The Power of Choice – Part 1

December 10, 2015

bp-gratitude-jobStay in school, do your homework, earn good grades and sometime in the future, you’ll reap the benefits.

Of course, this is true and some deeper part of me knew it,  yet I still found myself putting other things ahead of school work … fun things like hiking down the railroad tracks to Deadman’s swamp to fish, or playing a game of pick-up baseball. That’s not to say I didn’t do my fair share of studying; but there is a balance in all things and there were times when I willfully ignored that balance.

I have learned a lot about the Will. The part of us we call our “Will” is the ability to make a choice, and Free-Will is the ability to use reasoning instead of compulsion to make our choices. All animals have a Will in their own measure, but their choices are compulsive. Humans are gifted with Free-Will to reason, to see a higher purpose, and to make choices beyond compulsive thinking and habits.

In high school I began to experience embarrassing pimples on my face and nose. Puzzled as to the cause, I began to suspect diet and figured my consumption of soda and candy were contrary to a clear complexion. It took some time to figure out that the problem was chocolate and peanut butter. Once I refrained from eating these junk foods, the breakouts cleared up about a week later. Amazingly, even after I had made this discovery, I would sometimes indulge my cravings. When the inevitable breakout occurred, I knew it was a result of my own choice. For the sake of a taste chocolate (which lasted a moment at best), I was now facing an entire week of discomfort. I was left asking myself “why would I make that choice?!?”

Instant Gratification vs. True Fulfillment:

The answer is that I sought instant gratification rather than true fulfillment. I had been allowing the compulsive part of me to override my reasoning to satiate my desire regardless of the consequences. It was simple cause and effect. The first step in any change is to be honest. I can pretend that I don’t know what chocolate does to my face, or I can see the truth and deal with it. I have found that honesty always works to my advantage. If I am not honest, I end up caught in Einstein’s definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I have found that it is easy for the mind to choose compulsively if there is not a conscious awareness built of the dynamics between instant gratification and true fulfillment. This awareness in the mind changes the choice from “chocolate now or no chocolate,” to “chocolate now and pimples later or no chocolate now and I feel good about myself.” Compulsivity is set aside because I have Free-Will and can bring reasoning into my decision-making process. True fulfillment always produces a more desirable outcome that is also building to the Spirit.  When I look in the mirror or am out in the public, I am very grateful I resisted chocolate. I am able to take the stage of life with a clear complexion. I feel confident and free, and I realize the power of my choice.

Today’s society leans towards compulsivity and promotes instant gratification. No need to wait for anything: pick up fast food for that busy schedule and stream a movie for some “quality” couch time. You have to look no further than marketers and their advertisements to realize how society leverages compulsivity for economic gain: “sex sells” is a familiar mantra. Fortunately, we have the tools to ward off these unhealthy and unproductive influences. Free-Will, reasoning and the knowledge of a better outcome can direct us to a healthier, more spiritual lifestyle.

The opportunities for a sedate lifestyle are abundant. More and more it requires a conscious choice to introduce activity into our lives. Having a thought that “exercise in my life would be healthy and good,” identifies a step that would create something better in our life. As a result the conditions for a choice are automatically established. Make no mistake, there will be a choice:  for choosing not to do something is also a choice. There is temporary gratification in avoiding exertion, or there is true fulfillment in feeling healthy and projecting a more accurate inner vision of yourself.

bp-gratitude-approvalMorals and virtues are an important aspect of our character that guides our conduct as we navigate through life. How we respond to this inner guidance is a choice and is also influenced by gratification and fulfillment. “Am I honest and forthright?” It may be somehow instantly gratifying to be less than honest to someone you care about, but the undercurrents caused by a lack of honesty lead to stress and a degraded self-image. “Am I loving and understanding?”  I can react to a situation by expressing irritation and impatience, or I can respond by expressing my truth compassionately. The reality is we are presented with a variety of choices throughout our day. The choices we make can be fulfilling or gratifying, building or tearing down.

Instant gratification vs. true fulfillment may be easy to read and write about, but it is more challenging in its execution. The first time a compulsive choice is set aside makes the next choice easier. Soon it becomes a part of us and a new path of least resistance is created in the mind. True fulfillment may take effort and patience to achieve, but it is using the power of Free-Will to manifest our inner vision of who we truly are.

We are all worth that effort.


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Written by James Milliman on December 10, 2015.
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