Seemingly Insignificant Choices

In the vast realm of life’s countless possibilities, there lies an intriguing intersection where seemingly insignificant choices can shape our destinies in ways we may never comprehend. These choices, often disguised as fleeting decisions, possess the power to alter the course of our lives in profound ways. We can’t dismiss the smallness of a choice. They matter. By the time we reach the moment of the big decision, we have already made the choice.

Most of our grand successes and disastrous failures are not a single good or bad all-encompassing choice. A string of choices that culminate in a final decision, leading to the ultimate outcome is the foundation of success. Accordingly, the most desirable elements to target for the ultimate change are the seemingly insignificant choices.

Key Definition:

Insignificant choices are the small decisions that appear to have little consequence on the final desired outcomes in our life. However, they are the foundation of success.

Insignificant Choices and Our Ultimate Destiny

Our insignificant choice impacts the quality of our life. Powerfully, the simple insignificant choice builds a foundation for future choices. A seemingly insignificant choice creates a whole new set of choices which lead to a collections of other sets of choices; slowly the pattern of choices determines our character and sets our destiny. Poor choices limits freedom by weighing us down with costly consequences and addictions. Markedly, the insignificant choice moves us down a path to a very significant destination.

It is fascinating to contemplate how a single decision, made in a split second, can set off a chain reaction of events that reverberate throughout our existence. Like ripples in a pond, these choices extend beyond the initial action, shaping the circumstances we find ourselves in, the people we meet, and the opportunities that come our way.

Carlos DiClemente, famous for his theories on change, wrote, “patterns of behavior are not usually created, modified, or stopped in a single moment in time or with a single flick of a switch. There are steps or segments to the process . . .” (2005, p. 25).

Examples of Insignificant Choices

Consider, for instance, the simple act of striking up a conversation with a stranger. What may seem like a casual interaction can lead to the forging of lifelong friendships, the discovery of shared passions, or even the finding of true love. In the tapestry of our lives, it is often these seemingly inconsequential moments that add color, depth, and richness.

Similarly, the decision to pursue a particular path, however trivial it may appear at the time, can unexpectedly open doors leading to fascinating new horizons. A spontaneous choice to travel to an unfamiliar destination might unearth hidden talents, transform perspectives, and unveil a world of possibilities we never knew existed. In essence, it is through these seemingly insignificant choices that we embark on journeys of self-discovery and uncharted growth.

Insignificant Choices as Justifications

However, because insignificant choices seem so harmless, they powerful evade consciousness. We unconsciously move towards failure while proudly excusing each errant step, slowly moving closer and closer to the dangerous edge of the cliff. The earth crumbles beneath our feet and we tumble to our destruction. Yet, we innocently proclaim only if the ground at the edge held solid, we would have never fallen.

Famous philosopher, Erich Fromm proclaimed that small justified choices slowly lead us to the dramatic conclusion. He suggests that by the time of the final choice, the decision has already been made (2010, location 1871). Jim Orford, renown in the field of addiction, concurs. He believes consumption habits are not “simply discrete, isolated behavioural acts,” he continues, “but rather as whole sequences and chains of actions which. . . lead up to consumption . . . accompanied by a host of cues, prompts and encouragements” (2013, p. 54).

Loss of Freedom

The the success or failure natural follows from a string of insignificant choices. Consequently, a disastrous path becomes increasingly difficult as we move farther and farther down the increasingly steeper slopes of life. Until we final reach an angle that is nearly impossible to resist the pull of gravity and down we slide. To our surprise, the seemingly insignificant decisions were actually woefully significant. At the crescendo of this compilation of insignificant choice, Fromm argues, freedom is no longer available. “But since his desire makes him blind . . .he does not make the right choice when he still would have the possibility of doing so. At the last point of the chain . . . he is no longer free. . .” (Fromm, 2010, location 1892).

We must avoid the steepness of the cliff by recognizing dangers early. Basically, avoiding high cost failures, we must recognize the importance of seemingly insignificant choice early, moving choice to a position where we can intervene, where we are “still free to act according to reason . . .” (Fromm, location 1892).

