Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blessing or a Curse?

With the plethora of opportunities and options available to us, its confusing... is it a blessing or a curse? I wonder sometimes, life would be much simpler if the path was well defined. On the flip side, life would be boring with the monotony.

Going back to high school days, when all classes were mandatory to attend and we had to see the same class teacher everyday. That's when my friends and I were making secretive plans to bunk classes. But when we got to college, we had the freedom to go to class when we wanted. We registered for courses we wanted to study. While skipping classes wasn't fun anymore, it was exciting to attend lectures we liked.

It's all hunky-dory when we make the right choices, but wrong choices can take a toll on you. After all, you realize it's you who has made the right/ wrong decision and happiness/ disappointments are bound to follow. Quoting a beautiful example from Barry Schwartz's talk named 'Paradox of Choice' (and rightly so) - "In old days, it was so much easier to go buy a pair of jeans. The jeans you bought came in only one flavor, they would fit like crap, but after washing them a few times they'd start to fit okay. Recently I went to buy a new pair of jeans to replace my old ones and the shopkeeper asked - do you want a relaxed fit or a slim fit? zipper fly or buttons? stone wash or acid wash? straight or boot-cut? and he went on and on and on. My jaw dropped and I told him that I want the pair of jeans which are the only kind! I tried all the damn jeans for an hour and finally got the best fitting jeans I had ever had. With all these choices available I did better but I felt worse. I felt worse because, with all these choices my expectations about a pair of jeans went up. With the hundred styles available, what I got was good but it wasn't perfect." It can be disappointing with that many options available out there. There's always a probability that you could've found something better. It can be frustrating when our very expectations are not met.

May be if we weren't posed with that many alternatives, we would've been happier with whatever little we have, how much ever bad it is. But then would there be new findings? Discoveries? Inventions? Humans are designed to be unsatisfied, we always want more than what we have. Whether you agree or not, humans are demanding. And that has in the hindsight worked like a charm. That craving for more is what has lead to universal development and progress. It serves as the driving force, which keeps us going to take on new things.

Today's generation is the biggest victim of this dilemma. There is a wide spectrum of opportunites at our disposal, and we want to try our hand at each one before we rule out options. We want to make sure we find the right "fit" and find something we like and want to wear or do. Conscious choices and being cognizant of your surroundings seems like the way to go in today's world. But it may take you a while to zero down on the perfect one, or maybe you may never find the one. The trick is to be happy, but never satisfied.

These days you see more and more people build their own startups rather than working for multi-nationals. Genesis of new ideas. More people want to foster their own brain child vs. help the big banners make more money. One degree isn't enough. Students get PhDs, get involved in extra curricular activities, hone their communication skills, get certificates in sports, even train themselves to do what they can't, in order to ensure a safe spot in this rat race. Considering the circumstances in this fast-paced world, competition is inevitable. But this should by no means curb your zeal. The worthy will shine, no matter what. To establish and maintain your identity, you have to have an edge over the others (and there's nothing wrong in that). While nurturing your own baby brings personal satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment, it also adds a lot of stress and instability. Not that this should stop us from taking on new challenges, but how much of a stretch is optimal? Like everything else in life, this also comes at a price. There are cases of depression in children at the young age of 8 or 10, which was unheard of a decade or two ago. Is it all worth it in the end? Perhaps the key lies in striking the right balance. Easier said than done...

All this just adds up, and brings me to my original point. Would you still consider this benign?