Reality Check: Other People’s Choices

We make decisions—big and small—throughout our lives. Ideally, we would weigh pros and cons and choose the perfect win-win solution. Reality, however, often presents us with situations that offer no perfect option, yet we must still decide!
If you’ve been in the position of having only imperfect options, you know it can be a struggle. Often, we’d like to get results that conflict with each other. As an example, many seniors would like to be close to a medical centre, but would also like the neighbourhood feeling of a small community. Those interests can conflict. The reality may be that there is no perfect option.
Let’s take a look at two women: Irene and Freda. Both are thinking about the future. Should they stay in their present homes? Move to a city? Share housing with a friend or relative? Explore other options? How to decide?
One approach to examining options is by considering how each option could satisfy our basic needs, such as love and belonging, security, freedom and fun.
While the situations for Irene and Freda look similar at first glance, when we take this approach, we find differences between them that would influence their choices.
For example, Irene has a high need for security, so her concerns about the risks of living alone are beginning to outweigh her need for freedom. As far as love and belonging, Irene has a strong need to feel connected to a few people with whom she can share confidences.
Irene’s need for fun is easily satisfied with conversation, games, pretty much any activity that involves a couple other people.
Freda, on the other hand, loves to be with a group and prefers superficial connections. She would rather not be involved in the emotional sharing that is often part of intimate relationships.
While Freda has some concerns about being alone, she does not want what she perceives to be the loss of freedom that would come with living in a shared household. Freda may conclude that a security device combined with regular check-ins is sufficient to satisfy her need for security.
Freda has a strong need for fun, demonstrated by her love of learning. She loves museums, libraries, music and cultural events. A life without those activities, even if it met all of her security, housing, and medical needs, would still be a life that she would perceive to be dreadfully unsatisfying.
Because Freda and Irene seem to be in similar situations, we might think that they would make the same choices. However, if they are going to satisfy their very different wants, they would likely choose different options from each other.
We are sometimes inclined to look at other people’s decisions and judge them to be foolish or ill-conceived. “I wouldn’t have done that!” we say. That’s likely true—we would not necessarily choose as others do.
However, while we all have our similarities, we are each gifted with our differences too. If we are to be satisfied, perhaps even happy, it’s helpful to understand our own wants and needs, and to recognize that what other people want may be somewhat different than what we want!
When faced with a difficult decision, do you think that using this perspective would be a helpful approach for you?

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