Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Default Is a Choice

As a software designer, I have designed a lot of input forms in my day.

There is a common practice of setting 'default' responses for fields where a particular response might be the most likely.

For example, if you are ordering something from a website, the software might set the 'quantity' of an item you select to "1." You can change it if you'd like, to order more than one, but it starts by assuming you want one as the default.

Another example might be setting the 'country' to USA if you are shopping on a US company's website. "USA" would be the default value for country. You can change it, of course.

I was thinking about this the other day. It is important to realize that by 'accepting the default' we are actually making a choice! Someone else (or the software in the examples I gave) is offering us a selection, but we have to accept it (and click OK or continue in the case of our software example).

I encountered someone in my counseling work years ago who was fond of saying that he wasn't making 'choices' but instead was just going with the 'default' He really saw himself as a passive player in his life. He just went along with whatever was happening to him. I spent a lot of time trying to help him see that he was, in fact, making choices, even when he was accepting someone else's default outcomes!

Taking the path of least resistance is one way of 'accepting the default' in our life. It's not necessarily what we want, but it's going to happen if we don't stop it, so was just go along for the ride. We are still making a choice.

Recognizing that we are making choices is empowering. Rather than feeling like a leaf blowing in the wind, we can become aware of the fact that we have a lot to say about the direction we take and the attitude that takes us there!

Take responsibility for the choices you make! It's a place of power to KNOW that you are choosing. When we realize that we are choosing, we can choose differently. Often, we want to choose differently when we come to the realization that we are, in fact, making a choice!

Happy choosing!