Freedom of Choice

freedomNo, this isn’t a political statement, although those words certainly can take a political tone.

And even though it’s around the July 4th holiday, Independence Day in America, this isn’t a post to remind us all of the freedoms we enjoy due to the sacrifice of millions who have faithfully served our nation so we can enjoy the level of freedom we currently experience.

What Freedom of Choice Do Most of Us Squander?

No, this is about the freedom of the multitude of choices we get to decide each day.

Time

Unless you’re a trust fund baby, you have to work for a living. So you might think you have the typical 9 to 5 grind each day, and there’s not a whole lot of freedom in your decision to work or not to work. Even assuming that you have 40 hours a week where you are chained to desk (and you’re not, by the way. See an excellent article on how we spend our time from Eric Barker of Wired Magazine), you get to decide how you spend your day at work.

You have the freedom to complain, daydream, gossip, back-stab, and get some work done. That’s your choice. And you have the freedom to focus, support your team, take initiative, praise others, and get some work done. That’s your choice, too. And both choices have their own special rewards.

Outside of work, where do you spend your free time? You have the freedom to hit a drive-thru, plow through an entire season of (insert the name of any series that captures your fancy), watch the laundry pile up, and go to bed just late enough to ensure you’ll be tired the next day. That’s your choice. And you have the freedom to prepare a decent meal, hit the gym, play with your children and walk the dog, catch up on household chores, and get to bed early enough so you can awake feeling rested. Also your choice. And both choices have their own special rewards.

Even people in prison have a measure of how they spend their time. Some pass the days plotting revenge against their accusers, or biding their time until they can get out and go back to the way they were living before they ended up in prison. Others spend their time getting an education, learning new behaviors and skills, and building the strength they need to reenter society as better people. Both are a choice.

Thoughts

The coolest thing about the “Thought Police” is that they don’t exist. While political and religious powers can sanction what you do, no one can control what goes on inside your head. And that place where thoughts generate can be your own private heaven or darkest hell. You choose.

You have the freedom to worry, resent, hold grudges, and think the worst about others. That’s your choice. And you have the freedom to trust, accept, forgive, and believe the worst about others. Also your choice. And both choices have their own special rewards.

Friendships

Unless you’re trapped in a modern day Romeo & Juliet battle against the family of your true love, you get to choose your friends. And while that might seem like a small freedom, it’s one that carries a huge consequence.

Research shows that it’s not only a cold virus that you can catch from the people around you; you also can catch their emotions. Psychology Today reported something most of us have suspected even before the research proved it: emotions are contagious. You have the freedom to hang out with people who are worried, negative, sad, fearful, suspicious, and depressed. That’s your choice. And your reward will be experiencing more negative emotions in your life.

You also have the freedom to associate with positive, supportive, encouraging, nurturing, empathetic, and happy people. Your choice. And one that comes with a big reward. Research proves that strong social ties may help stave off memory loss, reduce your stress, build immunity against infection, boost your ability to fight depression, help you lose weight, assist you in bouncing back after a heart attack, and make you live longer, according to Carl Latkin at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Summary

During your long weekend, backyard BBQs, and time away from the day-to-day grind, what can you do to fully exercise your freedom of choice in how you spend your time, your thoughts…and on whom?

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