The Question of Choice: A Philosophical Approach

In my opinion (and this article is full of it), from the origin, humans are introduced into this world without a ‘user manual’ or a practical guide to existence.

Babies cry for attention because that is the first instinct that kicks in either when there is discomfort or a desire to feed.

Teenagers build their social space away from the watchful eyes of their family.

Many often become rebellious and are in no way connected to or motivated by their parents.

They usually desire independence but unfortunately, that independence leads them to dependence; dependence on friends, lovers, sex, alcohol, and drugs.

Some, however, do not indulge at this level because of tightly-knitted family rules.

Such people are like a volcano that will eventually erupt when they manage to slip out of the firm grasp of their family laws.

But, is this a bad or a good thing?

The inherent search for meaning, identity and purpose are what drives every human from birth.

Just as ambitions are never equal, so is this desire unequal.

Some find their identities in the mirror-imaging of another individual.

Others find it in an unending quest for happiness.

Others yet would find it in responsibility.

For them, being a parent or the owner of a business is noteworthy and brings them contentment.

This is their choice, just like everyone else has a choice to make in prevailing circumstances.

The question of choice is perhaps the least thought of in our daily affairs.

Hardly do we ever sit to reflect on our power of choice.

Often, we remember this when we are confronted with either an abusive spouse or a friend that darkens our day, or even a failed relationship.

It is then that we often look for memes about ‘choosing to be happy’ and baptise our social media pages with these memes.

We tell ourselves by announcing to the world through the internet that we have chosen ‘my happiness’ and prioritise it over everything else.

But then we descend, as rapidly as we ascended, to the same circumstances that we emerged from.

We would return to the same or similar career, friend, spouse, lover, or even conversation.

Often, we try to prove a point that we can overcome.

But on the other hand, we forget that choice exists.

This is why in a toxic relationship, one of the first considerations is, ‘If I leave, I WILL not find someone serious.’

We minify our expectations and dine with the corrupt because the ‘devil we know is better than the angel we do not know’.

But why must we know a devil? The answer lies in our search for identity and meaning.

Every aspect of our lives is governed by choices.

It is a combination of these choices that leads to an experience, and the experience becomes a memory.

If it makes us happy, it becomes a good memory and we would want to relive it.

But if it makes us sad, it becomes a bad memory; a nightmarish experience of some sort.

And so, with human interactions, we are inclined to the pleasurable – the one that makes us happy.

We are least interested in the one we make happy.

We do not care if we make the person happy, as long as in our minds we believe that the person should be happy because we provide pizza, watermelons and pork.

As a result, we do not choose to make the other person happy.

We just exist alongside the person.

But the moment the pleasure is gone or the moment we feel we are being made happy by someone else, we begin to yearn for that level of happiness and move from our partners.

It is when all routes are blocked that we reactivate our selfishness and say, ‘you do not care for me anymore’ or ‘you make me sad.’

One thing that lures us all is playing the victim.

The one who resigns, for example, is the good person while the boss is the devil.

The niece who leaves her uncle’s house in the highbrow area to rent her own house in a slum is the good person while the uncle is the bad one.

Additionally, the person we are about to date who just ended a relationship is a good person and the ‘ex’ is the bad person.

We listen to stories of self-pity and swallow them all without a shred of critical thinking.

But how can we, when we eat, sleep, and bathe with self-deceit?

We fool ourselves into believing that we are superhuman and we have the emotional and psychological stability to endure all that life throws at us.

Maybe some are superhuman but not all are.

This is clear even in all our relationships, even with our nuclear and extended families.

We do not think about our choice of words or actions.

We just act knowing that they are blood and they will go nowhere.

Rather, you can abandon or even disown your family if they are unwilling to do things your way.

But then we all need to make our choices deliberate.

For example, when the alarm buzzes in the morning, we have two choices; snooze or get out of bed.

By default, many will snooze. But the question is why?

Those who do not snooze but choose to wake up are confronted with two choices; prepare for work/school/assignment, or laze about.

Whichever one we choose, should be validated by the ‘why?’

The challenge, however, is that it is easy to exist on cruise control than to make deliberate choices.

Many just do things as the ‘wind blows.’

They snooze their alarm until a call wakes them up.

This is the same, unfortunately, for modern-day relationships.

