“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”.
– Robert Frost (from the poem: The Road Not Taken)
There comes a time when we all have to make big choices about our lives. Whether it’s choosing between the good and the great, or between the devil and the deep blue sea, one thing is sure: we’re responsible for our choices, and we either enjoy or endure the consequences of these choices.
The test of choice is one that doesn’t come with grades but with consequences. In other words, we only know if we’ve made a good, great or bad choice by the consequences, which makes it even more scary and difficult.
Every day, people make choices on whom to marry, what career path to take, and many more – all with consequences soon realised.
There are three major determinants of most people’s choices; the natural tendency to do that which is easier, fear of the unknown, and societal or parental expectations.
As humans, we’re wired to take the path of least resistance – the easy way – to make the task less onerous. The consequences, however, for taking the path of fear or conformity, are usually a bitter pill for many to swallow.
For most people in business, for example, after recording a small level of success, it suddenly becomes too difficult to continue to put in the work required to sustain their success and achieve even more. Complacency sets in. They no longer work to improve their services offering or customer service. Before they know it, sales are on the decline, as is patronage and income. Choices come with consequences.
On the other hand, the few who make successes of their businesses are the ones who consciously go against the natural inclination to choose that which is easy. They do what is hard and profitable – always building on their successes, continuously improving their services, and working to serve even more people. Companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple come to mind. Their results reflect the quality of their choices.
The second determinant of most people’s choices is the fear of the unknown. Because of the fear of the unknown, most people prefer to take the path of which they can easily predict the outcome.
People fear starting a new business, because they don’t know if it will become profitable or not. They think they have a great idea but fear failure and an inability to make money from it, so most people would rather just settle for a job, where they are sure of a salary at the end of every month.
Another major determinant of most people’s choices is societal or parental expectations. These expectations and pressures influence most people’s choices in life.
Parents suggest to their children what to study in school, from what tribe they should marry, and who to become in life. And while they believe they do this for the good of their children, the consequences say otherwise in many cases.
Many people have not been able to surpass the achievements of their parents, because they travelled exactly the same path as their parents. You can only become the best version of yourself when you take full responsibility for your life, and travel your own path.
If you aim to get an uncommon result, then, just like Robert Frost, you have to dare to take the road less travelled by.
You are responsible for the choices you make, and can’t blame anyone else if they have negative consequences. Create your own path if you want, or follow everyone else if you want. In the end, the consequences will reflect the quality of your choices.
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