Recently, in the midst of a deep chat about the motives and responses of some of our professional acquaintances, a thought hit me right between the eyes. One of those knock-out blows.
I realised that people take most of their decisions to become free of fear, not to move to something better.
Let me explain.
A person is faced with two choices, one which is most probably “better” (define the word the way you want to) but unfamiliar to his acquaintances, and the other which is familiar to a few of his acquaintances but is certainly ordinary. He’ll choose the ordinary. He’s afraid that the “better” option may turn out to be — worse? A fraud? Broken? What? I don’t know.
People make all their choices to move towards the safe. This much is often quoted. What I hadn’t realised earlier is that “safe” is not really “safe”, it’s just familiar. We’re not asking anyone to walk into Amazonian jungles alone — we’re asking people to choose a restaurant or a dial-a-cab service or a laptop. How bad can the unfamiliar alternative get?
Well, it seems that was the part where I had a lot to learn. People don’t want to ask questions and evaluate for themselves — they want to walk away from the unfamiliar as fast as they can. Even when the issue at hand involves spending their own hard-earned money, or staking their child’s education.
Parents choose schools for their tiny children based on “what the neighbours were saying.” They do not visit the unfamiliar school or meet teachers there or ask their neighbours questions to see what was the basis for their safe recommendation. They ignore the unfamiliar school even after reading about its accreditation and standards from, say, its website. And they stake their child’s education or their aged parents’ health to feel “safe”.
I had realised perhaps two or three decades back that “safety” is an illusion. It is maya, in the truest sense of the word.
Fear is not rational. And people take most of their important decisions to be rid of this fear, rather than to move towards a better alternative. Fear is indeed the key behind most of our life choices.