Life is a preferences menu writ large. All of us, always and without exception, choose what we prefer from the menu of options available to us at the time the choice is made.

Life Is A Preferences Menu Writ Large

A software preferences menu. Life is a preferences menu writ large.
Outlook Preferences Menu (Screen Shot by Author)

61 on my, 99 Life Tips – A List is: Know this about people: Everyone chooses what they prefer at all times from the menu of choices available to them.

Most software has a preferences menu like the one pictured in the image above. This is where you can select your own favorites from the features and options available–your preferences. The software remembers your choices as you use it. Depending on the software, the selectable options are often binary, meaning they are Yes or No, Red or Blue, On or Off. Life is a preferences menu writ large. All of us, always and without exception, choose what we prefer from the menu of options available to us at the time the choice is made.

What are you doing right now? Reading this? Why, when you could be doing something else? Isn’t it because you prefer to be reading this than the something else you could be doing?

If you ask yourself the question, ”why am I doing this?” a thousand times in a day, the answer will always be that you prefer whatever it is you’re doing to some other choice you could have made.

We can think about this in the negative if you like. Behaviorists and economists speak of opportunity cost. This is the idea that if you take one path, it closes the opportunity of taking an alternate path. If you work at one job, you cannot work at another at the same time. The lost potential opportunities are the real costs of the actual choice you make. And the choice you make is because you prefer that one to the opportunities you’re willing to lose.

There is a difference between preference and desire

But, as you think about this remember the difference between preferring  something and desiring it. I desire to be in Hawaii right now. But that’s not on my menu of options, or even if it is the expense to fulfill that desire would be too great. So, I’m stuck with my preference to remain at home, in front of my computer, writing this. Among my current menu of available options, this is what I prefer. 

Does this mean everyone does what they want to do all the time?

No. People do what they prefer, not necessarily what they want. Preference and desire are not the same thing. Sometimes the choice is between two evils. Neither is wanted, nor desired. Yet a choice must be made. People choose what they prefer, even if it’s not what they want. They will choose one unwanted thing rather than another they want even less.

Knowing this about people, and about yourself, clears up a lot of confusion about why people do what they do. They do what they do because they prefer it. It cannot be otherwise.

So, the next time you’re faced with a choice, which will be probably be within the next five minutes, think about this. Think about your menu of options. Becoming an astronaut might not be selectable, becoming nicer might be.

2 thoughts on “Life Is A Preferences Menu Writ Large”

  1. Pingback: Everyone's Ways Are Right In Their Own Eyes : Greg Proffit Writing

  2. Pingback: 99 Life Tips – A List : Greg Proffit Writing

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