Bill Cottringer

“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” ~Kahlil Gibran.

There are some terrible choices we seem to have to make through all ages. Consider the following very uncomfortable choices confronting us all at different times in our lives:

• Youth: The choice of staying cool with the peer group and doing whatever that requires—even engaging in wrong or illegal behavior—and then suffering the dire consequences vs. being your own person, rejecting bad influence and then risking being friendless and going through the loneliness of social alienation.

• Young adults: Working for money and having nice things vs. following their passion and not having much to show for it, or giving in and being practical vs. fighting hard for idealistic principles in their lives and careers.

• Married or domestic couples: Accepting that you aren’t going to get your basic needs met in the relationship after assertively trying and then resolving that reality, perhaps for the same of children vs. risking the many painful consequences of having an affair, getting a divorce or being a single parent.

• Parents: To work hard, be absent a lot, but give their kids financial advantages vs. forgoing such financial aspects for better emotional connection, which may mean putting up with complaints and even contempt about what is not affordable.

• Our government officials: Trying to choose between what wealthy and powerful constituents want who put them in office and can just as easily take them out of office vs. doing what is right and risking the consequences; or trying to choose healthy resolutions to irresolvable divergent social problems like justice vs. mercy or freedom vs. equality, especially when what is needed at the time isn’t supported by the majority of voters.

• Unemployed people: Collecting money for doing nothing because it is more sensible than working for minimum wage with child care and commuting expenses vs. saving your self-respect and working for less than cost-effective results.

• Employers: Maintaining strict work performance standards and holding employees accountable for the company’s profitability when that is needed most vs. being lenient and patient with employees learning from their mistakes.

• Poor people: Deciding between having a small birthday celebration for your young child vs. paying the gas bill to have heat for the winter or buy new shoes that are needed badly to go to work.

• Religious-minded people: Forgoing even reasonable short range pleasures to reduce life’s distresses for the blind hope of a better life in heaven vs. being normal and risking an eternal sentence in hell.

• Aged persons: Feeling bad all the time with limitations, worrying and ailments, but accepting these things as inevitable vs. giving in to normal complaining and negative thoughts to help release the frustrations, but being labeled a pessimist which never helps anything and actually makes everything worse.

• All of us: Being honest and open with our reactions to other people vs. keeping them to ourselves.

The reason why these choices seem so terrible is that they put you between a rock and hard place with the catch-22 of dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. These terrible choices are classic double approach-avoidance conflicts. Both sides of the equation have plusses and minuses which makes the choosing so painful and difficult.

Now, go back and re-read “The Prophet’s” opening quote, which is so profound. It simply means that you have to accept some responsibility for sliding into these terrible dilemmas somehow and someway, without blaming it on life, which is very easy to do. I think the quote also means that when you get into these sorts of awful conflicts, you tend to be a little too quick on the draw in anticipating actual consequences before they happen, especially the bad ones.

I can remember trying to preach and practice the single most important skill I think all people can benefit from in perfecting—being assertive—to inmates in a prison setting, where it is so apropos. Inmates are overly aggressive, overly passive, or passive-aggressive, but never assertive. Yet, the usual response to the beneficial assertiveness training program was “Ah, that stupid stuff won’t work.” Unfortunately one of the more outspoken inmates in the group was an Eastern Kentucky hillbilly who came from a culture where everyone solved problems with a shot gun. He was already doing life.

And of course there is this common problem we all have with time. The more we expand time from a limited conventional perspective to a more fluid eternal now moment, the more of it there is to:

• Help avoid getting into these terrible conflicts in the first place.

• Figure out better resolutions.

• Have more patience to learn what the longer range consequences of the best choices will actually yield over time, beyond our premature judgments which make us feel badly long before we experience the things that happen to make us feel that way.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA and also a business and personal success coach, sport psychologist, photographer and writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, The Prosperity Zone, Getting More By Doing Less, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, “P” Point Management, Reality Repair & Reality Repair Rx. He can be contacted with comments or questions at 425 454-5011 or bcottringer@pssp.net