And I taught that and choose zero is one.

We make choices everyday. Some choices are just by routine, almost mechanical. Ask some men what to eat for lunch and some will end up eating Hainanese Chicken Rice (easily 40-50% of the time).

Some choices are reversible but some are irrevocable. The choices all come with consequences. The choice of a bad outfit can be corrected the next day. But the bad impression due to the poor outfit (aka bad taste) is not so easy to to change.

The concern raised on the cross island line is one that we have to think very carefully. It is more than changing the outfit, more than choosing eating chicken rice or Mee Pok ta, hiam jio chor zui zui (aka dried fishball noodle with extra portion of chilli sauce and vinegar). A wrong move will lead to many downstream impact and sometime it's beyond our calculated risk and cost. Can we put up with the inconvenience? I think we should be able to.

In our family, we also have to make choices too. Some choices are good and lead to building a strong family culture. However, some bad choices are bad as they derived out of selfish desires. Then you can see some quibbling and squabbles. The consequences that birthed out of the bad choices maybe irreversible and the downstream impact may be worst than the cross island line.

In handling my children, we practice delayed gratification when buying toys. The result is that we can test their desire and see if it is just fickle wish or is it a deep sense of interest to buy a certain toy. Delay getting angry may help because that will give us a clear mind to think of another solution.

So for the cross island line, it's not a small matter. It's more than a child's toy! Since we all live in this island, and this is our home, then we need to make very very careful choice. The choice to delay the cross island may land a hefty cost that takes two decades or even a quarter century to recoup. But a irreversible choice means a point of no return, just like a broken mirror.

Now back to making choices at home. To continue to let the poor relationship develop at home or to allow bad habits to form without making a decision to change is not a no choice situation. Instead, it's making a choice. If you are hoping the change to take place but don't do anything then the change you hope for will not come. Einstein called this insanity if you are hoping for change.

Why do I toggle between the national issue and family issue. The magnitude of impact may not be the same but it is still going to hurt someone.

Borrowing a thought from my wife: Let the desire of change spur the determination to change, and delight of seeing the change is not far from the corner.

No choice is a choice but at times you can change the choice.

- Francis Lee 

We are always empowered to make a choice, and by knowing that, we can snap out of the victim mentality and start taking responsibility for choices made in those difficult circumstances.

So, the next time you are tempted to say 'no choice...', think again. Is it really a 'no choice' situation? 

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  1. Hmm, I never realised and wouldn't have thought of it that way. But it does makes sense and I too is guilty of saying "no choice" from time to time. This came as timely reminder that we all have a choice!

  2. It's true. When someone say there's no choice, he/she is already making choice of not doing anything or doing something.

  3. Aptly put. In my family, one of the key values we want to instill in our children is 'Take 100% responsibility. No blaming others, lead by example and make things happen.'

  4. I also use this phrase sometimes but will watch out next time before I utter this. There are many situations where "no choice" phrase is nothing but an easy escape to do nothing.

  5. So agree with you! I've taken the casual comment of "No choice" more seriously and considerably, especially after having kids. 99% of the times, we do have a choice in our hands, or like you mentioned, we can change the choice. Love your sharing!

  6. I *just* spoke with a mummy friend and she kept telling me, "Yah lah, no choice lor." and then the next moment, I read your post! I feel that saying "no choice" gives a person a "Get Out Of Jail" card? Like if anything were to go wrong with that "choice", he/she would have the immunity because he/she chose that path because there are no other.

    Sometimes, all we need to do is to look a bit further and explore more options. There is definitely more choices than "no choice"

  7. I agree that saying "No" is a choice. Sometimes when faced with a challenge, we have a choice to endure it in misery by pulling a long face or to go through it with the mindset that you can make the best out of it. The only "no choice" situation I feel is life and death. Haha, only God has that decided for us and He gave us free will for the rest :)

  8. It's true tho. Ppl usually say no choice cos its harder if they had to make it. Haha!


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