The freedom to choose one option over another is the source of democracy and consumerism. We like to tell ourselves that we can determine our destiny by the choices we make. But as Sophia Rosenfeld writes in the thenation.com, we are lousy at making up our minds and many of us are so overwhelmed by the deluge of options that we are having more trouble making choices than ever before. "It seems that we routinely overestimate what we know. We fail to predict what we will want in the future. We are inconsistent about our preferences. . . . We also tend to ignore facts that do not jibe with the outcome we desire; we focus on information that is irrelevant, or see patterns where they do not exist, or get distracted by our fleeting emotions."
In her book, Wise Choices: A Spiritual Guide to Making Life's Decisions, Margaret Silf declares that salutary choices are built upon assessing all the wisdom available to us and then listening to our gut feelings, intuitions, and inner compass. We should not let fear, self-doubt, or procrastination block our actions or intentions. Taking risks is an important part of the spiritual adventure of life:
"The freedom to move on means letting go of everything that holds us captive to the past. It also means accepting the consequences of whatever decisions we have made."
In Choices: Making Right Decisions in a Complex World, Lewis Smedes suggests avoiding being a zealot who operates from a close-minded and unswerving sense of right and wrong or being an amoralist who insists on a value-free perception of reality. Smedes defines responsible decisions as ones informed by discernment, commitment, and accountability. A few alternate paths to moral decision-making include intuition, prayer, tradition, and inspiring individuals.
All of our choices, according to Smedes, should be colored by morality which is about keeping life good, making it better, or preventing it from getting worse than it already is. And the key to making choices is imagination.
"In human relationships, imagination is the inward vision of love. It is love's educated guess of what will happen to another person if we do what we think is right. Imagination is compassion stretched beyond notions of right and wrong. Imagination is the beginning of responsible morality."