Angry. Bitter. Regretful. Ecstatic. Proud. Enthusiastic. I have worked with all types of people throughout my career. In some professional capacities people are at their lowest points (they are facing divorce, child custody conflict, probating the will of a loved one who has died, facing criminal charges, facing bankruptcy, etc.). As an attorney I have been needed by clients to address some of the most stressful, painful and difficult issues in life. In my other professional roles, for example, as a consultant and corporate educator, I have had the joy of working to elevate the performance of a business unit, addressed challenges with employee engagement, and assessed the organizational and cultural changes of going public (for a privately held firm). As an university educator I have celebrated with jubilant students on graduation day. There are so many opportunities. Highs and lows. Celebrations and pain. The one constant that I use to stay focused is that we all have choices (assuming that free will exists).
I have had conversations as an attorney with people who are facing criminal charges and encouraged them to explore their potential options. Engaging in different behavior (not getting intoxicated, not stealing, etc.) may result in different outcomes (no additional criminal charges, etc.). The question of what we "have to do" is central to our understanding of our lives.
Some people have made the argument that they have no choices and that they "have to work" or "pay taxes" or "keep this crummy job." I wonder. Are there people who are healthy (who could work) but simply choose not to? Yes. It is rare. Yet, it is an option. Are there people who are fully aware of their responsibility to pay taxes who choose not to do so? Yes. It is rare. Yet, it is an option. I have heard the retort, "Well, I don't want to be destitute! I don't want to go to prison!" I concur. I don't want those outcomes either so those are some of the many reasons that I choose to work and pay taxes. We have some ability to determine the most desired outcome and engage in behavior in furtherance of those goals.
There are no guarantees. Some innocent people are wrongfully convicted and placed in prison. Some people who desperately desire a job are not offered one. The question is what do we have to do? Much less than many of us assert that we do. We do many things because we determine they are ethical, the "right thing" to do (such as help someone in need, take care of a sick friend, etc.). Some people claim that they "have to" take care of their children. Are there people who are healthy but choose not to take care of their children? Yes. It is very rare. Yet, it is an option.
If we reframe our thinking and explore the possibilities of our input and our alternatives, we may view our lives in a more positive manner. If we feel unburdened by what "we have to do" and instead view our lives as the result of the choices we have made (to some extent), we may feel more empowered. So many people live other people's lives (their parents, their community, etc.) and don't experience the wonder and the rush of living their own lives. Many of them would prefer to conclude that it is a myth that "You don't have to do anything that you don't want to do," and they are inaccurate. It is NOT a myth. You do not have to do anything that you don't want to do. There are outcomes of those choices. Some of the outcomes are repugnant to you so you reject them. That is what we all do. We can discuss why you feel that outcome is undesirable and why you instead make different choices. Do I go to work? Do I take care of my kids? Do I take care of my employees? Do I stop smoking? Do I exercise? The list goes on and on. Of course we are constricted by our culture, our time period, external forces beyond our control. Yet, there are still more options than we may realize.
In the show I mentioned one of my favorite quotes from [...]