The Parable of the 5 Year Old: Freedom of Choice or Guided by Marketing?

What do you want to do?

“Y’all stop. You get to define what you want to do. You did it when you were 5 years old, and you can do it now. You have sense enough to know you’re not going to be an NBA point guard. Use the wisdom of adulthood and define what you want to do.”  Maybe it was midlife crisis week, except some were in their 20’s. Maybe it’s pandemic ennui? I think it is deeper. Are we not comfortable with choice and possibilities unless we think of winning the lottery and then our imaginations go wild?  Otherwise, we’re like lukewarm tea, neither hot or cold, neither refreshing nor warming…too much?

In each variation of this conversation, I said, “do or not do, you get to choose.” Like with my nephew, he brought up he was thinking about taking piano lessons again. “You have been saying this for more than two years. We talked about music lessons during the last family vacation. I am two years into cello lessons now. Dude, you don’t want to do piano lessons, let it go and that weight lift and focus on something else.” He may do it, he may not, but he must choose. He must see a version of his life made better or enhanced with continued piano lessons. Otherwise, in two years, he will still be “shoulding” himself.

What things have you revisited over and over and yet you have made no progress? This can be anything large like a trip or small, remembering you want to replace a light bulb that is too dim. In the US, for a country that is gung-ho for freedom and choice, there seems to be a difference between the marketing and the reality. Laws mandate what we can and cannot do with our bodies, what can and cannot be taught, what can and cannot be funded….  Is freedom and choice false advertising by design? Is this why people will fight minutia like masks mandates because it seems it is taking away freedom and choice. Florida’s, “can’t say gay,” while restricting freedom and choice of most is positioned as giving parents freedom and choice on education. It’s all I n the power spin and marketing.

Are people struggling about “what’s next?” because we’re conditioned to think in terms of scarcity and limited options? With choice, there are always consequences. Do we realize that often our fear of consequences is greater than the actual consequences? There are books and series on how to say no and on the flip side books and seminars on the power of yes. The need  for “retraining” confirms we are conditioned to act within limited options.

By design, things must go a “certain way” to work. Who decides? Amazon and Starbucks have fought unions. The point isn’t for or against unions, but  how significant sums of money  (Amazon spent 4.3 million) are used for marketing to shape our beliefs to the benefit of those in power. No judgement, just ongoing conditioning that leads us to follow imaginary limitations.

Me and Mom

Back to being 5 years old. I recall a singular wish for an easy bake oven. The commercials were great, I could bake little cakes.  However, my mother was the adult in the room that forbade such flights of fancy and I soon realized I did not perish from the earth. She had a conversation with me, do you really want to bake or do you want to play. I wanted to bake, so she made me a little apron and I got to make little cakes in the real oven, not some toy with a light bulb as a heating element. Now, you can be both your inner child and adult in the room.This week consider choice, conditioning and what you want. Is your life the life of your choosing or your conditioning?


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