My mind is an infinity of possibilities. This can be good or bad, but the choice is mine. – Marcus Aurelius
What does that mean?
While this quote is a bit of a paraphrasing of a very large paragraph, it still has some power to it.
In the paragraph, he speaks of both the soul and the universe, and how there are choices among the extents of infinity. The translation implies the soul and the mind are the same.
He also talks about how we make our own choices in life, and how those choices are important, as is the consideration and analysis which goes into making the choice.
These choices can be right, which includes love, truth, modesty and placing proper value on things. This implies that there are other choices, which are not as proper or as right, thus bad.
Why is choice important?
We all have choices to make. Where to eat, what to eat, when to go to sleep, when to get up. If you say you don’t have a choice, that’s because you’ve already made up your mind, already chosen. If you have to be up by a certain time, it’s because you chose to do something which requires you to be up then.
But if you don’t choose, or can’t choose, time slips by. Options start to disappear or change dramatically. The options may completely cease to exist, leaving you with no choice, as the chance has passed you by. And technically, deciding not to make a choice is a choice in itself.
If you can’t decide where to have dinner, and wait long enough, you don’t have to, because it’s time for breakfast. If you can’t decide the perfect time to ask someone out on a date, someone else might beat you to it, and you lose your chance. All because you couldn’t make the choice.
You need to consider your options, and choose the best one you can do, then do it. In doing, you get a result. Analysis of the result will help you choose more wisely next time. And when next time comes around, make your choice based on your results, and see how it goes. Repeat throughout your life.
Where can I apply this in my life?
I’m not here to debate the concept of free will (or lack thereof). Whether we are predestined to make a decision, or get to choose it ourselves, we eventually come to a decision, and make our choice. Even deciding to delay our decision making process is a choice. And sometimes, in that delay, our options are eliminated one by one.
Consider that the opposites of making a choice is delay, procrastination, and inaction. When there are infinite possibilities, there are quite a lot of things from which one might have to choose. How does one make a choice in such a situation? This is a classic open problem. An infinite number of choices would take infinite time to consider.
But usually, if we think about it, we can eliminate large chunks as being inappropriate for our beliefs or our value system. Most of what is left is either completely crazy or something we can group into a handful of groups of options. Broken down that way, we only have a few likely categories to choose between.
But if we stare at the vast array of the infinite possibilities, we can hesitate, we can worry, we can decide not to make a choice. Whether you call it analysis paralysis or some other term, having too many options is a terrible thing. By eliminating some, and grouping similar options, we can focus on making a choice.
Think back in your life at the times when you hesitated, when you didn’t make a choice until after the better options had become closed to you. Whether it was a job, a date, a chance at trying your hand at something you later found yourself enjoying, the feeling you have now is most likely regret.
Now consider what might have happened if you had made your choice earlier. Consider how things would have turned out if you made the correct decision (as defined by hindsight), as well as how it might have turned out if you’d chosen one of the other possible choices. What experiences would you have had, and how would they have changed some of your subsequent choices?
Making a choice without some delay for thought can be necessary, but often leads to less than optimal results. Similarly, making a choice with too much delay can lead to even worse results. As usual, the best path lies somewhere between the extremes. How do you determine what that is? By experience. It really is that simple.
What will you do the next time life presents you with a choice? How much time will you take to come to a conclusion? Are you facing one now? What is your next step?
From: Twitter, @The_HeroicStoic
confirmed at : loosely paraphrased from Chapter 11 of Meditations
photo by Julia Manzerova
categories (6-10, need 6 to match): mind infinity possibilities bad regret option