Choice: Investing in it and Looking the Other Way

No Comments » September 22nd, 2008 posted by // Categories: General Articles


Choice: Investing in it and Looking the Other Way

By Dr Olayiwola Ajileye

Many times we are faced with choices in life, usually at important crossroads where major decisions needs to be taken. I don’t know why this idea come to me but, it must be that, there is need for someone somewhere to review and reappraise what choices we make and not make as we journey along this terrain of human endeavours. By definition, choice is an act of choosing with care from a variety of options. It is often difficult making a choice in such situations between two, three or four competing options. However, it’s only a choice, which we consider the very best amongst equals that has to be made…the preferred choice.


The question then is what happens to the other options? How do we relate with the choice made? Many are able to stand by their choice and move on, but many are often in turmoil about the strategic advantage of the choice they have made, and lose a lot of sleep worrying about those options they have left behind. More often, there are those who, when faced with such situations, would not be able to make up their minds and decides on what choice is most preferable, and they simply, in that state of indecision, walk away from all the options available before them.


But in reviewing life itself, one can conclude that what we do, how we do it and when we do it is all about the choices we have made at different times. Hence, we see different outcomes in many of us as a result of the diversity of choices we have made at various times in life. Whatever choice one makes today may be inextricably link to what we become, or what become of us in the years to come. Therefore, the process of choice making is one that cannot be taken with levity and unenthusiastic consideration. It may determine which direction the rest of one’s life may go. It is hence, not really a game of chance, but a calculated painstaking exercise.


But when such choice would have been made, what happens to the ones left unchosen? It may help to look away, the economist would look at it from the point of view of forgotten alternative, the opportunity cost, but ordinary people would simply conclude that, what would be would be, life goes on!


But looking the other way may have either good or bad consequences. Borrowing from the Obama’s family story… “When Obama was a toddler, his father had declined a scholarship to New YorkUniversity that would have supported the whole family in order to go to Harvard. The Ivy League was, it seems, more important to the ambitious Obama Sr. than his wife and child. Deprived of a father’s love, Obama chose to build his own universe; an invisible centre where the failings and flightiness of others could do him the least harm, Obama was left with two alternatives: either descends into chaos as a lost soul or steel himself against the world in order to rise in it. He chose steeliness over surrender”


Obama’s Sr choice to look the other way is central to the way their both lives played out with two diverse outcomes. However, sometimes, in order to make your choice work well for you, you may need to look the other way to the options left unchosen and focus on what you have chosen, invest in it, work with it, walk in it and nurture it to justify your choice. That could make the difference between a good choice and a bad choice. Again, today, Obama is a shining example of that simple ideology. However, in situations where it resulted in strategically unwholesome choice, then it becomes a lesson in life which if positively appraised, may become an asset in the act of choice making and lessons of life.


Personally, after my O’level, I choose to do an A’ level course to enhance my skill and understanding in basic sciences and improve my chances of gaining admission to study medicine in the University. I had other choices which I left unchosen. Many of my contemporaries choose to proceed direct to other institutions of higher learning. At the time, I would not consider my choice to be the best options amongst the competing variables, but I invested in the choice I made in order to accomplish my personal ambition. The rest is history. In the same vein, Obama chose to embrace community service over and above corporate legal career. “Obama went to college at Occidental, in Los Angeles, for two years before moving east to ColumbiaUniversity. He worked in Chicago as a community organizer before applying to HarvardLawSchool – echoes of his father’s earlier journey—and rising to become President of the Harvard Law Review. Shortly after the Law Review election, David Wilkins, one of his Professors, told him that he would be happy to talk about which Supreme Court Justice Obama would like to clerk for. “He said to me, ‘Professor Wilkins, thank you, but I’m not very interested’,” Wilkins remembers. “And he said something like, ‘I’m going to use these 15 minutes of fame to get a book contract’ … and then he said, ‘I’m going to go back to Chicago, continue the work I was doing beforehand, and then I want to run for elected office’.” The rest again is history.


This is just one example in life, where choice making is crucial to personal achievement. There are times in choosing who to marry, whether it is really expedient to marry at all, and controversially, which country in the world should one settle in to live (Nigeria, USA, UK or Australia). The point is that choice has to be made, but for whatever choice one has made, give it your best shot, it may end up being the obvious demarcation between success and failure.


Dr Olayiwola Ajileye writes from Birmingham, United Kingdom


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