If you ask a person – any person – to make a list of what they want most in life, odds are that “freedom” is going to end up pretty close to the top.
Because who doesn’t want more freedom of choice in their lives? We all dream of being our own boss, of being in control of our own time, and of being able to give a great middle finger to the rest of the world and spend the remainder of our lives on a yacht in the Caribbean surrounded by supermodels.
And it’s no wonder that we dream of more freedom; most of us feel like we have very little choice in some very important areas of our lives. We usually feel like we don’t have enough freedom in our work; that we’re stuck in a particular city or country; that we have no say about how our free time should be spent, who we should be dating, or how our country should handle the current financial situation.
But here’s the crazy part; we don’t have to accept any of these things. We could leave our homes and go anywhere we want in the world. We could start our own businesses and decide exactly what we should be doing with our time. Hell, we could even launch a political career and try to influence how our countries are run.
We could do all these things – but we don’t. And there is one very good reason for that; We’re completely terrified of too much freedom of choice.
Well, more specifically, we’re terrified of the responsibility that comes with that freedom.
Because freedom of choice isn’t all sunshine and unicorns. Freedom means making choices, and choices come with responsibility. Responsibility to make the “right” choices. To assess all the information, and face the consequences when we make the wrong decision.
And this scares the hell out of us.
We Don’t Really Want Freedom
This is why the majority of us actually prefer to work a job where we’re told what to do. Sure, we may love the idea of working for ourselves – being our own boss, and deciding what to do and when to do it. But in reality, we’re terrified of this. We don’t want to have all this freedom of choice – because what if we end up making the wrong choices?
Similarly, we don’t really want more freedom in most areas of our lives. We don’t want to be responsible for what we work on, or for choosing where in the world we want to live. And while it may sound awesome to have an ice cream bar with a thousand flavors to choose from, we’d probably just end up overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options.
In fact, studies have shown over and over again that the more choices we have in a given situation, the more stressed out we will feel. Having more choice brings more pressure to make the “right” choice, and it will drain that much more of our mental resources.
In the end, more freedom of choice only makes us feel overwhelmed, confused, and afraid.
And once we actually do settle for a decision, all those alternatives will have us worrying about whether or not we made the right decision in the first place.
That’s what’s keeping most of us from actually striving for more freedom in our lives. Sure, we may shout out at the top of our lungs how we’d love to take more control of our own existence. But when it comes down to it, we’re just too afraid of all the responsibility that would come with this freedom.
And until we learn to tackle that fear, we’re doomed to sabotage our own freedom by habitually choosing the easy, comfortable way out.
Giving up Freedom – The Easy Way Out
Because there is an incredibly easy way out of this pesky responsibility; just rid yourself of the freedom of choice, and any responsibility will go away with it.
This is a method that’s proven extremely popular over the years. It seems we just love to give away our freedom of choice; to bosses, to fanatical leaders, to the media, and even to our spouses. In fact, this has become pretty much the standard way of dealing with any responsibility that comes along with choice.
It’s just so easy to let your boss decide what tasks you should be doing at work. It’s so easy to let your government make all the decisions for your society. And it’s so easy to let the media decide what news should reach your ears.
Because if someone else is making the tough calls, then you will never have to face the annoying responsibility that comes along with them.
It will never be your responsibility to find a country to settle down in, to figure out what work you should be doing, or to make those tough decisions about your country’s foreign policy.
As much as we like to whine about having too little freedom, we sure love the comfort of being free from all that responsibility.
A Slippery Slope
Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to see how this might become a problem down the line. If you turn it into a habit to give away your freedom of choice, then this habit will only become more and more entrenched in your life.
It’s a very gradual process. The more you get used to the comfort of avoiding responsibility, the easier it will be to give up even more of it.
Because what’s one more hour of overtime at work, if you’re already used to giving away the majority of your time? What’s one more law, if you’re already obeying thousands? Why not let your partner decide what to have for dinner, and your friends decide what movie you should watch? And why not let other people deal with all those tough decisions that would only cause you stress?
Before you know it, you find yourself in a Fahrenheit 451 scenario, where the government is making every single decision for you.
Now, I don’t know how far you’ve slid down this spiral. Maybe your lack of control is limited to just your workplace, or maybe it has spread to consume your entire life. Or maybe you’re one of the few people who have managed to stay in control of the majority of their choices.
Either way, if you want to gain more freedom of choice in your life, there is only one way to go about it;
Take Some God Damned Responsibility
If you want that freedom of choice in your life, you will have to be prepared to face the responsibility that comes with that freedom. You need to face the uncertainty of making difficult choices, and the discomfort of possibly making the wrong choice.
You need to be willing to own up to your own mistakes, and give up the comfort of having a scapegoat for every decision in your life. You need to give up the right to say “I told you so.”
Only then will you be free to take back the freedom of choice in your life.
Because when it comes down to it, you have two basic choices; either man up and face the responsibility for the choices in your life, or let someone else make those decisions for you.
You can’t have it both ways.
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