People do not anticipate the kind of personality they want to date.

What they are most concerned about is the looks.

This is why those with beautiful profile pictures, even though filtered, would have to ward off several ‘invading’ people.

Most of them will come with the cliché, ‘you look beautiful’ and go ahead to ask for a phone number or a meetup.

Some also go ahead to declare what they claim to be love and their intentions to marry, even without meeting the person.

They probably hope that using the ‘magic words’ of beauty, love and marriage would unlock doors.

Perhaps it does for some, but tears are not far behind.

Being deliberate in our choices should be based on the evidence of what we truly feel in our hearts and not what we think should be.

For example, a man gets a job and is called for a family meeting.

At the meeting, he is told that he has to become a ‘responsible’ man by taking a wife.

He has two choices; agree or disagree.

He agrees because he does not want to hurt his family.

After all, they paid for his tuition and he got the job because he was educated.

As a favour or what he thinks is gratitude, his mind is fixed not on finding a friend anymore but finding someone he can marry.

He sees someone he is comfortable with and finds out that she is single.

He has a choice; to date or not.

He decides to probe further about her what he thinks should be her moral standing.

He then decides to date with the condition that they would be married in less than a year in fulfilment of his parents’ wishes.

If after marriage they encounter surmounting difficulties, they end up, like many, struggling to remain publicly happy while they cry in the darkness of their bedrooms.

Maybe the entirety of human existence is plagued by the lack of will to choose.

Maybe we are comfortable simply gliding through existence, drifting from one experience to the next.

This may probably be our lot.

Politicians want to win an election for the experience of power.

Wars are fought for the experience of victory.

And people hate others due to other people’s experiences.

Still, the basic question that we must ask is, ‘why?’

‘Why must I change jobs?’

When this question is asked, others will follow.

For example, if the answer is ‘for higher pay,’ then what should follow is, ‘will I enjoy the new work environment?’

Change of jobs is not necessarily growing and neither is buying a new car or building a house.

Finally, we must remember that we are not devoid of emotions and this often feeds our biases.

We are strung to the ‘devil’ out of pity, for example, and not love.

We must have a heightened sense of emotional intelligence because it is only then that we can exercise our critical thinking to the maximum.

Are we computers?

Would we always make the perfect choices?


But we must understand that we are not alone.

Your choice to, for example, go on a date with someone you are comfortable with is good but it turns bad when the person has ill intentions.

We are all not promised good times.

We constantly sail on the ocean of life often through stormy and clear weather.

Some storms are caused by us and some are caused for us.

We must choose to know the difference and choose how to deal with them.

After all, bad or good things happening to us is not the problem.

The problem is how we choose to handle the bad and good times.

Live selflessly, sail on, and do what makes you happy as long as you do not bring harm to others.

Perhaps in doing so, we would build up a gallery of good memories which would keep us company in our old and fading days.


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Mr. Onugba is a project management professional with experience spanning from the creative, ICT, and development sectors. He has coordinated projects with funders such as OSIWA, European Union, German Embassy (Abuja), Ford Foundation, Mercy Corps Nigeria, Perspectivity (Holland), MacArthur Foundation, Culture at Work Africa, among others. He also consults for various Non-Governmental Organizations and facilitates workshops on Conflict Management and Prevention, Leadership, communication, Peacebuilding, Creative Writing and Film. Anthony has also worked in several organisations. These include AIICO Insurance PLC, ChamsSwitch Limited (a subsidiary of CHAMS PLC), Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, and the African Writers Development Trust (AWDT). He holds a certificate in film production and directing, IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), project management, and computer studies. Anthony is the Founder of Writers Space Africa (WSA) and the African Writers Development Trust, which he currently runs. He is the brain behind the annual African Writers Conference and the annual African Writers Awards. He is a multi-genre writer with works spanning poetry, prose, drama, and children’s literature. He has authored seven books which include Mixed Emotions (2005), Reflections (2010), The Chronicle of Christ (2011), Amanda’s Crime (2015), and Lavender Tales of the Summit (2021). Some of his articles have been published in national newspapers and on his website. Anthony is currently the Vice-Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors (Abuja Chapter). He is an animal and nature lover and a star-gazer. He loves to walk in the rain, kiss animals and go mountaineering. Contact:


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