The first requirement for living a free successful life is knowing one can and must consciously choose everything they do.
It is impossible to escape the fact that everything you do you choose to do. It is possible to attempt to evade responsibility for your choices. You can blame other things for what you do, like feelings, or desires, genetics, or society, your health, moods, or the provocation of others, but none of those excuses cover up the fact that whatever you do, you do because you have chosen to do it.
Whatever you fail to do is because you do not choose to do it. You can use all the same excuses to evade responsibility for what you do not do as you do for what you do, but nothing covers up the fact that all your behavior is determined by what you choose. Nothing makes you do or not do anything but your own conscious choice.
Recognizing that everything you do is by choice is the beginning of a fulfilled life of achievement, success, and happiness. So long as you deny that everything you do is chosen, your life is not in your control—it is in the control of whatever you surrender that control to. Knowing you never have to allow anything else to control you is the beginning of living a fulfilled, successful, happy life.
What's Wrong With Excuses?
There are excuses for not doing things: "I'm too tired," "I don't know how," "I have a headache," and "I just can't do it," and excuses for doing things, "I couldn't help it," "I lost my temper," "I cannot stop doing it," and "I just can't help myself." Every excuse is an attempt to blame something else for your actions, like your feelings, your desires, your moods, or your subconscious, but there is nothing else that can make you do anything or prevent you from doing something, unless it is physically impossible.
When children use the excuse, "I can't," it almost always means, "I don't want to," and there is usually some explanation, like, "I have a headache," or, "I'm not hungry," or, "I can't find it." Parents quickly learn to see through such excuses and to tell the difference between those cases when the child really can't do something, and the frequent cases of when "I can't," really means, "I don't want to."
Most children outgrow making excuses because they learn the advantages of doing things they don't particularly like for the reward that comes from doing them, and the fact that excuses don't usually work.
Childhood excuses are usually intended to convince someone else. Adult excuses are more likely intended to convince oneself. The problem with excuses is that you are deceiving yourself.
The reason for the excuses is obvious. If you aren't choosing what you are doing, you are not responsible for your behavior. Whatever you do or fail to do is not your fault if something else makes you do what you do. But that self deception is very dangerous.
An excuse is being dishonest with yourself and very often one becomes convinced they are controlled or limited by whatever thing they use to excuse their behavior. At that point they are no longer in control of their life and suffer from psychologically from baseless fears and a sense of being out of control.
Common Excuses For Not Choosing
All of these excuses are meant to excuse one's behavior by blaming something else for what one does.
- The excuse of inability "We simply do not have the ability to do everything." It is good to know what one's true capabilities are. Attempting to do things one just cannot do is a frequent costly mistake. Choosing not to do something one is truly not qualified to do is always a wise choice. Blaming inability to avoid doing something is just an excuse when one is perfectly capable of doing the thing they choose not to do.
When the overweight person claims they, "just can't stop eating," when the girl that always says the wrong thing says, "I can't help it," when the procrastinator says, "I just can't get started," or when anyone says, "I'm too tired," "I'm afraid," or, "it hurts too much," they are simply blaming something, "they can't help," or, "that is not their fault," for what is in fact nothing more than what they have chosen to do or not do.
Of course we are sometime really too tired to go on with some things, but when one is always too tired, there is either some physical problem or they are just attempting to excuse their choices. Fear can be debilitating, but that kind of fear is rare and one can alway choose to do something, even if they are afraid. No one likes pain but pain is a part of life and no one lives without it. Chronic pain means something is physiologically wrong, but the pain that goes with anything difficult or strenuous is a natural part of life. Pain never killed anyone and pain never made anyone do anything, but using pain to avoid doing what is necessary is one of the most common excuses for bad choices.
- The excuse of feelings Pain is only one of the feelings people use as an excuse for their choices, like feeling tired or feeling afraid. But any feeling might be used as an excuse, from a feelings of empathy or sympathy used as an excuse for giving in to someone else's behavior, or a feeling of frustration used as an excuse for some destructive or hateful behavior. None of those feelings cause the behavior, however, it is one's own choice that causes the behavior.
- The excuse of desires and appetites This is the most common excuse for people's behavior, both for one's own behavior and the behavior of others. There is an idea that some desires or passions in some way actually make people do what they do, and courts and society forgive the worst and most self-destructive of human behavior on the grounds, "he or she could not help it," because they were taken over by their desire, passion, or other appetite.
Some of these supposed irresistible desires, it is taught, are inborn, or come from some other unidentifiable source. But every Desire and Feeling has an explanation. Even if there weren't an explanation for such feelings and desires, if there were some mysterious unexplained force causing desires to do things, those desires could not cause the behavior. It might be difficult to ignore such desires, even painful to resist them, but the desires cannot cause the behavior, only one's choice to surrender one's desires can cause the behavior.
- The excuse of ignorance Ignorance can certainly be a reason someone does something wrong (makes a mistake), or more often fails to do something, because they just do not know what to do or how to do it. While ignorance may explain someone's behavior, it does not excuse it or mitigate the consequences, because they still had to choose what they did. Claiming ignorance as an excuse for one's choices, however, is doubly wrong. To excuse what one does, saying, "I didn't know," is an attempt to excuse the choice. Admitting one made a wrong choice from ignorance at least makes it possible to correct the problem by learning whatever one was ignorant of and not make the same mistake again. In most cases, the ignorance excuse is simply a lie.
