Difficult Decisions: How Adversity Can Strengthen Identity
Throughout the course of our lives, we make countless decisions, some simple, some complicated, some long-lasting, some ephemeral. In the wake of COVID-19, however, most choices we make are hard, leaving us longing for the days of simple choices, the chocolates or vanillas, the shakens or stirreds.
While it is true that we all face tough decisions every day, the heaviest burden of difficult decision-making weighs on the shoulders of those in the healthcare field. Whether you’re a long-term care administrator who must decide to accept a patient with COVID-19 into your facility, a nurse who must choose to work without proper personal health equipment or a director of inpatient psychiatric care who must navigate relentless change, you face difficult decisions.
At times, these decisions may seem impossible, but you make them, and, in turn, these decisions make you. According to Ruth Chang, professor of philosophy and decision-making expert, it is in the spaces where you are forced to make difficult choices that you discover who you truly are.
In her famous Ted Talk on the subject, Chang shares that every difficult decision is an opportunity to shape who we are at the fundamental level. By eliminating the idea of decisions being inherently good or bad, we equalize the options, silencing external voices and focusing exclusively on the internal. By enacting this process, our hard decisions are not dictated by reasons given to us, but rather supported by reasons chosen by us, providing unparalleled agency over our own lives.
If that idea of agency and authority is true, then what if we were more intentional with all of our choices? What if we made reasons for ourselves, rather than letting others ascribe meaning? What if we made decisions based on who we aspire to be, rather than who we are in the moment? What if we saw hard choices not as a punishment, but rather as an opportunity? After all, as Chang explains, it is the choices we make today that will shape who we are tomorrow.
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