Here’s another excerpt from chapter 4 of my upcoming book, The Path of No Resistance. The book is available for pre-order now, http://garretkramer.com/book/, and will be in stores on October 14th. I Hope you enjoy this sneak peak.
Why Free Will and Success Go Hand in Hand
How do you suppose the late South African president Nelson Mandela overcame his personal judgments, found inspiration and love, and survived twenty-seven years of captivity with such dignity and grace? He was cognizant, keenly so, of the path of no resistance. That’s how.
Mandela knew that his experience in jail was formulated by his own thinking—not by what anyone did to him. That’s not to say that he didn’t have feelings of hatred or despair during his detention. I bet he did. But feelings were his virus detector, and he knew that hatred and despair were viruses for sure.
The opposite of exercising free will, I believe, is thinking that something on the outside can regulate your life in any way. Circumstance or environment be damned, Mandela was free. And just like him—in spite of your boss, children, parents, teacher, or coach—you’re free to tackle life in any way that you see fit. We’ll get to rules, expectations, and goals next, but for now understand this: Adhering to a code of conduct (like Mandela did in prison) does not mean that a code of conduct can change the way you think.
Everyone is born with free will—everyone. So why is it that so few of us consistently act from this intrinsic level of functioning? Why do so many of us forfeit our free will and follow the paths of others?
The answer brings us back to the prevalence of the outside- in paradigm. From the time we’re young, we’re told to be afraid of this or that; we’re taught the difference between right and wrong. We live at the mercy of an illusionary circumstance-feeling link. For example, young children think nothing of playing outside for hours regardless of cold or heat. Until, that is, a concerned adult makes them aware of (and think about) the circumstance by telling them to put on a jacket or drink plenty of fluids.
To be clear, I’m not saying that layering up in the cold or hydrating in the heat isn’t essential for kids—it is. My point is that, left to their own intuition, there’s a pretty good chance that your kids will figure it out for themselves. And if they don’t, and a nudge in a certain direction is required, don’t disregard that your kids are allowed to see things differently than you. The minute a young person’s inner wisdom and instincts become shrouded by the opinions or judgments of someone else, his or her free will takes its first hit. When that horse leaves the barn, achievement becomes more and more difficult.
Remember when we were talking about productivity strategies and their potential negative effects? Well, a child or anyone who is subject to overbearing superiors or constant hovering will react in the same negative fashion. Reason being, the clash between a person’s intuition and the perspective of another almost always results in a bound-up mind-set—a level of functioning from which it’s impossible to perform.
Consider it like this: How do you feel inside when you’re told what to do or how to act? Now try to perform, or make a balanced decision, from that defensive, irritated, or insecure standpoint.
If you’re now wondering what can be done about this seesaw battle between providing or receiving loving advice and hindering free will, this is how it looks to me: First, judging another person and holding him or her accountable to an indiscriminate code of conduct won’t work in the long term. What will work, in my experience, is pointing others inward to their thinking in order to explain their feelings, and then allowing behavior to fall into place on its own.
Next, all of us—youngsters, pay attention, too—must come to grips with the fact that most of the time we can’t do anything about an authoritarian parent, coach, teacher, or employer. That’s why it’s essential to know that these individuals have zero control over our feelings. Truth is, when our mental states are low, these individuals will appear tough to deal with. But when our mental states are high, we get exactly where they’re coming from, so we’ll find our own way to use or discard any of their advice.
One last thing before we leave this topic. There’s nothing that expresses your free will more fully than turning your back on a circumstance that appears troubling. Your ability to do this, however, always comes down to how vividly you see the role of thoughts in crafting your perceptions. The deeper you understand that you live in the feeling of your thinking, and not the feeling of your circumstances, the easier it is to stay in the game and exercise your basic right to be free. Keep in mind: People who believe everything they think live in self-created prisons.
Now we’re set to continue down this revolutionarily simple path. Next, let’s take a close look at the setting of rules, expectations, and goals. It’s no mystery that this is one of my biggest instinct-cramping pet peeves…