Choices define who we are as a person; it shows our character to the world. To enhance the probability of making better choices and surviving bad ones, personal character and inner spirit play essential roles.

Thin Difference has been in my mind for several years and, in the last few months, it has unfolded through this blog. Thin Difference, however, is more than a blog or a clever name. It is a philosophy or, better, a discovery of principles around choices made within an individual’s life and the associated impact. [Note: Thin Difference evolved through the years. Common Ground is a philosophy, too, and it is a choice leaders make.]

The Choice Factor

Choices made are at the core of Thin Difference. Try to go a day without making a choice! The outcome would be unsettling since, at every step of any given day, we make choices.

  • We choose to wake-up or stay in bed
  • We choose to go to work or skip it
  • We choose to apply ourselves in our school work or ignore it
  • We choose to do our best or just muddle through
  • We choose to eat lunch or skip it

Just as there is a hierarchy of needs, as defined by Maslow, there may be a hierarchy of choices. There are some fundamental choices we must make to survive.

Beyond the survival choices, it becomes individual, family, and community choices. We make choices as individuals on our education, career, character, etc. When we have a spouse, another set of choices appear – relationship, children, etc. At some level, we are all citizens, so there are community-related choices; for example, whether we are active or passive in a community.

There may be endless ways to look at the types of choices. However it is sliced or parsed, choices define us; you are who you are based on the choices you make. Choices exemplify our individual character.

We can choose to not get up in the morning, just muddle through our work life, and generally mope around. Based on these set of choices, our character may be defined as being lackadaisical.

We can choose to get to work early, apply ourselves aggressively to whatever we do, and always be upbeat about the challenges ahead, and our character may be defined as Type A.

Core Choice: Character

At the core, choices characterize who we are as a person.

Now, no one is perfect; we all make mistakes or bad choices. Does this hurt our character? The obvious answer is that it depends on the severity of the mistake.

Quality of Character

More to the point, it may depend on the quality of our character and the depth of our inner spirit.

Simply stated, a high quality of character demonstrates essential traits of steadfast honesty, integrity, caring, self-control, patience, goodness, etc.; strong character is not boastful or a “better-than-you” attitude.

Depth of Inner Spirit

Depth of inner spirit speaks to the strength inside each of us to change when needed, withstand temptation when presented, and do what is right whenever we can.

Although both will be considered further in future postings, the best way to summarize these two dimensions now may be with the following questions:

  1. What type of person do I want to be? (Quality of Character)
  2. How can I be a better person? (Depth of Inner Spirit)

Choice Factor Matrix

So, how can we make better choices or survive bad ones? A framework to consider the answers is illustrated below.

If we have strong qualities in our character and a deep inner spiritual presence, then we may be more likely, I believe, to make better choices and survive bad ones. What this says is we need to work on our character and inner spirit to gain this opportunity.

The Choice Factor: Two Paths

Essentially, there is a thin line dividing two paths. We need to turn the thin line into a sturdy barrier; we need to widen the line. When you think of a barrier, prevention comes to mind as well as enhancing the chance of survival. Our character and inner spirit development create the barriers to keep us centered in making positive choices (i.e., increasing the probability) and absorb, potentially, the bad ones that sneak through.

Although it may be apparent how these two dimensions can enhance the probability of success in making positive choices, it may be less so in how the barriers can absorb bad ones. Ultimately, it absolutely will depend on the severity of the bad choice.

Having said that, a deep inner spirit may lead the individual to be more open to personal change, ask for forgiveness thoughtfully, re-commit to their faith in a meaningful way, etc. A stronger quality of character may lead the individual to accept responsibility more quickly, make amends in the best way possible, learn and grow from the mistakes, etc.

Bad choices can forever change a life. What happens afterwards will depend, to a great deal, how the person squares up within these two dimensions. The chance of recovering from a bad choice increases the more the person is in the upper right quadrant. Nonetheless, recovery may come in different forms, meaning life may not continue as it was prior to the bad choice.

The concept of Thin Difference highlights the central role of choice in our lives and the importance of thinking through what we need to do to enhance our chance of success.

There is a story which underscores the themes of this post in a very real way. To explore further, read Do character and inner spirit matter in choices?