My thirteen year-old daughter has chosen to read Divergent by Veronica Roth for a school assignment, and it sparked an interesting discussion on the school run recently. Now I must confess to not having read the trilogy, or watched the movie. Even my daughter hasn't finished reading the first book of the series yet, so please don't email me with corrections or spoilers; we're talking in strictly broad and sweeping terms here.
The conversation started when my daughter described an aptitude test our heroine, Tris, has to undertake, and how thought provoking my daughter thought this concept was. The novel is set in dystopian Chicago, where children are raised by their parents' factions until they are sixteen. Once sixteen, they then have the choice of transferring to a different faction, or staying where they are. After Choosing Day there is an initiation process, complete with said aptitude test. In summary, set before Tris are two baskets; one basket contains a block of cheese, whilst the other basket contains a long knife. Tris is instructed to choose either the cheese or the knife, but Tris refuses to choose. The baskets then disappear, but a massive snarling dog starts prowling towards her. Now Tris understands why she had to choose, and it's at this point our school run discussion, about the concept of choice, really got going.
It seemed to my daughter, that Tris didn't want to choose between the cheese and the knife because she didn't understand why it was necessary to do so. The items in the baskets were so disparate, it would be impossible for Tris to predict how either could be more valuable than the other: In what circumstances would cheese be more helpful than a knife? At first glance, Tris was offered the choice between food, life sustaining sustenance or a tool and weapon of self defence. Without knowing what comes next, how can she possibly make the right decision?
Perhaps Tris was tacitly insisting on more information from Tori (the aptitude test administrator), before making her choice? Not making a decision however, was in itself a decision. When the massive snarling dog manifested itself, Tris had rendered herself defenseless, by not selecting the knife. The novel obviously goes on to detail Tris' adventures, but I want to stay on the question of choice.
WHO AMONG US?
Who amongst us has ever found ourselves in a comparable circumstance to Tris, where we have been forced to make a decision we felt unwilling to make? A moral dilemma, or a tough call between Option A and Option B, needs a response from you for your journey forwards. Deflecting, delaying or delegating the decision now will only bring it back to you, as it will circle round again. Within the options lay the lessons, and lessons repeat until they are full and learned. You can run from the lessons, but you can't hide, they must be learnt sooner or later, and they will catch up with you. Analysis paralysis sets in when there is a fear of failure, a fear of making a mistake, so no decision is better than making a bad decision...right? Nope.
What's so wrong with mistakes? Mistakes a) prove that you're operating outside your comfort zone and are taking action towards your goals (rather than stagnating in the swamp of a comfort zone), and b) are invaluable learning and growth opportunities. If you simply change your perception of mistakes from "they're bad" to "they're valuable", then your reality will dramatically improve as a result. This one choice alone (to change your thinking and therefore your reality), is enough to transform you.
Life is difficult. Life is a series of tests and challenges to be overcome, we need to accept this fact. Sadness, depression and frustration set in when our expectations of an easy life fail to materialise. Show me where it is written that our whole lives are guaranteed to be a breeze. Even if our lives were guaranteed to be a breeze, what would the point of our lives be? Our lives are actually a journey of discovery and evolution, individually as well as a species. It is human nature to create and improve, just look back over the centuries and point to anything that hasn't progressed and evolved in our world. But any progress features a degree of struggle, so why are we (generally speaking) so resistant to change? Why do we admonish mistakes? Every expert was once a beginner, and I can guarantee you that the master of anything, has failed more times than the beginner has ever even started.
POINT X IN YOUR FUTURE
Spiritual philosophy teaches us that we have all written the stories of our lives before we were born; we have designed and predetermined what we wish to experience.
We know that before a building can be built and manifested into physical reality, blueprints must first be drafted, so that it's established what goes where, and when, and how. Having a detailed plan of what you want to accomplish, before you embark on the building itself, keeps you focused and on track with the what, when, where and how. As such, we create blueprints for our lives too, so what we perceive to be mistakes aren't mistakes at all, they're lessons and growth opportunities sent by ourselves before we are born - which is how we know there's always a solution. Our task then is to grow and become the person capable of finding those solutions, before implementing them appropriately.
Of course it's so much easier not to. It's easier not to try, to struggle, to decide, to strive, to work hard, to reach farther, to be better. It's easier to stay safe, comfortable and avoid failure or criticism. One certain way of achieving this low grade, low energy, low expectation existence is to do nothing, say nothing, be nothing - and I go back to my earlier question: What would the point of our lives be? For sure birds are safest in their nests, but that's not what wings were made for. Similarly you're here to achieve and "fly" also, so get on with it! Remember that baby birds leap out of the nest without any written guarantees their wings will work, and they learn to fly as they're hurtling towards the ground. It's the same for for us also. Life is difficult, so make your leap, make your choice and grow your wings on the way down - it'll focus your mind, that's for sure!
So if you have blueprinted your goal of reaching Point X by the time you're 65, then you will reach Point X by the time you're 65. The route you choose to get to Point X however, is determined by your free will. Now you can tune in (by i.e.: meditating, following your intuition, taking the road less travelled) and give yourself a chance of taking the scenic route, or you can resist your inner voice, and hack your way through impenetrable jungle undergrowth indefinitely. It's up to you. It's always up to you. I personally recommend you take the road less travelled and sit still in the quiet on a regular basis. The quieter you are, the more you hear (and I can help you with this, just ask).
THREE MAJOR OPPORTUNITIES
I suppose I will have to wait for my daughter to finish reading Divergent, before I find out how Tris' decision not to choose pans out. Whichever way it does pan out though is the direction of her story. It's arguable that had Tris chosen the cheese she would have taken Route A, or Route B with the long knife, but either way would have eventually taken her to Point X. This alternate reality theory was highlighted to good effect in Peter Howitt's 1998 film Sliding Doors.
I want to urge you not to shrink from the choices that present themselves to you (as Tris did), because one choice can transform you. Living your life awake and in full awareness, as opposed to automatic pilot, is key though. I was once advised by a South Korean work colleague of a South Korean philosophy, and he wanted me to remember it. The philosophy is this: You will have three major opportunities presented to you throughout your lifetime, which will transform your life. As every opportunity presents itself to you, you won't know which may be one of the Big Three, so you must accept and embrace them all.
Some choices you make will reveal themselves to be a "mistake", but they will always teach you something, and they will always lead you to exactly the right place at the right time. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Stride forward with confidence from this moment forwards, looking for your three major opportunities - but remember they may be cleverly disguised as hard work.