Hidden Motivations Moving Insignificant Choices Towards a Very Significant Destination

Sometimes the insignificant choice is all part of the plan. We just can conveniently hide it from our logical awareness. The best ego saving defense is the ability to claim ignorance and lack of responsivity. Slowly and methodically we set up the pieces for failure. We self sabotage in skilled efficiency. The person suffering from alcohol use disorder just happens to end up at the bar. They even order a lemonade to start. but by the end of the night, they are fumbling with their keys and stumbling towards their car.

It wasn’t the choice to drink seven drinks. It was the choice to watch the game with a friend at the bar. Moreover, it wasn’t the choice to drink until closing, it was the choice to order the first beer. Slowly the final act was determined by the trajectory of the beginning.

“whoa!” we proclaim. “How unfortunate we cry.” Yet, somehow we ended up in the same dark parking-lot at the same time of night as our dealer. Whether conscious or not, we set up the circumstance that lead to our inevitable fall.

Voyages Into the Unknown

Yet, while we marvel at the significance of these small decisions, it is also important to acknowledge that the impact of a single choice is not always immediate or apparent. Sometimes, it takes years or even decades for the true consequences to unfold. Like a seed that germinates in the darkness of the earth before blossoming into a magnificent tree, the effects of our choices may take time to ripen and bear fruit.

Significant change requires frightening voyages into the unknown. This means taking small steps in the direction we wish to go. These insignificant first steps prove to be the most important.

T. Franklin Murphy wrote, “the long-term benefits of living right validate earlier sacrifices. But while in trenches, fighting momentary drives, we struggle. Our goals to change lose motivational potency when our efforts fail to create recognizable improvement—at least not at first” (Murphy, 2018a). The big fantastic end goal is the culminating result of successfully working through all the insignificant choice leading to that final crowning reward. Accordingly, we must find momentary satisfaction from winning all the small battles along the path.

Murphy delightfully reminds, “change isn’t simply a luxury for those with dogged determination. Science is beginning to doubt that magical existence of the invisible substance we delightfully refer to as will-power. Those most effective at implementing change typically face fewer challenges. They rely on intelligent design, avoiding environments that pound our resilience, and then surround themselves with those that boost, push them to their goals. They succeed by easing the path to change. The moral is simple: we don’t need to work harder, we need to work smarter. The self-discipline to change isn’t measured in brute strength but wise planning to avoid the monsters that unduly deplete our reservoirs of strength (Murphy, 2018b).

Current Behaviors in Alignment with Goals

A teenager wants good grades in school. But they stay up late playing video games, procrastinate assignments, and socialize on their phones during class. Their behaviors in the moment are misaligned with their goals. Perhaps, each behavior on their own may be judged as insignificant. However, in their entirety, they quite perfectly equal failure.

Success requires understanding and committing to the small, insignificant behaviors that equal success. If we can’t commit to the insignificant behaviors, the final goal will continue to allude.

Some Insignificant Choices

While many insignificant choices are goal specific and must be considered on a case by case basis, however, other choices are more general and should be examined by all. These insiginificant choices may include:

  • Sleeping schedule
  • Discretionary time
  • Social environments
  • Planning and structure
  • Health related behaviors (diet and exercise)
  • Learning and development

A Few Words by Psychology Fanatic

In reflection, it becomes evident that the fabric of our lives is woven from an intricate tapestry of choices. Each thread connects to another, forming a pattern unique to our individual journey. And as we navigate the complex web of decisions that lie before us, it is worth remembering that even the most seemingly insignificant choices have the potential to shape our lives. So let us embrace the power of choice, revel in the beauty of the unexpected, and savor the joy of living a life that is authentically our own, built om the multitude of small, insignificant choices we make today.

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DiClemente, Carlos C. (2005) Addiction and Change, Second Edition: How Addictions Develop and Addicted People Recover. The Guilford Press; Second edition.

Fromm, Erich (2010) The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil. American Mental Health Foundation Books.

Murphy, T. Franklin (2018a). Slow Change. Psychology Fanatic. Published 1-1-2018. Accessed 10-8-2023.

Murphy, T. Franklin (2018b). Easing the Path. Psychology Fanatic. Published 12-4-2018. Accessed 10-8-2023.

Orford, J. (2013) Power, Powerlessness and Addiction. Cambridge University Press.

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