“Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be: custom will soon render it easy and agreeable.” – Pythagoras
In the last two blogs I offered a classification system for societal roles roughly ranked by impact on humanity and society. I noted that that higher levels of enduring effect are typically offset by reductions in tangibility or likelihood of success. Lower level roles may also be more objectively valuable as measured by their economic productivity. What we need next is a process by which factors in one’s choice can be organized Again any system must remain general rather than specific given the unique circumstances of each person.
Key decision factors fall into three main categories: individual, external, and intrinsic. Individual factors can be subdivided into two types: (1) physical and (2) mental or psychological. Important physical factors include age, health, physique, and physical impairments. Most of us will choose our lifework at a young age when all otherwise possible purposes are tenable. For those who delay or who seek new roles at later ages, time and physical capacity may become limiting. A man over age 60 will likely struggle to be a Marine, and a woman of 70 may be ill-advised to begin the long process of becoming a neurosurgeon. Fortunately such limitations are unusual rather than frequent, and similar callings are readily available for the hearty and dedicated.
Health and physique may be more constraining. Frail or sickly individuals may not want to enter physically-demanding careers such as firefighting or construction, but still have plenty of options such as education, journalism, or musical performance. At 5 foot 7 inches most men cannot expect to be professional basketball players or heavyweight champions whatever their desire to entertain others in those arenas, but again similar options exist such as golf, tennis, or soccer (e.g. Lionel Messi). The visually impaired may not be able to safely pilot a jet, but can nevertheless be great writers, statesmen, and so forth. In brief, one’s physical condition and abilities are rational considerations, but should present minimal restrictions on the purpose one chooses in society.
Mental and psychological factors are a second and perhaps more important layer in any deliberation. For good or bad, most of us have natural talents and aptitudes which directly or indirectly impact our choices. A person who lacks a mathematical mind or interest will find less pleasure in engineering or finance while individuals without a creative bend will struggle to be novelists or artists. An assessment of one’s tolerance of imperfection, diversity of opinion, and the personality flaws of others is also decisive at times. One cannot hope to be an effective politician if one cannot relate well to the public or interact with people of different viewpoints. A candid evaluation of one’s nonphysical facilities may be vital in the choice of a meaningful career or calling.
(continued next post)