Why do we so often do things that we know are not good for us?
Why do we choose a career we know is not going to make us happy? Why do we choose a mate who we know is not really a good fit? Why do we put off exercising when we know we should?
For centuries philosophers have debated the question: Do we have free will or not? This is not merely some theoretical issue; the answer has crucial practical implications for your daily life. Do you have the ability to choose what nurtures you and makes you happy -- or not?
What is free will?
What I mean by free will is the ability to choose something vs. something else without having that choice determined by something outside of the chooser's control. Free will is a matter of degree and it is possible to have a greater or lesser ability to choose freely.
Given that definition, our free will is impaired by anything that determines our choice. Let's look at how beliefs, conditionings and the meaning we give events moment by moment significantly reduce our ability to choose freely.
How our free will is impaired
A belief is a statement about reality that we feel is true. If we believe mistakes and failure are bad, that's the truth for us, so we will be predisposed to do what we can to avoid making a mistake or failing. And if we have a project we want to start and are worried about making a mistake or failing, our ability to choose to start that project will be significantly impaired by that belief. We won't be choosing to start the project or not based solely on the value of the project to us. Instead, a major consideration will be: Will we make a mistake if we start this project? If there is a good chance that we might make a mistake or fail, then there will be a reluctance to start the project, regardless of any value the project might be to us.
If you believe I'm not capable or competent, you don't have a choice about seeing yourself able to do things successfully.
If you believe I'm not loveable, you don't have a choice about expecting members of the other sex to be interested in you.
On the other hand, can you see how eliminating those beliefs would increase our ability to choose freely, in other words, increase our free will on that issue?
Most of us are run by many stimulus conditionings, which consist of events causing specific emotions. For example, being criticized or rejected can be conditioned to cause fear. Being told what to do can be conditioned to cause anger. It is difficult to choose freely when you are overwhelmed by fear or anger.
The single biggest determinant of our moment-to-moment behavior and feelings is the unconscious and automatic meaning we give most events as they occur. Beliefs affect us mainly by being the major determinant of the meaning we give events. For example, assume you have the belief: Men are dangerous. You find yourself walking down a deserted street at night and notice a man coming toward you from the opposite direction. Given your belief, you probably will automatically give that man the meaning: He will hurt me or I am in danger. You behavior (running to your car) and feelings (fear) are determined by the meaning you give the man you observe. But the meaning you gave is largely a function of your belief that Men are dangerous.
So beliefs exert their power, not directly, but by influencing the meaning we give events all day long.
How to increase your level of choice
Can you see how your choices are influenced significantly by your beliefs, conditionings and moment-to-moment meanings? Even more importantly, can you see how eliminating beliefs and conditionings, and learning how to dissolve meaning, literally increase your ability to choose freely, in other words, increase your level of free will?
Make next year the year you improve your level of free will
To summarize: Free will is a matter of degree; it is not all-or-none. And your level of free will can be increased by eliminating limiting beliefs and conditionings, and acquiring the ability to dissolve the meaning you give daily events.
It would be a great New Year's resolution to increase your level of free will in the coming year. You will live a happier and more fulfilling life when you are able to choose what serves you, rather than do only what you are determined to do by your beliefs, conditionings, and meaning.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please post your questions or comments about what enhances and what detracts from your ability to choose what is good for you. Your comments will add value for thousands of readers. I read them all and respond to as many as I can.
Morty Lefkoe is the creator of The Lefkoe Method, a series of processes that improve the quality of people's lives. One revolutionary process, the Lefkoe Belief Process, permanently eliminates limiting beliefs. To actually try that process, go to http://recreateyourlife.com/free. To read more of his posts, visit his blog at http://mortylefkoe.com
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