Justifying the Choices We Make

Do you ever make decisions outside the norm that you have to justify? Have you ever tried to explain a life choice you’ve made but failed to convey the “Why” behind the choice in the time frame given to explain? We are constantly making decisions about the way we choose to live our life. There are times when we make choices we know are correct for certain situations but have a hard time articulating why they are so. Often, we’re unclear the exact reasons why we make choices but we clearly know in our gut that they are right for our life. It can be hard to verbally (or internally) justify the choices we make. 

debateUndoubtedly, when you take a position outside the status quo, you will be forced to explain your set of choices on a irregular (or regular depending on how divergent the choice) basis to those following the crowd. If you choose to live debt free, retire early, or live a simple life you will be asked about why. If you choose to follow a religion (or not to follow one), live by specific philosophical principles, or make any unique life choices- you will certainly be asked to justify your position. Especially if you regularly interact with people that share different views than you do. Even if you just eat a little differently than your peers you will be asked to defend your reasoning.

Internal vs. External
The choices we make inside our brain often function like mini-lists of pros and cons. We have a little devil and angel on our shoulder (or maybe it’s an imaginary discussion between old and new friends) and in our head determining how best to proceed. Many choices we face initially only have internal consequences. (We are also faced with plenty of public choices as well)  For me, organizing my brain helps deal with the internal justification process; but I’m still subject to the pressure of my peers to behave (or consume) in a certain way. Externally, we may need to justify our position to our boss, parents, spouse, or friends about the way we live our life, the habits we have, and the priorities we choose.

Striving For Simplicity
When it comes to lifestyle, we combine a lot of different input sources to make decisions. Again, sometimes our thoughts are well constructed and sometimes they are simply gut feelings. I think the lens of simplicity is one of the easiest frameworks I’ve found to explain aspects of our lifestyle. When someone asks why I don’t drink alcohol anymore, I’ve found its easiest to simply say “It made my life complicated so I relieved a lot of mental stress to cutting it out for a while.” Spending time with our suburbanite friends, we relate the idea living in a modest sized home to how simple it is to clean, maintain, and care for. When I talk about cloth diapers, riding my bike, or eating whole food – it’s often framed with simplifying consumption by choice. When it comes to over-commitment, the easiest way to remove obligations is an honest conversation about simplifying the level of stressful activity.

Time (& Control) Over Money
How valuable is your time? How much does money drive the way you spend your time? Do you have control of the important things? This one can be really difficult to explain if you work in a competitive field and are surrounded by plenty of Type-A personalities. Certainly it is easy to understand at a surface/conceptual level, but often the results of prioritizing time (or control) over money surface when you make different spending decisions than your peers. For many, it is conceptually easy to forgo certain types of spending in order to have less stress, more flexibility, or more choice- but often the trade-off in the upper-middle class is less consumption. Certainly there exists a desire for full control, unlimited free time, and all the money you could want to spend, but most likely there is some sort of trade between the three. It is tough to watch people you love (or yourself) let the demands for status and money drain the health and time that could be better spent maintaining or building relationships.

The Justification Process
I like writing about different topics. The entire process starts with an idea or premise then develops into a few paragraphs to build support and narrative to explain the idea. More than anytime else, this simply takes a concept and justifies it. Although I do not always enjoy it (as I’ve stated many times before), writing is a therapeutic process of organizing my brain. As I lay out justifications for the thesis of a post, I internalize the perspective and develop a way to communicate support for the position taken. The simple organizational process actually makes it much easier to explain the ‘why’ behind choices made when asked. When you go against the grain, people will ask you questions. If you tend to shy away from the over-consumed, over-fed, under-slept, time-poor American normalcy, not only will your life be better but you will be well positioned to help others live a healthier, happier life.

Although easier said than done, when you are able to explain external pressures through well-reasoned internal understanding, your life will forever change. Once you have true clarity about what you believe and why, it makes it much easier to live a life of conviction. It makes it easy to explain the motivations for your choices and can often lead to helping other make even better choices with there life or giving them the tools to make the best choices for themselves.

I’ve been through different stages about justifying the unique lifestyle choices we’ve made but I’m learning to embrace the differences and use them as a tool to expand the horizons of the people I interact with. I love meeting people with unique lifestyles who have really thought about why they have chosen their path. Simplicity has been the overarching theme of the last five years of my life. When major and minor decisions come up, I will continue to ask if the additional complication is worth it? And when we do make decisions, I’ll try to fully understand the ‘why’, primarily so I can justify it to myself. No matter what, I want to ensure I’m directing my life instead of mindlessly following the expectations of people who care little about my overall well-being.

2 thoughts on “Justifying the Choices We Make

  1. This resonates with me a lot but unfortunately because I’m rather bad at explaining to people the how and why I’m living my life how I am!

    I really need to think more along these lines and get some sound bites ready next time someone asks me something. I’m pretty good at getting stuff down on paper (on blog) when I have time to think things through but when people catch me off guard I tend to ramble and lose them or just go off on tangents and not really get any of the points i wanted to across properly. Maybe a post on “standard questions and answers” I have received and would have like to have given might be a good start here. Thanks for the inspiration and thought provoking post as usual!

  2. This is a really important idea and interesting to think about in this way. I feel like on a personal level you often have to justify your decisions to friends, family, or co-workers based on some kind of feeling they have towards you (e.g. your parents love you so may be concerned about decisions to “deprive” yourself). But on a larger societal level I feel like it is rare to ever be asked to justify yourself about any of your decisions, especially small ones. But it is so important to articulate to yourself why you are making the choices you do! Like, no one will ask you why you buy a coffee at Starbucks everyday or why you eat lunch out everyday, but those are pretty significant financial habits, and you should be able to justify them to yourself. Anyway, that was a bit of a ramble – but I agree that it is SO IMPORTANT to learn to articulate your own choices, and it does take some practice.