Being free to choose is itself based on being free to take up that freedom. No one can do it for us. If we lack freedom to choose, we would not be free to make that choice.
Being free to choose is itself based on being free to take up that freedom. Only we can take up the freedom. No one can give us freedom to choose. Freedom of choice itself exists only as a free choice to set us free. So only if we are free to take up the choice to be free are we able to take up freedom of choice that is available as a free choice. And if someone could give us freedom of choice, then we would not be free and neither would the choice to be free be free.
Briefly, we could be free. Freedom itself is a free choice. We can’t be given free choice; if free choice needs to be given to us, then we’re not free. Free choice cannot be given, because then it isn’t a free choice that can be taken up. It is beautiful—we and it. Yet both need to be free: for freedom of choice to be available to set us free, and for us to take up the free choice to be free.
Let’s say you want to be free to explore your freedom of choice. But let’s also say that it’s possible for someone else to give freedom of choice to you—like a present, or like food, or like something you can purchase at a store. Then, it seems, you sit with a dilemma. If this is the case—if someone else can give freedom of choice to us—then it’s not we that took up our freedom of choice out of our own free will. If this is the case, as easily as it came, freedom of choice could be taken away from you again.
Stated clearly, for us to have freedom of choice—to be free to choose—is in itself based on being free to make that choice.
What does this mean to us, this question of whether we are free?
When you read “Free to Choose (Freedom of Choice),” you learned that we say yes when we don’t really mean it, and vice versa. This brings another interesting question: Do we mean what we say and do we say what we mean?
Let’s take this question a step further. How often do you arrive late for an appointment? Whether a business appointment or just going to the movies, how often are you there in good time? Whether it’s you, or I, or anyone else, if we aren’t punctual some of the time or even most of the time, without a doubt, we don’t mean what we say.
Let’s look at why. If we meant what we said when making the appointment or even making plans of our own, like going to the movies, but we arrive late, it’s highly likely that it wasn’t something important to us. If it was, we’d be there on time or even arrive with time to spare. If our life is so hectic that we got away late, didn’t have something to wear, got caught up in traffic, dressed in several outfits before we decided on one . . . the main thing is, we weren’t punctual. Thus, the event wasn’t important to us. So did we really mean what we said (or planned) when we made the appointment or the plans?
Let’s take it another step. If this is indeed the case, then are we living our first-choice lives? When we don’t mean what we say or say what we mean, isn’t that clear indication that we’re living a second choice life, definitely not a first-choice life?
When we’re not living a first-choice life, we’re not able to make choices that are important to us. When in such a frame of mind, how would we ever be in a position to become free to take up the choice of freedom of choice: the choice of being free to choose?
Putting it bluntly, if we think for a moment that we have freedom of choice, chances are, we’re kidding ourselves and Factor-x is ruling our lives.
You might be thinking, If this is the case, and if I’m kidding myself, then how can I rid myself of Factor-x?
Sorry, you can’t. Factor-x is with us forever. No matter what, Factor-x is right there at our heels, nibbling away at our peace of mind, interjecting itself with every step of our lives. We are never rid of our Factor-x. We only have one option: To stop fighting our Factor-x and befriend it.
We cannot say, “Surely we should know better.” That doesn’t work. We can only acknowledge and befriend Factor-x and live with it.
But by befriending Factor-x, we might be better able to see it operate in our lives. If we can see that, we stand a chance to acknowledge Factor-x whenever it makes its appearances. We can then say to it with a smile, “I see you!”
What is the result? By taking the power away from your Factor-x in a friendly manner, it mostly melts away, and you have peace of mind. Over time, you would see that your Factor-x isn’t so dominating in your life anymore. That it’s just there in the shadows. And then, mostly because you no longer fight it, but have acknowledged and accepted it, Factor-x seems to interject less often, or interject with less potency.
Think of two different bodies of water: a smooth, mirror-like pool, and a storm-tossed ocean. Like a pool without ripples, when we then throw the smallest object onto that calm water, the water is severely disrupted and the calm is no more. In the same way, when Factor-x gets hold of us when we least expect it, all hell breaks loose inside us, as if the higher we climb up a ladder, the more it hurts when we fall down. Yet, when we throw a large object into a stormy sea, it will hardly make an impression.
When we aren’t at peace with ourselves, equate it to the stormy sea, and compare that to the calm pond of water. If your life is stormy almost all the time, you’re probably unaware of not meaning what you say. You make the appointment, but up comes some object and, with a splash, it falls into the already-stormy sea. The result? You get sidetracked, and the meeting or appointment or movie plans are shoved right to the back of the emergency list.
Which is the life you would prefer—one like the calm of the pond, where you are free and have freedom of choice, or the hectic, stormy life like a sea so frenzied and wild, you can only bob around in an attempt to survive it?
This is where the ability to see our Factor-x operating is so helpful. If you see your Factor-x operating and can see these objects tossed in, you can exercise your freedom of choice and decide what is tossed in or not.
But here it comes . . . that is also easier said than done. Rest assured, should you exercise that freedom of choice, you might then go down other forks in the path that you are possibly unprepared for or reluctant to take. And guess what you would likely find around the next corner? Lo and behold—Factor-x, full blown, biting at your heels or chewing on your ears about such an alternate path and its consequences. Mind you, Factor-x is a great salesman that will go far to convince you to take another path even though you know you’d prefer not to.
But this is a simplistic analogy of a very important step in our lives. As discussed further in the later section, “Doing What I Want or Like, and Doing What I Like Doing,” this shows the difference between when we’re really and truly ourselves and mistakenly thinking we’re ourselves when all that has happened is that we’ve become an arrogant person. Why arrogant? Because instead of having uncovered ourselves and taking up our freedom of choice, we’re thinking we possess “new tricks.” When we’re in the arrogant league, we don’t see that we are. But we’re not free at all, and we feel it. The arrogance is driven by Factor-x being utterly in control of our lives. When we’re arrogant, we’re in fact out of control, because Factor-x is in control.
And when Factor-x controls us, we rarely have peace of mind.
It is critical for us to uncover ourselves. In that lies our peace of mind, our inner peace, and the ability to truly be ourselves. But to be yourself, you are in the fortunate position I mentioned—you can achieve that for yourself by getting together the courage to take up your freedom of choice, irrespective of what the consequences are of that choice and every subsequent one. Once done, once you’ve taken up your freedom of choice and thus are free to choose, every subsequent choice becomes easier and almost automatic, even though intentional.