Sunday, April 17, 2011

Are you Choosing Freely or being Governed by the Given?

 If you limit your choices only to what seems reasonable or possible, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise       Robert Fritz
Have you ever felt dissatisfied with the options available to you but then, somewhat reluctantly, chosen from them?

Let me give you an example of what I mean.  It may seem like a trivial one but it will serve to illustrate an important principle.

I enjoy changing the look and feel of my blogs from time to time in response to the way I’m feeling and/or the new and emerging impressions I wish to create and convey to readers.  

Just yesterday, I decided I wanted a different background for this blog.  I went through the range of options available in Blogger’s Design backgrounds and had a lot of fun trying on several of them.  But none of them felt completely satisfactory.

It was then that I realized (and remembered) that I wasn’t making a free choice. What do I mean?

Well, you see, I had limited my choice of backgrounds to what was available i.e. the given

When I realized and remembered (because I’ve been in this kind of space many times before with other decisions I’ve had to make) that I was choosing from a given set of options, in other words, a limited set of options, I decided to take a different approach.  

It is one that I use increasingly and which always delivers the most satisfying outcomes for me, whether over *trivial* or *critical* decisions.  (In fact, it’s because I have experienced such profound results with the more *critical* decisions that I tend to forget to use it with my  less *critical* decisions!)

I shut my eyes and began to imagine how I wanted my blog to feel and what that feeling looked like.  That’s when I began to see certain colors and shapes and forms that seemed to really capture that feeling.  I then opened my eyes and began looking through my library of images – pictures that I’d taken or drawn.

I found two that I liked.  The first one, although beautiful in my eyes, proved a bit too distracting when I tried it on.  The second, however, which is the one you see, was what matched my desire fully.  (Perhaps you might like to give me your feedback on it which I’ll be thrilled to receive :))
An Important Observation

I’ve observed that when we choose from a limited set of options, we often end up ‘settling for less’.  We make a compromise that we feel forced to make and the dissatisfaction that such a compromise leaves remains and festers within us, mostly unconsciously. 

In the short term, we may experience a degree of relief which we may mistake for satisfaction.  In truth, we’re just relieved that we’ve put that one decision to bed.  At least for now.  

Over time, however, that dissatisfaction that we’ve ignored or tried to rationalize away continues to gnaw at our spirit, mostly subconsciously.  Consciously, it may express itself as doubt or a reluctant act of tolerance.  

How Life Unfolds
Our lives unfold in a series of ongoing decisions most of which are made unconsciously because they are set on autopilot.  In fact, we hardly think of them as decisions.  Instead, we consider them habits or routines.

Our morning cup of coffee, the brushing of our teeth, getting out of bed, working at our computer, having three meals a day, grocery shopping once a week, answering the phone when it rings and paying our bills are such routine events that we perform them with hardly any variation and with unremarkable consistency.

And, let’s be clear, it’s mostly a very useful thing.  We don’t want or need to be deliberating over the same decision day in and day out, or every week or every month when we’ve already established that they work very well for us.  They keep us moving efficiently through life most of the time.

However, there are many more non-routine decisions that we are called upon to make that potentially have a great and far-reaching impact on the quality of our lives and the degree of happiness and control we experience.

These are the decisions that we don’t wish to set on autopilot and which we want to experience the greatest degree of freedom about.  

We do not want to make these decisions from a limited set of options that we’ve constructed from unhelpful beliefs, fears and limitations.

On the contrary, we want to make them from an infinite field of options!

To do this is much, much easier than you might think.  Just as I did with my choice of backgrounds for my blog, you too can do the same with any of the decisions that you consider important and meaningful to you.

Before I continue, I want to make something clear. 

There are three things that are at play here:

  1. The willingness to see beyond the given and finite/limited and into the unexplored and infinite
  2. The courage and faith that you are choosing what you truly desire even when the shape and form of that choice is not immediately clear to you
  3. The possibility that what you finally and freely choose may be something within the Given field of options but one which you now see and experience differently.  In other words, you genuinely see and experience it as a free and joyous choice rather a compromise or ‘the lesser of two evils’.

Note: That third one is something you may need to think about a bit more :).  It may be useful to reflect on the fact that the final choice is not what determines the quality of the outcome and its sustainability.  Rather, it is how the choice is made and the motivation driving it (eg whether from fear or freedom)

When you step into this *zone* of choosing freely, you’ll find it exciting, exhilarating and liberating.  It is as if you’re being buoyed on the unstoppable stream of life or floating above a lush and vibrant field that has absolutely no boundaries!  

The best part is, this is something that you can experience everyday and right now if you choose to!  And why wouldn’t you???

When you’re not Governed by the Given, life becomes fantastically more interesting, exciting, fun and truly and deeply satisfying!  

Let me put it this way: Joy, rapture and delight are available to you right now, without even having to leave your seat! 

