Reality Check: The Tradeoffs in our Choices

Choice-making can be difficult. When you choose one thing, you close the door on something else. Giving up options can be painful.
If one option offered only benefits and another option offered only risks, then the choice hardly qualifies as a decision; it’s clear.
However, real choices—hard choices—entail tradeoffs where each option has both upsides and downsides.
We deal with a lot of tradeoffs in life. Maybe we’re not always aware when we’re doing that.
For example, you’re familiar with the tiny lettering on medication that discusses potential side effects. Some of those side-effects are pretty scary! But we determine, preferably with a doctor, whether the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks. It’s a tradeoff.
Relationships are another example. As you probably know, relationships can cause us hurt and pain. If we chose never to love, we would not be vulnerable to broken hearts, grief, or loss. However, the benefit of loving far outweighs the risks and downsides, doesn’t it?
All kinds of everyday activities have risks and benefits. When we hop in the car on a lovely day, it might not occur to us that we’ve made a tradeoff. But we have. We trade off the risk of being on the road for the benefit of the drive. Make it an icy winter day and we’re more likely to recognize and consider the tradeoff as we choose to go or not.
In Choice Theory, Dr. Glasser suggests that different people have different levels of a set of basic needs: security/survival, love & belonging, power, freedom and fun. A person with a low level of the need for love, and a high level of the need for freedom will consider the tradeoffs required in a relationship differently than someone who has different levels of those needs.
Some people may choose to do a dangerous job. The recognition that comes with performing a valuable, though dangerous, service is a positive way to satisfy one’s need for power and esteem. Even though danger entails risk, such choices may also satisfy the security need through high pay and career opportunities.
For other people, any perceptible level of risk is too much.
It’s all well and good when we can make our own choices that reflect the tradeoffs we accept to meet our needs.
However, sometimes others make choices for us that don’t necessarily reflect our needs and priorities. This brings a real opportunity for conflict, whether in a personal relationship or society as a whole.
We see that now, or soon will, in debates about when to relax the restrictive measures in place to stop the viral spread. There is no one right answer. Tradeoffs will be needed.
For some, perhaps with higher needs for security, any time is too soon. For others, with higher needs for power (the ability to go to work,) freedom (to travel or just leave the house,) love, belonging and fun (to visit, have parties, hug) the restrictions may already seem excessive.
It can be both frightening and disturbing when people who don’t seem to share our needs and priorities control what we do.
My hope is that we understand that what may seem perfectly reasonable to some may be perceived as too restrictive or too lenient to others. Those others don’t need to be labeled as callous and uncaring, nor timid and frightened. We just have different levels of the needs that motivate us.
So let’s be kind to the folks who are frightened, but also tolerant of others who have different needs and priorities from ours.
We all want our lives to be functional again. It may be a long haul. We are very different, yet also similar. And we are all in this together.
What necessary tradeoffs do you see?

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