The Ultimate Choice

by Christopher Lovejoy on September 3, 2010 · 6 comments

I am, I have, I do. But do I have a choice about how to live my life?

Surprisingly, there aren’t many answers to this question.

Possible answers include …

  1. no, the events of my life are random
  2. no, the events of my life are strictly determined by causes over which I have no control
  3. yes, I am free to choose at least some of the events that occur in my life
  4. yes, but because the events of my life are preordained, I am free (at most) to choose my responses to these events

If you concluded that your answer is 1 or 2, then what I have to say in the rest of this post might not interest you. If, however, you concluded that your answer is 3 or 4, then please read on.

If You Live Your Life By Default

Viable alternatives give us a capacity for choice.

Viable alternatives stimulate the mind, the senses, the imagination. Such alternatives feel real to us; they feel genuine or important. Such alternatives are capable of being put into practice.

Viable alternatives lend meaning, purpose, and direction to our ways of being, having, and doing – to personal growth, personal fulfillment, and personal development, respectively.

In the absence of viable alternatives, no choices can be made, by anyone, for any reason.

If you believe you have no viable alternatives in the course of living your life or in the course of responding to the events in your life, then you’re living your life by default.

Your tendencies will be …

  • to judge, rather than discern
  • to react, rather than respond
  • to attack, rather than approach
  • to condemn, rather than reflect

In short, your behavior will make it appear to others that you’re a puppet, a robot, an automaton, or a zombie living your life on automatic pilot – oblivious to the effects that your behavior has on others.

If you live your life by default, then you’ve accepted that the events of your life are random. Or, you’ve accepted that the events of your life are strictly determined by causes over which you have no control.

If You Live Your Life By Design

Anything that happens in your life by default happens either because …

  • no viable alternative was available to you, or
  • you didn’t make a choice (for whatever reason)

Anything that you believe happens in your life by design happens because …

  • a viable alternative was available to you, and
  • you had the presence of mind to make a choice

Indeed, your presence of mind is a key ingredient in making choices.

If you’re present to the events that occur in your life, you’ll increase your awareness of viable alternatives, increasing your capacity for choice and enhancing your ability to choose.

And if your presence of mind extends to the responses that you might give to the events that occur in your life, then your awareness and acceptance of viable alternatives increases even further.

If you assume that you can live your life by design, then you must also assume that you’re free to choose at least some of the events that occur in your life, and if you believe that the events of your life are preordained, then you must assume that you’re free to choose your responses to these events.

If you live true to the first assumption, you tend to express rather than submit, to protect rather than permit, to control rather than allow. Conversely, if you live true to the second assumption, you would submit rather than express, permit rather than protect, allow rather than control.

Two Key Assumptions

Assumption One: I am free to choose at least some of the events that occur in my life

Assumption Two: Because the events of my life are preordained, I am free (at most) to choose my responses to the events that occur in my life

In my post, Personal Ascendance, I outlined the benefits of Being, Having, and Doing in relation to each other, in terms of choice pairs: ‘submit or express’, ‘permit or protect’, ‘regress or progress’.

I’ve since realized, in order to explore more deeply the two assumptions mentioned above, the benefits of Doing are better expressed in terms of ‘allow or control’ rather than ‘regress or progress’.

If I’m free to choose at least some of the events that occur in my life, I’d be better served by placing the emphasis of my Being, Having, and Doing on efforts to ‘express, protect, and control’.

And if I believe that the events of my life are preordained, and I’m free (at most) to choose my responses to them, then I’d be better served by placing the emphasis of my Being, Having, and Doing on choices to ‘submit, permit, and allow’.

In what follows, I’ll bring these choice pairs to life for a number of common real-life challenges.

Being: Express or Submit?

Let’s say you work in a job or a profession where you feel oppressed.

The work no longer appeals to you. Or, you can no longer relate to your co-workers or colleagues. Or, you feel too stressed out by the expectations and demands being placed on you.

If you believe that you’re free to choose at least some of the events that occur in your life, you might seriously consider leaving your job or profession to pursue a viable alternative. You might give yourself the freedom to express your desire to be who you are, to do what you love to do, knowing that your health and vitality are worth preserving.

If, however, you believe that the events of your life are preordained, you might be inclined to stay put, to work on carefully choosing your responses to the events that occur in your work. You would give yourself the freedom to submit to your situation at work to make it a little more, or a lot more, tolerable to you.

