Choice is a wonderful and important thing in life. Classical economic theory brought out the many imperfections of lack of choice through its analysis on monopoly. Governments, societies and individuals believe that choice and competition are in the best interests of consumer. In the ordinary course of life, an individual is beset with choices. One has to open an Education page of any Indian newspaper to see how the students are wooed by multiple options in education, from specializations to countries. Even a simple thing as dining in restaurant is not easy given the multiple individual and combo options that are made available. On a serious note, however, the individual has a right to, and responsibility in, making prudent choices so that the individual and those dependent on the individual benefit from the choice made.
My earlier blog post (Strategy Musings, February 28, 2015) titled “Deliberation, Information, Decisiveness and Implementation (DIDI) Model: A Logical Pathway to Progress in Multi-Option Life” (http://cbrao2008.blogspot.in/2015/02/deliberationinformation-decisiveness.html) articulated a model to progress in life. It suggested that individuals need to understand the true meaning and the essential relevance of deliberation, information, decisiveness and implementation as the four components of an accelerated journey of progress in life. The post also observed that despite the logic of such an approach requiring high deliberation based on quality information and quick decision making followed up by quick implementation, even intellectually capable people tend to vacillate or freeze in life because of digressions they encounter in their paths of progress.
Choice or chance?
In today’s world where information is overwhelming, and either certification or branding is common, there is apparently scope for perfect (or near perfect) choice. This need not necessarily be true. On may choose a good educational institution for study but the class to which one may be assigned could be random while the quality of teachers and friends could be even more random, with positive or negative results relative to others. One may choose an international travel plan with thorough research on the likely weather conditions but it could be beyond one’s choice as to whether an airlines management would or would not cancel flights for a particular level of storm. In life, choice and chance arguably play unpredictable roles, influencing the journey on path of progress.
Many times, a chance occurrence can cause dramatic transformations in the life of an individual or even nations. Nothing illustrates this better than the treatment meted out to M K Gandhi in rail travel at Pietermaritzburg station, South Africa on June 7, 1893 that transformed Gandhi’s life goal and eventually changed the course of history for India. In our lives, we do meet persons or pass through institutions that offer game changing opportunities. In some cases, well laid plans including established career options turn out to be adversarial. Chance in all such cases has to be coupled with choice to be able to overcome the adversity or utilize the opportunity provided by chance. When chance is met with by choice, the individual has to be resolute and diligent to embark on the new path with determination.
One step but long track
In several cases, the step one takes at the junction-in-time of chance and choice tends to have far reaching consequences. What appears to be one small step would roll out to become a long track. Perseverance and patience are the key; even if the track turns out to be different from what one envisaged, it would make sense to wait for the next time-junction of chance and choice rather than make hasty changes. In life, the same goal can be reached in multiple ways, and the fact of being compromised on a route that is not entirely of one’s choice need not deter one from switching tracks at a more appropriate time. Well thought out or opportunistic switches from one career to the other, or between work and education help one reach the desired goals, despite false starts.
Equally, not being patient and persevering could make people lose whatever value that is inherent in a path. Traders in commodities and stocks who are impatient tend to end up losing the corpus let alone making money. Yet, sophisticated algorithms and predictive tools provide a false sense of security for shorting the future. Emotional stability and contextual equanimity are two oars one has in navigating the choppy waters of progress. This requires that being reflective and introspective as well as being thoughtful and mindful is essential whether or not one is on a preferred track. Action or implementation is physical and tangible while thinking or deliberation is virtual and fleeting.
An individual has two important tracks to move on; the first is the implementation track which is real, physical and tangible, whether one likes it or not. The other is the deliberation track that is virtual, mental and emotional, whether one desires it or not. As considered in the earlier blog, deliberation track makes one get on to the implementation track. However, the deliberation track keeps on working even when one is on the implementation track. It is up to the competency and maturity of the individual to use the deliberation track to the advantage of the implementation track. The deliberation track has to constantly evaluate if the implementation track is taking the individual closer to the goal or a momentum change within the track or even a track change is required, and if so the appropriate timing in each case.
Mahatma Gandhi said “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony” He also said, “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes”. Albert Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. These quotes by the greatest of leaders in humanity and science respectively teach us that the power of positive thought can help one achieve one’s life goals; probably even set the goals right. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that one gains mastery over the internal and intrinsic deliberation track. Whether one accomplishes that through the practice of meditation and concentration or continuous self-correction is something for the individual to mull over and follow.
The above leads us to conclude that in the best way forward, the deliberation track is in harmony with the implementation track either acting as the way forwarder or course corrector. However, the deliberation track can be inhibitory, digressive, and sometimes even regressive. Consumer psychology is full of anecdotes wherein wayward consumer thought processes make for randomly repetitive purchasing behaviour of consumers. After a dish is ordered in the restaurant, the one ordered on the other table looks interesting. After a Samsung Galaxy is bought, Apple iPhone beckons for the next purchase. After one flight route is booked, another may look to be safer and surer. Deliberative waywardness may cause only minor dislocation in matters like these but could cause untold harm in more serious matters of life like education, career and family.
Dilemmas are not new to human life. Wanting to have everything is also a part of human life. The classic expression of “to be or not to be” by Prince Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet leads the pack on dilemmas. The human being desires to have the best of everything, at times illogically and at times greedily. The idioms “running with the hare and hunting with the hound” and “having the cake and eating it too” are strikingly descriptive of this innate characteristic of a human being. The culture of human evolution and the challenge of progress, however, require that the human being prioritizes what he wants and work towards achieving it. The ability to appreciate choice and chance on one hand and deliberation and decisiveness on the other hand is an essential part of the practice of human progress.
There are four ways the twin tracks of thought and action can interface. These are Aligned Harmony, Delayed Delivery, Random Digression, and Oscillating Freeze.
The most effective one obviously is Aligned Harmony in which thought and action are harmoniously aligned to the goal. Some of the best inspirational missions of individuals like Mahatma Gandhi’s independence movement or Nelson Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement and technological missions of organizations, be it NASA Man on the Moon Mission or ISRO’s Mangalyaan Mission (India’s Mars Orbiter Mission) are accomplished under the Aligned Harmony format. This corresponds with a high deliberation-quick decision format.
Delayed Delivery is beset by nagging doubts on whether the route pursued is the right one but at the same time is handicapped by lack of alternatives. This erodes confidence and commitment in the route pursued. This corresponds with low deliberation-slow decision format. Lack of deliberation and consequent facile decision making lead to tardy progress without commitment or belief.
Random Digression occurs when an uncontrolled deliberation track derails the individual to switch on to disruptively alternative action tracks. A researcher constantly in search of alternative hypotheses or research methodologies even while progressing on one hypothesis is subject to random digression. Achievement of goals can be highly sub-optimal for such individuals, relative to time and effort spent. This corresponds with high deliberation-slow decision syndrome.
And finally, Oscillating Freeze occurs when an individual (or organization) iterates himself (or itself) before accomplishing even the first milestone in each case. In this case, even as action track moves forward the thought track moves backwards. A student who does engineering course wishing all the time that he should have done medicine or a professional who has chosen a particular job wishing all the time that he should have joined the other firm. Such people freeze in their tracks every now and then as their heart and soul are not in what they are deployed on.
Individuals as well as organizations who appreciate and achieve aligned harmony between thought (or deliberation) and action (or decisiveness) understand the eclectic fusion of chance and choice in life, and the interdependence of thought and action, and therefore are made for sustainable success in a complex and confusing multi-option world.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on March 1, 2015