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I will choose freewill

Mike Caracalas Texas Leadership Coach

Over the past several months, while I’ve been traveling Freedom Road on my personal journey of growth and transformation, I’ve had this feeling of newness… like I’m discovering things for the first time.  It’s a little humbling to find out that what’s a revelation to me has been around for almost 2000 years.

I’ve recently begun reading about Epictetus, an ancient Greek philosopher who was born a slave during the reign of the Roman Empire.  It seems counter-intuitive at first, but it seems those that understand freedom the best are those that have so little of it, at least on the surface.  History provides many examples of this idea, from Viktor Frankl, to Nelson Mandela, to Vietnam POWs such as James Stockdale and John McCain.

Epictetus taught “we cannot choose our external circumstances but we can always choose how we respond to them.”  Choice is one of the most basic elements of freedom.  This is the core of what the people I mentioned in the last paragraph understood.  We all have the power to choose our mindset.  We can choose our response.  We even have choice in how we experience emotion.  For many of my coaching clients, this is at first hard to believe.  Indeed, most of us think that’s a crazy idea, but it’s true.  Our minds make decisions (choices) every moment; it’s just that most often they are unconscious.  We act from habit.  We act from patterns of conditioned response.  We learn things early on– from our parents, in school, at work, in all of our interactions with other humans– and we continue to let those things drive us, unconsciously, long after those things have outlived their usefulness.  Our brains our actually designed to work this way.  But we evolved that capability when the world was a simpler place, when humans were focused on surviving and avoiding predators.  When we shine the light of consciousness, or awareness on our thoughts, we gain the freedom to choose our response in every moment.

When I was a kid I was a big fan of the rock band Rush.  There’s a line from one of their greatest songs, Freewill, that goes “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice / You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill / I will choose a path that’s clear / I will choose freewill.”   If people who were slaves of the Roman Empire, victims of the Holocaust, or POWs in Vietnamese prison can find their freewill, who’s to say we can’t find freedom in the corporate workplace?

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  1. spmccolley on May 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Great post, Mike! I’m familiar with most of the figures you mentioned but I’ll need to brush up on Epictetus. Sounds like there’s a lot of wisdom in his words and story.

  2. Juls on May 3, 2012 at 12:54 am

    Dear Mike, We, the workers, will never clearly experience freewill in the workplace due to limitations placed on us by the hierarchical structure of the business model. It is the will of the employer to extract every piece of energy, creativity and productiveness from the worker while imposing their model of the perfect worker, and in some way homogenizing the workforce. Creativity must be exuded, but only to a level of tolerence of the social, political and religious mores and values of the target market, or even society at large, as we do not live in a bubble, especially with social networking and news reporting reacting at lightning speed (Robert Maplethorpe come to mind?). So, no, freewill can never be truly experienced in the workplace due to the parameters and expectations imposed on workers by, especially, corporations and employers in general.

    Self-employment is maybe the only frontier left discover our own freewill. Have you noticed how much innovation has come about as a result of technology? Website sales activity, software writing, app writing,… developments of hubs where people can meet huge audiences and markets that are interested in like-kind products or ideas. Plus, they can be creative, directly benefit from their trevails, and monitor how much they want to reveal of their own talent, without being pushed or coerced. Plus, if you think about it, an individual is protected by the first amendment which protects freewill. But frankly, in some ways self-employment is doomed as well, as our tax structure and civil codes seem to slowly strangle the creativity and exuberance of new business owners as their lifeblood of captial is skimmed-off layer by layer by agencies lining up at the door for their cut.

    • mikecaracalas on May 4, 2012 at 11:26 am

      Julia, thank you for your comments. I love your passion! I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying… but I believe a few things beyond that as well. What I agree with is that the traditional structures of business and organizations in the world today are places that stifle the human spirit and blunt the creativity and innovation that they say they want from their people. Sure, many companies aren’t even enlightened enough to want those things, but the more insidious ones are the companies that talk about putting people first while they unwittingly create a crappy place to work. That word “unwittingly” is where I believe we diverge.

      Organizations are not mechanical, inhuman robotic devices that plague us. Nor are they alien creatures that have come from another galaxy to subjugate us. They are us. Organizations, business, governments, small business administrations, whatever… they are all made up of PEOPLE. Just as individuals have freewill over their own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors, so do organizations. The fact that vast swaths of humanity are not exercising their freewill, or more accurately are not even aware they have it, doesn’t change the fact that they have it. Some of the most unhappy people I know in corporate America are the ones running the place. They’re not as vocal on the topic as workers because they have a survival mechanism, primarily their own ambition, that obscures their unhappiness.

      There are companies in this world that are wonderful places to work, where people are valued for who they are and treated with the respect all humans deserve. Those companies are led by people that get it; that are choosing to lead people in a positive way. There are people in this world that achieve phenomenal things in the face of tremendous adversity. The fact that there are so few of them is why I am so optimistic for the business I have chosen for myself. It is my personal and professional mission to Liberate Corporate America from Hell, and lucky for me, the MARKET OPPORTUNITY IS HUUUGE!!

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