- The excuse of overpowering emotion The most common form of this excuse is the excuse of anger, rage, or hate. How many individuals have destroyed things, lost friends, lost jobs, and destroyed marriages because of behavior they blame on their anger or rage. How many have committed atrocious crimes blaming their hate. It is so common for individuals to allow anger to determine their choices that a whole psychological field, called, "anger management," has grown up. But the very name is wrong. It is not one's anger that needs to be managed, but one's choices. If you or I experience frequent anger or rage which is unreasonable, it is important to discover why, but the problem with anger is not the feeling of anger, but what we choose to do about that feeling.
Almost all these things can be one's reason for making a choice, whether those reasons are good or bad. One may choose to do or not do something because they believe they are unable to do it, or have feelings they choose to follow, or desires they choose to indulge, or an overwhelming emotion they refuse to resist. So long as one admits the feeling or desire or emotion did not cause their behavior, though the choice may be a bad mistake, it is still a choice. Allow your anger to make you choose to fight or break things, but admit your crude behavior was what you chose. No feeling, no desire, no inability, no emotion makes you do anything, only your choice determines what you do.
What You Are Is What You Choose
"Nobody can help what they are," the excuse begins. Well, we can't help whatever characteristics we are born with. We certainly do not choose our complexion, stature, physical skills, whatever talents and mental ability we are born with, or what resources are available to us while young, but those things are only the raw material out of which we make ourselves into the person we choose to be. None of those things make a person what they are.
What you are, the kind of person you are at any moment of your life, is the sum of all the things you have done, achieved, and accomplished, or failed to do, achieve, and accomplish up to that point in your life. That means everything from the way you talk, walk, and stand, how you groom yourself, how you interact with others, what you know and what you are able to do are how you have chosen to develop yourself, what you have chosen to learn, and what you have chosen to do.
No matter where you are in your life or whatever you have done with it so far, how you will live in the future and what you will be in the future is still yours to choose. The only difference your past makes is to what degree your past choices have limited possible future choice by whatever harm you have done to your self physically, mentally, and financially. Obviously, the earlier you start living by choice, the more you will be able to do with your life, but it is never to late to take charge of your life and to choose to be the best you can possibly be.
The Enemies Of Choice
It is very unlikely that you have ever heard that your life is entirely yours to make what you choose to make it. That everything you do you choose to do, that to do anything you must choose to do it, and that you are able to choose anything within the limits of physical possibility and your own ability. It is very likely that is an entirely new idea to you.
It is because almost the entire world is the enemy of individual choice. Every form of media from the press to movies promotes the idea that what people do is caused: by their genetic make-up, their culture, their social environment, their education, their financial status, their race, or their ethnic background. The psychologists teach that it is people's subconscious that determines what they do, the evolutionists teach it is one's evolutionary heritage that determines what they do, the academics teach it is one's social prejudices that determines what they do. No one teaches that nothing determines what anyone does except what an individual chooses to do and nothing makes them do anything they do not choose to do.
I really do not know why there is an almost universal hatred for the idea that the ability and necessity of conscious choice is the essence of human nature. It may be fear of the fact that if everything one does is by choice, it means they are responsible for everything they do. Perhaps all those things they want to make the "cause" of human behavior are a desperate search for relief from the responsibility of choosing. It might also be a kind of self-doubt, a fear of failing to be or becoming any kind of real success. If they can find something else to blame for what they do and who they are, it will relieve their sense of guilt and failure.
Whatever their reason or their purpose you must never let them rob you of the certainty that you can choose to do, achieve, and be whatever you are willing to make the effort and have the ability to do and be, and that nothing makes you do anything you do not choose to do.
Choosing Is Freedom And Power
Refusing to recognize we consciously choose everything we think, believe, and do, attempting to evade responsibility for our choices by blaming something for our behavior is not only self-deception, it is psychologically crippling. It is a kind of self-induced disability that makes it impossible to fully realize our capacity for living happily and successfully.
So long as one believes they are not in complete control of their own behavior, of all they think and choose, the sense that one is out of control and the subject of feelings, forces, and causes one does not understand are inevitable. It is, at best, a kind of neurosis, but is much more like a psychosis.
The realization, which is really just admitting to oneself, that nothing makes them think or do anything, that everything they think and do is in their own power to choose, is like a brilliant light that turns the world from a place of mystery and danger into a world of infinite possibility to explore and discover and use for one's own pleasure and to make their own.
Some never discover that power to be in total control of their life and future, but those who do, whenever they do are suddenly able to correct all of those things in their life that have been standing in the way of their success and happiness. Ridding oneself of all the excuses for one's wrong behavior makes one free to make right choices.
For a human being, living means choosing. Knowing one is always free to choose means they are free to live and live fully as a human being, choosing to be all they can be, enjoying that adventure of a life lived as one chooses with no limit or outside control.