Thursday, 17 November 2011

Freedom to Choose

How many of us have ever tried to excuse our behaviour through statements such as 'it's not my fault' or 'he made me do it' or 'that's just how I am' or maybe 'that's how we do it in our family'? I'm sure most of us have done it at some time. Let me tell you, these expressions and feelings are just a result of conditioning following the same steps that Pavlov used to make his dog drool at the sound of a bell.

That principle is based on Stimulus = Response. Such as you hear a bell at school (that's a stimulus) and depending on the time of day, you go into or out of your classroom (that's the response).

But if it's true that our actions are simply a result of all the conditioning we have encountered in our lives, how can we know that what we are experiencing right now is real? Or are we just a brunch of robots that are programmed to go about our daily lives.

Well, thankfully scientists have discovered a few outstanding differences between humans and animals. Some of which are the freedom to choose, a conscious, self-aware, imagination and an independent will. Animals, even the most sophisticated, are not blessed with these gifts. This means that they cannot consciously change or direct the conditioning that they endure. In part, because they are not even aware of it. But. because of our special gifts, we have the ability to reprogram ourselves, completely separate from our instincts and conditioning.

What does this mean you may be asking. Well, basically, between the stimulus and our response, we have CHOICE! You can choose if you go into class when the bell goes. We have the responsibility to make decisions for ourselves. I say responsibility because the actions we choose come with a consequence, albeit good or bad.

Lets have a closer look at the word responsibility. When broken apart it suggests 'response-ability' or the ability to respond. Leaders, highly regarded and proactive individuals, recognise this responsibility. They do nopt go around blaming conditioning, circumstances or others for their actions. Their behaviour comes from their conscious choice and is based on their values rather than from their environment or feelings. Highly reactive people are driven by circumstances, by external factors, they are letting others run their lives.

Gandhi, historically one of the greatest leaders that ever lived, once said "They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them." You have the choice to decide if you let others hurt, annoy or offend you. In fact, an insult or negative remark is not an insult until you accept it as such.

So let us start taking responsibility for our actions, reactions and non-actions. These are all choices. Every decision you make WILL affect your future. Choose wisely. Make choices that will let you proudly claim that "I am  successful today because of the choices I made yesterday."

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