Choices are made in your mind, by your heart and inspired by your Soul!  Would you have it any other way now that you know?

Before I show you how easily this is done, let me suggest the kinds of choices that you could be making with complete freedom.  In other words, the choices that you could be making consciously and freely from the infinite field of options, but which typically, you make from a limited set of options.  

  • What to wear
  • What to eat and how to cook it (or not)
  • How to spend your weekends or holidays
  • Whether to pamper yourself and how
  • Whether to have a life partner and who
  • Whether to watch television and what
  • What to believe
  • How to enjoy yourself
  • How to spend time with your favorite person or animal
  • What to read
  • Whether to cultivate a new interest and what
  • Whether to get married/divorced and why
  • What to do with your money

As you can see, these are choices about things that range from what appears to be trivial to ones that we typically regard as life-changing.  

The fact is, every choice we make is potentially life-changing if we remain open and attentive to the possibilities it reveals.

So, how do you enter the *Zone* of Choosing Freely to make your choices?

Please don’t be underwhelmed by the simplicity of what I’m about to share with you.  Simplicity and elegance underpin the most profound, elaborate and intricate creations including the *simple* typing of words in the creation of a novel, the *simple* motion of a needle and thread in the creation of spectacular fashion and the *simple* brush strokes in the painting of a masterpiece :).


  1. Remove yourself from the given options by closing your eyes, focusing on your breathing and allowing your mind and body to relax completely
  2. Imagine being suspended in space or floating or standing on an infinite ocean.  Enjoy the feeling of freedom and lightness.
  3. Remind yourself:  I am an expression of Life, one from a field of infinite possibilities
  4. Remind yourself:  I am choosing freely according to what I truly desire and what feels perfectly joyous and peaceful to me
  5. Ask yourself:  What do I truly desire?  How do I really want to feel?
  6. Wait for the good feelings to rise and flood your mind and body
  7. Be guided by these good feelings as you open your eyes and take your first step in the direction of these feelings
  8. Continue to act (or not act) according to these feelings
I suggest you try this first with a decision about something that you regard as ‘not so critical’, like choosing what to wear when you meet your friend for coffee. 

Instead of being Governed by the Given, go through the eight steps and see what you come up with.  More importantly, take note of how you feel

Did you find yourself exploring a wider field of possibilities?  Did you end up wearing something you wouldn’t have thought of wearing?  Or putting together a combination that you’d never have thought of?  Did you feel a little excited about it, even bold and daring? 

Imagine how this could change the way you approach what you consider the more *critical* choices in life, like choosing a career path or life partner. 

Options that you wouldn’t have seen suddenly and *magically* appear when you take yourself to that Zone of Choosing Freely.  

You don't have to make compromises and settle for less.  And you certainly don't have to cramp your style by being Governed by the Given!


  1. "Every choice we make is potentially life-changing if we remain open and attentive to the possibilities it reveals": very nicely expressed...I agree it is easy to settle for the given...Its only when we perceive the infinite potential in ourselves, we get clarity about our real choices....Personally I take my time to choose the 'important choices' of life, and as you mentioned be attentive to my inner quiet soul : )

    BTW, I am liking your 'ground infinity' blog : )

  2. TB, I must say that I don't really worry about things like that. I just do whatever I do and forget about it.

  3. @sb Thanks for your comment sb and the feedback about my blog :)

    Isn't it exciting to discover possibilities you had never imagined yourself? BTW Have you been tempted not to wait for and listen to your quiet soul? What was the outcome of that?

  4. @np np, do you feel you're exploring the vast range of options you have?

    I don't worry about past choices myself but I do know what it's like to discover options I hadn't previously considered and to choose with far greater ease, joy and confidence. It's exciting, often surprising and fun :)

  5. tb, I don't mean to sound contrary. But I always feel whatever I do it's the best thing possible. I can't imagine my life being any happier than it is.

  6. @np If I thought you were being contrary, it would be a judgment on my part and one that I happily choose not to make :)

    Your response raises several thoughts in my mind, some of which I've shared at another blog, Freedom and Flourishing, by Winton Bates (sorry, I've not yet learned to include hotlinks in comments :( ).

    I do believe that whatever I do is the best thing I can do at the given time. I also believe (because I feel it) that I'm generally happy, joyous and peaceful.

    However, unlike you, I can imagine being even more happy and enjoying even more of life. Exploring fresh possibilities is one of those things that gives me a great buzz :)

  7. Freeing yourself from the set choices always seems to lead to an increase, or an application, of creativity. And that's a good outcome - as in the choice of your backgrounds :)

  8. @pd Yep, a whole new world of possibilities. And what never ceases to leave me in awe is how simple it is to do!

  9. TBT: Re hotlinks in comments, the magic formula can be found here , just before the example.

    I just copy it to the spot where I want to use it and then substitute in the URL and TEXT.
    Any problems, just ask.

  10. Hey Winton, appreciate that! Ta :)


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