Separating the outcome

In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.
— Epictetus
Snowshoeing with Mary a week ago. Example of a choice that lead to a positive experience. 

Snowshoeing with Mary a week ago. Example of a choice that lead to a positive experience. 

We are the culmination of all the choices we made in the past.
I’ve been thinking about how the choices I made in the past have shaped who I am today. If this seems obvious, so to the converse. The choices I make now will shape who I become. Let’s leave aside future choices for now. Past choices and present choices. The choices I have made, am now making, and will make fall into two broad categories. Conscious and thoughtful or unconscious and reflexive. Rather they are conscious or unconscious doesn’t say anything about the impact of the choices on my life. It is a mixed bag but if I can help it I don’t want to trade the opportunity for a conscious and thoughtful choice for the odd chance that a unconscious and reflexive choice will have a positive outcome. There is more chance for things to go south when I leave choice up to the unconscious and reflexive choice. We want to stack odds in our favor.

The hard part of the train of thought is knowing what choices lead to what outcomes. This is often were I, and we, get confused. We think one choice is bad and the outcome is suddenly super and conversely we can deliberate and make a thoughtful reasoned choice and have the outcome turn sour. This is why it is so important to separate the outcome from the choice. Sure make our choices are the best we can muster, develop skills and methods to foster deliberate choice for life satisfaction, but don’t let the outcomes sway you, good or bad. It is natural to prefer the good over the bad, but always remember, you get what you get, and don’t complain. 

The lasting life satisfaction comes from the Do part of the above equation not from the Outcome part. Sure we might be momentarily happy or get an endorphin hit when make some poor choice but we know it will not last. Same for accolades. The initial outcomes don’t last. For that matter even the pain as an outcome will not last unless it kills you, then who is left to feel the pain. Do is where lasting life satisfaction is fostered, no matter the outcome. This is a very non consequentialist view. But consequences matter. In the Choice part of the above equation not, as commonly thought, the Outcome part. It is just that I feel they matter in the choices we make and they have little to no influence on the outcomes or how we categorize the outcomes, good or bad.