The holistic approach is to combine your options to express or submit.

For example, you might submit to your situation at work until you’ve been able to find a viable alternative to working in your oppressive job or profession.

Having: Protect or Permit?

Let’s say that you’ve started a new blog or site so that you can run a viable business on the Web.

You’re aware of the importance of security for your blog or site, but at first, you’re not sure if it’s worth your time or effort, especially since you’re so busy.

If you believe you’re free to choose at least some of the events that occur in your life, you might seriously consider taking the necessary precautions to protect your blog or site. You might even begin to make a sincere attempt to protect your blog or site. If you do, you might finally decide that it’s worth your time and effort to make sure your blog or site is as secure as you can make it.

If you believe that the events of your life are preordained, you would be inclined to live and let live, to let go of any preoccupation with security, and to permit events to unfold as they do. In this case, you’ve merely given yourself the freedom to entertain the possibility that your blog or site might be hacked while letting your faith in yourself, others, or your maker take care of the rest.

The holistic approach is to combine your options to protect or permit.

For example, you might permit the possibility of getting hacked while also taking the time to explore your options for increasing the security of your blog or site.

Doing: Control or Allow?

Let’s say you’re committed to eating 100% raw, living foods daily.

For the first few weeks, you’re doing well. You’ve made it through a detox period. You’ve lost more weight than you imagined. Your mental clarity and your energy levels are better than ever.

But then you get a craving to eat cooked food.

In fact, you just can’t stop thinking about those egg salad sandwiches.

If you believe you’re free to choose at least some of the events that occur in your life, you might take the initiative and find out why you’re having cooked food cravings so that you can stop them. In this case, you’ve given yourself the freedom to control the situation to maintain your commitment to eat 100% raw, living foods daily. You feel that your health and vitality are worth the time and trouble.

If, however, you believe the events of your life are preordained, you would be inclined to give in to your craving and devour that mouth-watering egg salad sandwich with gusto. In this case, you’ve given yourself the freedom to allow an exception to your commitment to eat 100% raw, living foods daily. Your response is a compromise: “this is just a temporary setback; I’ll do better next time”.

The holistic approach is to combine your options to control or allow.

For example, you might stay true to your commitment to eating 100% raw, living foods daily while allowing rare exceptions to your commitment if and when that seems necessary.

In the Nature of Souls

In his fascinating books, Journey of Souls, Destiny of Souls, and Life Between Lives, Michael Newton gives us the inside scoop on life, death, and everything in between and beyond. By using the technique of hypnotic regression with many thousands of clients, Newton mapped out a vibrant, orderly world of unity and harmony beyond death – a place called home by souls.

Based on my reading of Newton’s works, as well as my reading of his latest anthology, Memories of the Afterlife, I am persuaded that we are otherworldy souls having a worldly experience – spiritual beings having a human experience, to acquire wisdom from this experience and realize ourselves fully through eternity.

Through his remarkable books, Newton has persuaded me to believe that we (as souls) are immortal; that we chose to come here, to this world at this time, for reasons of our own; that we chose our own bodies after carefully evaluating previews of possible lives; and that we chose to experience some of the events that we previewed prior to starting our current (incarnated) lives.

Based on this assessment, I’m comfortable embracing assumptions one and two in a holistic manner.

I am free to choose at least some of the events that occur in my life – perhaps not the most important ones, necessarily, but certainly the ones that seem to matter most to me. I am also free to choose my responses to the most important events that occur in my life even though they’ve been preordained.

The ultimate choice is simply this: do I live my life by design or do I live my life by default?

Souls might choose to live their lives by default – just for the experience. Souls might also choose to respect or reject this choice to live a life by default. I choose to reject it.

You might take a moment to ask yourself: if I choose to live my life by design, do I express or submit, protect or permit, control or allow? Or do I assume a more holistic approach?

As a soul, you might already have chosen your answers to these questions.

Or not.

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{ 6 comments }

Joe Wilner September 3, 2010 at 11:59 am

It is so interesting to consider the level of control that we may truly have in life. We certainly can control many aspect of our emotions and behavior, but then again we must respect that life provides unexpected turns. There is a balance and a peace that can be reached if we cultivate a spiritual relationships and personal understanding of our place in the bigger picture. I think many people who struggle to find happiness and fulfillment view life from a perspective of external control. They don’t feel empowered to make change happen because they feel that things just won’t ever work out. They tend to be pessimistic and unwilling to try. It can really require a paradigm shift to make this change. Very interesting, thanks!

