Undoing mental patterns and habitual behaviors can be devilishly hard to do. This is in direct contrast to how easily we create mental patterns and habitual behaviors.
I recently began undoing my belief that I have to make decisions all the time. I guess I made a decision to stop making so many decisions! A most fascinating and empowering journey has followed.
I gained the belief early in life that we are in control of our lives and destinies. This control is called free will, and I was taught in school and by the world that it is a precious thing that should be exercised daily. This belief in my free will has been at the foundation of my philosophy of life. In fact, I still have the belief that I have free will.
What has changed, however, is in how I choose to use my free will. One choice I made was to undo the belief that I have to make decisions all the time. I used to believe that if I am not making decisions all the time I am not actually exercising my free will.
I now have a different belief. Free will is not about making decisions all the time. It is about “freely using my will”.
If this is getting too theoretical, here is an example:
First, who said you have to choose one from a set of options you didn’t create?
Second, who said you must participate in this decision process called an election?
Why did you buy into these two beliefs?
“If you don’t vote, you are not fulfilling your legal, moral, and ethical responsibilities to this country. ”
Ahhh…there we go: I was forced, encouraged, or guilted into participating in a decision making process called an election. And I am a bad person if I do not participate. Someone decided that participating in elections makes you a good person and not participating in elections makes you a bad person.
Wait a minute!
How many other beliefs and decision making processes have I been invited to ascribe to and participate in? How many have I chosen to believe and participate in, quite willingly, because I thought it was the fulfillment of the reason I have free will?
Lots, and lots, and lots.
Let’s take a step further back to uncover more goodies:
In university I chose a business education, where I gained the belief that leaders and managers are decisive, taking initiative as a part of their minute-by-minute workday. One must “drive the agenda”. And another saying goes: “Decide, or someone else will decide for you.”
This is where it gets even more interesting: “Decide, or someone else will decide for you”, is actually a fear-based belief!
I chose long ago not to live or act from a state of fear.
But I am still playing out the habits of my university training and even more traditional acculturation as a man, which says that a strong man is a decisive man!
Decide. decide. decide.
“People who don’t decide are weak, spineless individuals. They are soft. They don’t take initiative, but let life walk all over them. The meek may inherit the earth, as the saying goes, but I would never want to be meek! Why be a victim when you can be a victor!”
Again, full stop.
This is getting silly.
One last look at this:
How many times have I encouraged my children to make decisions, when they did not understand the need for the decision to be made, the choices available, or the consequences? And how traumatic was it for me to have to make “blind” decisions as a child or teenager, when I learned that decision making often resulted in outcomes that I didn’t understand and that hurt? Ouch.
What I believe free will is not
Free will is not about becoming a “decision junkie”, thinking we have to make decisions all the time when we really don’t. It is not about habitually making decisions out of fear, usually without understanding the real reasons for the decision needing to be made in the first place. It is not about accepting the choices we are being presented and assuming without thought that they are the only options and the most valid ones. Free will is also not about making decisions when you don’t understand the importance of the consequences of the decisions.
And it is not about forcing others to make decisions when they don’t need to.
What I believe free will is
Free will is about exercising our ability to choose how we live our lives: What we believe, and how we act from those beliefs.
This year, I will use my free will to undo lots of beliefs and to make fewer decisions. And in doing so, I choose to empower myself to stay focused on the quality of my life itself and how I wish to live it.
I can hear the critics gleefully challenging this logic with “you just made a decision!”
Intellectualize all you want. I won’t play that game (another decision).
I am backing out of my addiction to the distracting activity called decision making.
And in doing so I am taking my power back to use my free will to focus on what will make me stronger and happier in my life.