Is Your Free Will Actually Free?

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“Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

~ C.S. Lewis

Many people are aware of choices they make. What they don’t realize is that unconscious beliefs have also formed when they were most impressionable and they remain hidden; unrecognized. They are unconscious intentions. They play a large role in what we feel and do in our life and work. A dichotomy can occur because such beliefs arise from interpretations we draw from our life experiences as a child. These lead to ideas about our personal options and about life and work, men and women, etc.

These unconscious intentions cause consequences that seem separate from our intent and free will. This is why emotional intelligence is critical. The first step in emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Only then can one self-manage. Sometimes, the only way to gain self-awareness is by reverse-engineering our patterns and results, to recognize our hidden beliefs. Only then can free will actually become free. Consider the following and notice if you or others in your life and work might be operating from these beliefs:

  1. Being Right – Being right is more important than getting what you want. You are more committed to being right than reaching your goal. You are defensive and justify your choices.
  2. Playing It Safe – You have an idea to solve a problem but create fear and intimidation that keeps you from sharing it. You have an idea that would likely push the team forward, but you sit on it.
  3. Power Struggle – Having your way is more important than anything else (e.g. You are always late due to an unconscious motive of, “You’re not going to force me to be on time.” This impacts many aspects of your life, whenever you think, “No I won’t; you can’t make me. I want it my way.”
  4. Revenge – You feel hurt and seek to strike out at others (e.g. You break company mandates). Your behavior might be sarcastic, mean-spirited, callous, hurtful and argumentative.
  5. Looking Good – You take on responsibilities you can’t handle because you want to look good to your boss or others. Your commitments are connected to “looking good.” You fear losing status.
  6. Life is a Test – Almost everything is difficult. You make things more difficult in order to prove your life and tasks are hard. You think you have to prove and measure yourself frequently.
  7. Powerless – You take the role of victim. You won’t find solutions and you won’t take responsibility for making improvements. You speak of and create discouragement and hopelessness.
  8. Proving Self – You must prove you’re better than others and you seek praise and elevated status. You are attached to acknowledgement for being best or most special, rather than for the satisfaction of doing something. Your competition wreaks havoc on your team.
  9. I Can’t Trust Myself – You generate self-confusion. You refuse to trust your decisions and avoid making them in the first place. You need constant approval and help making most decisions.
  10. I Can’t Count on Others, I Can Count Only on Me – You insist on doing everything yourself. You find fault with the work of others to prove you should have done it yourself. You act superior or as a martyr (e.g. You work late, saying, “I’m the only one who really cares”).

In my work, we teach organizations to grow in emotional intelligence and personal responsibility. We foster compassion and curiosity so the power of your people is directed in service to your highest purposes to contribute in the lives of one another and the community you serve.

This article is published in St. Louis Small Business Monthly in the column The Extraordinary Workplace, April 2021.

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