Christopher Lovejoy September 3, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I agree, Joe. Many people seem to view their lives from an external locus of control, putting them at risk of thinking that change is not possible or that things will never work out for them. I saw the results of an interesting poll recently where the majority of responders thought that fear and pessimism were the hardest feelings to deal with. Thanks for dropping by.

Evelyn Lim September 4, 2010 at 3:24 am

I enjoyed reading this post. You are a gifted writer. You are eloquent in your persuasive skills and adept at stimulating thoughts in your readers.

One of the few important things I learned right at the start of my personal development journey is that the power of choice lies with me. Without this understanding, it would have been virtually impossible to get started on my journey; if at all. I certainly don’t hope to live my life by default anymore but to consciously and deliberately direct it.

I look forward to reading more posts from you 🙂
Evelyn

Christopher Lovejoy September 4, 2010 at 8:02 am

Evelyn, I appreciate your compliments. As you well know, I enjoy bringing the power of truth into the world and getting to the heart of the matter. In these, I think we both share a definite interest.

On the subject of being autonomous, where you hold the power of choice in your heart, I’ll be the first to admit how difficult it can be sometimes. I must say I feel quite fortunate to have discovered this power for myself, although I suspect it’s going to take (at the very least) a lifetime to realize all of the implications of assuming it.

I’m delighted to know that you’re looking forward to reading more of my posts! I have so much to say. I’ve got a long list of topics to cover and I’ve got a fire divine burning within that seems capable of burning for a long time to come.

Insight Hunter September 5, 2010 at 11:57 am

By coincidence, I was thinking about this subject myself. If there was no randomness after the Big Bang then all of our choices are predetermined and our free will is just an illusion. This lack of randomness is unlikely to be the case, but the problem does not go away. It can be argued that all of our actions (every single one) is simply a product of genetics and environment. One might argue that I did not choose to have a hamburger for lunch, and that my body was predisposed to liking it and the chaos of life events lead me to it. It is further argued that our believing we have free will is simply an illusion and all thought, action and brain activity is random, biochemical firing of neurons.

Such an argument is very convincing, but without going into too much detail, I concluded that it is highly semantic, very much like a koan, similar to questions like whether darts is a sport, or whether this or that is art, or the ontological proof of God. It is just playing with words and definitions. My best thought experiment to try to illustrate the flaw in this idea is to imagine in a laboratory setting in the future where 5 perfect clones are created; they are then put into 5 separate identical rooms. Here the environment is the same and the genetics are the same, so each should act exactly the same. How likely is it that all 5 will have the exact same actions for say 24 hrs? Very close to zero. Why? Because the clones with their new consciousnesses actually have free will and can make different choices.

My thinking on this subject is we definitely can choose, but our actions do not have as much control as we would wish. Sometimes a person’s options are very limited and they are highly powerless to their environment, e.g., being born in third world poverty, a employee on a low rung of the corporate ladder, being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Even then, we can do our best to make the best of the poor cards dealt to us. We do have a great deal of control with our inner lives and can do much to control a lot of our responses to things that happen to us.

Christopher Lovejoy September 6, 2010 at 11:14 am

Hi Insight, nice to see you again. The metaphysical nature of free will is as interesting as it is complex, but for now, I won’t go there. At the moment, I’m much more interested in the nexus of free will where ethics meets psychology, which you touched on in the final paragraph of your comment.

I agree with you that we have (at the very least) the illusion of choice (which is all that we might have in reality), but if the illusion is positive (or can be made positive), then I say: go for it. With respect to the will (whether genuinely free or not), I think the focus of agency (the sense of being an agent with a capacity for choice and an ability to choose between and among viable alternatives) is best placed on cultivating presence of mind to shape what you believe to be true and what you intend for yourself. This, of course, you would do through discernment, acceptance, and practice. So, for example, if you choose to believe that you have the power to extricate yourself from a situation that seems bleak, and form the intention that you can find viable (hopeful, interesting, inspiring) alternatives that will serve you in this purpose, then this attitude would probably serve you better than if you were to believe and intend otherwise.

In the wider scheme of things, as humanity and technology evolves at an ever faster rate, hope for change seems reasonable for many if not most, no matter what their situation or circumstances. I know this is cold comfort for those embedded in difficult, even impossible, situations, but I think this is the best that anyone can offer for now. Godspeed.

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