Self-Control and Decision Making

Jan 17

I watched a TED talk today that has glued itself to my brain. The speaker’s name is Ruth Chang, and she is a philosopher. How cool is that?!

Her talk was on hard choices, and she had plenty to say about how we balance and weigh sides in tough choices. It was pretty interesting. But then, at the 12-minute mark, she said this:

“When we choose between options that are on a par, we can do something really rather remarkable. We can put our very selves behind an option. Here’s where I stand. Here’s who I am. I am for banking. I am for chocolate donuts. This response in hard choices is a rational response, but it’s not dictated by reasons given to us. Rather, it’s supported by reasons created by us. When we create reasons for ourselves to become this kind of person rather than that, we wholeheartedly become the people that we are. You might say that we become the authors of our own lives. So when we face hard choices, we shouldn’t beat our head against a wall trying to figure out which alternative is better. There is no best alternative. Instead of looking for reasons out there, we should be looking for reasons in here: Who am I to be?”

So this month, as we talk to kids about self-control and making good choices, let’s try to remember this. Decision making and self-control are important. We want kids to sit still, listen, and learn well. Ultimately, though, this is about something even bigger. Decisions — even small ones — are about kids working through the process of answering the question, “Who am I to be?”

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