I have been thinking about our freedom to create what we want in life. Not just the big life desires. Also, the everyday choices. While not a new thinking topic for me, I am diving into a deeper understanding through Irvin Yalom’s classic Existential Psychology. In a blog-sized nutshell, here’s how Dr. Yalom frames the two aspects of a human being’s freedom to create his or her own life—to desire, choose, and act.
- Responsibility: Our life authorship—”the awareness of creating one’s own self, destiny, life predicament, feelings and one’s own suffering.” Not just the good stuff, the realization that we create the mistakes and the missed opportunities.
- Will: Assuming responsibility—”one must commit to some action.” True will is initiated by our wish, our desire. Then we must act.
Taking responsibility to decide and act requires choice. And choosing always requires excluding or letting go of alternatives. Besides knowing what we wish, this may be the biggest impediment to freedom. We sometimes have to let go of what 1) other’s value or think we should want or 2) we have wanted in the past or 3) no longer fits our current or future picture.
in the last two weeks, I have been so impressed with two colleague’s freedom to make an authentic, but hard career choice. The first person declined to interview for his “dream job” because upon deep reflection (right now) he is more committed to his current company and goals. The second person, after months of upset about a lack of advancement opportunity, decided clearly to turn down a promotion because the two weeks of travel per month did not meet his desire to parent his young children. Both were hard decisions. Both required self-understanding. Both excluded not only an alternative; but, in fact, a highly desired one.
These two acts of freedom are in the “big” decision realm, but think about all the little decisions we make each hour, day, and week. Ask yourself: Are you free in those choices? Are you creating your authentic life?