It’s your choice.
How do I choose?
I don’t have a choice.
When it comes to choice, all too often we approach the situation with a fundamental misperception.
We think “choice” means selecting between good or bad, right or wrong, easy or difficult.
Sometimes it does.
But sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes choice is between bad and bad, between right and right, between difficult and difficult. In the Old Testament we have the story of Abraham being commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. In the more recent past, we have the work of fiction, Sophie’s Choice, in which Sophie is forced to select which of her children is gassed to death in the concentration camp. Choices are not always good, or easy. But, there is still a choice.
Daryl Conner, one of my change mentors, tells the story of Andy Mochan, the Piper Alpha oil rig worker who jumped 150 feet into burning oil in the North Sea after the rig had exploded. When interviewed on Nightline, Andy stated that he had chosen probable death over certain death. Andy made a choice–not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination–and lived to tell his story. 166 of his fellow workers on the rig died.
Daryl uses this story as a metaphor for the resolve that we each need when we are facing difficult changes. In executing your change, it is likely that there will be choices that are easy to make along the way. These are the “god/bad,” “right/wrong” kind. But there will also be antagonizingly difficult choices to be made..ones for which you are ill-prepared, for which you want more time and/or information, ones for which you shudder at the possible consequences of any decision you make. These, too, are choices.
My grandparents taught me how to play Pinochle when I was very young. I have forgotten and re-learned the game more than once over the years. But there is one lesson that I learned back then and have never forgotten.
We don’t get to choose the hand we are dealt. We always have a choice about how we play it.
What is your experience with choice during change?