Those of us in possession of (most of) our faculties are faced with hundreds of choices large and small. Before even heading out the door we’ve chosen to bathe (or not) what to wear, whether and/or what to eat, to have coffee at home or stand on line for the privilege, to pack a lunch or stand on line for the privilege, and simply to leave home at all. Most choices are so minute and routine as to barely register as the product of free will. Our will (and what we do with it) often becomes more noticeable in the great big world.
The guy who cuts you off or the woman tugging a bit too forcefully on her child? Our wheels turn. What (if anything) do we do or say? If we vow to make our own little world the world in which we want to live we probably smile at the driver and interact with the woman (“How’s it going?” delivered with a huge and inviting smile, might break the tugging spell.) Our day is filled with choices and options regarding behavior and response.
But what of the larger choices? What of the choices so large they may appear invisible to the naked eye? The; ‘perhaps I should sell everything and move to a yurt’, or, ‘something is not right here perhaps I need to pay attention’ types of choices lurk below the surface. If we are lucky and are lives consist of more than survival we are confronted with enormous choices throughout our (healthy) adult life. It is daunting and a gift. Often the very thought of making a choice is paralyzing and we choose to stay still. It wasn’t always like that. As a 4-year old we had no problem choosing chunky over smooth, or the red crayon over the blue. But the stakes seem higher as we grow and we often (mistakenly) think we have an audience. (We don’t: ‘They’ are far too busy watching the “Them Show’ to be paying attention to our lives.)
We have this sense that each move we make need be towards a great big goal/accomplishment. Onward and upward! When faced with a career decision we can agonize over an increase in status to the detriment of creative growth. We tend to stay in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that make us less happy than happy because of having put in so much time and not wanting to fail. In other words, we often make (or don’t make) choices based on the past not the present. If we believe that our job, as humans, is to continuously grow and learn, the past is only useful for data collection. The data must then be processed and analyzed anew while examining where we are right now. (Think of it as the flight attendant announcement that; “The closest exit may be behind you”)
It is a daunting gift this free will of ours. There are no choices that will ever resonate with us unless we have a sense of who we are. There are no shortcuts, remedies, mantras or gurus that will get us to a point of self-knowledge. There is only honesty and thoughtfulness. It might not feel entirely comfortable, but it is this strong base that’s needed for freedom of movement. If the very notion of looking for one’s heart’s desire seems ridiculously daunting, remember we are born with this skill. From birth we are a squirming bundle of preferences. Before our head loses that wonderful smell we know we prefer our fist in our mouth rather than our blankie, we know which breast we prefer and what our favorite sounds are. We have no distractions, no sense of what we ‘should’ be doing; we’ve yet to develop an inner critic. If we can combine that sense of freedom with the vast data we’ve collected we can make choices that work for us at any given time.