I am not sure if it is the age group I fall into, which people call ‘millennial’ and I have always found rather corny, or it is simply globalization and the times we live in but the multiplicity of possibilities is quite often on mind especially as I make decisions. I think this is also compounded by my personality and the stage of life I am in – relatively young, still throwing balls up and seeing how they fall.
In a not so distant past there were less possibilities – your gender, race, class, age, tribe, family defined you. The family of farmers perhaps. The son of the king. The osus. The blacksmith’s daughter. So much was prescribed – occupation, marriage/love, religion, position in society, location, etc – and there were such heavy consequences for going against the expected path. But today you can be much more than the things that were handed to you. This multi-potentiality is spread across different aspects of your life. You can choose your social network, where you live, what you do, who you love etc. It is not so much who you are (for life) as it is now who you are for now. Imagine the consequences for organizational and social transactions.
There is always another possibility.
Such that when I am making decisions these days, it is like forecasting alternative scenarios and seeing which ones make the most sense and questioning and trying to make the best decision when there are no clear answers. And then there are the multiple identities you balance at the same time – multiple passions, multiple places that you have ties to, multiple responsibilities. Sounds like freedom doesn’t it?
This freedom is a privilege of course, but with multiple possibilities comes multiple risk factors and a bigger sense of personal accountability. What if this fails? What other present, past, future could I have created? And the losses of the past- could I have made them work out differently? And the present – what other alternate presents are going on now, and what is the opportunity cost of the present I am choosing? And the future – which of the scenarios I am plotting can take me to my desired destination which I am not as sure about as people decades ago who did not have the luxury of multiple possible futures? It can be overwhelming even as it is freeing.
You see what happens then? With each variable in the equation and much less constants, the risk increases. And each point in time you are balancing choices and managing risks in multiple dimensions of your life and trying to still thrive. Of course things never work out as exactly fore-casted, so not only are you choosing scenarios, you are managing risk and reorganizing the forecast as uncertainties play themselves out.
I was thinking about how we are all developing the capability to manage flux as a sort of identity, from the family that creates new traditions in order to maintain their bonds across continents, to the person who will have to create a career with less loyalties to structure than the previous generation, to maintaining focus and consistency across a portfolio of interests as against one.
We need different capabilities than may have been needed in the past – to stay present, to manage uncertainty, to make strategic and calculated rather than predictable decisions, to hold risk-taking in line with creating enough safety to thrive, to always be adapting.
Ultimately we will need to learn how to thrive amidst uncertainty if we want the responsibility of the freedom of wider possibilities. And then we will need to be able to make strategic choices and focus on them despite their seeming relativity instead of looking back to regret or obsess over things we can no longer control.
All these capabilities take a lot of practice and can be quite messy.
Interesting isn’t it?