Hobson’s Choice

A man drove on a long and lonely unpaved road in Arizona on his way to watch Hopi Indian ceremonial dances. Afterwards, he returned to his car only to find that it had a flat tire. He replaced it with the spare and drove to the only service station on the Hopi reservation.

As he stepped out of his car, he heard the hissing of another tire going flat.

“Do you fix flats?” he inquired of the attendant.

“Yes,” came the answer.

“How much do you charge?” he asked.

With a twinkle in his eye, the man replied, “What difference does it make?”

This is what is called a “Hobson’s Choice,” named after Thomas Hobson (1544-1631) of Cambridge, England. Hobson kept a livery stable and required every customer to take either the horse nearest the stable door or none at all.

In essence, a Hobson’s choice is a situation that forces a person to accept whatever is offered—or do without. The most famous of Hobson’s choices was made in 1914 when Henry Ford offered the very popular Model T–making it available in any color so long as it was black.

Most of the time we really do have a choice–even when we say we don’t. We may think we have to do such and such. When we realize that MOST of what we do is by choice, then we become more responsible.

Here is an experiment. For the next 48 hours, eliminate the words, “I have to” and substitute the words, “I choose to.” Instead of saying, “I have to get out of bed,” make your self-talk, “I choose to get out of bed.”

There is very little in life we HAVE to do. The way you spend your time is your choice. You set the priorities. You are responsible. You have control. Try the experiment for two days. Obviously, it’s your choice. If you do this little exercise, almost immediately you will feel less helpless and more in charge of your life.

Being aware that options are always available not only puts us in control but makes our life happier and more fulfilling. We become more responsible when we recognize that very rarely are our choices limited to a Hobson’s choice. As the sage stated, “Destiny is as much a matter of choice as one of chance.”

More about choice and choice-response thinking is described in the parenting book.