Multiple choice questions imply that you actually have some choice with your answer. This may well be true if you are taking a multiple choice quiz, survey or test of some kind. But have you ever stopped to consider how your answers to everyday questions might also be multiple choice?

If you have been raised in any contemporary social construct, and let’s face it, that’s pretty much all of us expect perhaps Tarzan, then the chances are that much of what you think, feel and say is chosen from a small collection of predefined answers. And, yes Tarzan was still raised within a social construct, just a vastly different one to our idea of civilization. It’s that contrast that makes Burroughs’ story a classic tale. How central is your identity to your social construct? How aware are you of how your social construct influences your choice of words and more importantly your decisions?

Examining your responses to questions is a good way to find out. You may find that different topics will have their own set of pre-defined answers. Being asked something simple such as, ‘How are you?’ will elicit a response from you such as, ‘Good’, ‘well’, ‘Fine’, ‘Okay’ or possibly ‘not so good’, ‘bad’, ‘unwell’ etc. You don’t have to think too hard to find an answer. There is a list of responses for you to choose from.

This may seem trivial to you, obvious in a way, however if you apply this to every conversation you have you can begin to unlock just how much you are thinking and how much you are relying on multiple choice answers.

To highlight an extreme, if someone for example asked ‘Will you marry me?’ you might reply ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘let me think about that’. Thinking outside the multiple choice answers you may consider if marriage is actually something you want or is it something society wants you to do. Likewise, when considering a career or other choice that affect how you will spend your life on the planet many assumptions are made. These assumptions all fall between a fairly narrow range of multiple choice ideas. How many of them are actually derived from independent thought?

Need more evidence? I’m not big on traditional research but I am good at drawing highly subjective conclusions from observing others and being conscious of my own behavior. What I’ve noticed is in most conversations people rely on common phrases to supply or form the basis of their answers. Here are a few you may have used:

If I had a dollar every time someone asked me that, the ball’s in your court, best of both worlds, it’s a piece of cake, you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, back to square one, a blessing in disguise, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, between a rock and a hard place, hate to burst your bubble, let me give you the heads up, that’s really below the belt, it’s not my cup of tea, that’s the last straw etc etc etc.

The list goes on and on and while some of the above might not be familiar to you, every culture has its own set of stock answers that we all draw upon to form our responses to situations.

Why am I so hung up on phrases and multiple choice answers? Because while you think you are thinking you are not actually thinking. They may appear benign, but multiple choice answers reinforce the social construct. If you truly examine your responses to questions and take time to consider answers that are meaningful to you then you may well find answers you didn’t realize existed. Perhaps you will then be thinking outside your own experience, outside your own conditioning.

Be careful, anything could happen.

Evan Shapiro

This blog is edited and used with permission of the author.
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