Since we are born with the mental and psychological ability to make choices, our lives will be determined mostly by what we want to do with our freedom of choice.

It is true that many of our choices are habitual and seemingly inconsequential. Choices such as what we will wear, how we will travel to work, what we will buy as present or which of the four lifts we are going to use to get to our office. Some of our innocent choices, we know, can later proof to be critical. The lift we choose can get stuck or, after an accident on the road, the choice to go to work by car rather than train was an unfortunate one. The fact that we have the ability to make choices, does not mean that we can control the future, not even the next moment. However, to be conscious of the fact that we are given the freedom and responsibility of choice in small and big matters, is all-important as an outlook on life. The less conscious a person is of the power of his choices, the less he can appreciate life as a gift and seed of potential. The less conscious he is of the power of his choices, the less intentional, focused and responsible he will be. From our choices evolve new situations and the new situations compel us again to respond with a choice.

It is our human tendency to think that we are restricted by life once we feel that our lives are not working out according to our expectations. But in reality it is by choice that we perceive something as we do. It can always be perceived differently. Many of our daily choices, particularly at work, are of a technical or analytical nature. We typically think and ask ourselves: ‘what should I do and what is the best way of doing it?’ or ‘how am I going to find out how to do this?’. Other choices we make are of a creative nature. We have some goal, outcome or product in mind and choose different actions to make it happen. These are all typical work-related choices and they don’t involve much of our character or the type of people we are. These type of choices, we feel, are an indication of how clever we are. The cleverer, the more effective or productive are our choices and the actions that follow them.

Work-type choices might seem obvious and just ‘part of the deal’, but the truth is that deeper level and often more important choices are always present. Choices that relate to ‘why’ rather than ‘what’ or ‘how’. For instance the choice of the amount of effort I am prepared to invest in an assignment or project. Why would I put in the effort at all? It can be the combination of a number of reasons. At bottom we are driven by what would please or satisfy us at a sensual level, a level of recognition, a level of significance and a level of spirituality. It is our desires, the sense of what we need, our values and our beliefs that underpin our choices. We choose to do certain things because it will satisfy us at a sensual or physical level. We buy with our eyes, our ears, noses, taste buds and finger tips. Apart from satisfying physical needs, we make choices at this level that we feel will give us pleasure.

But then we are aware of our ego needs – the need to feel recognised for our performance. For the sake of our ego we want to feel appreciated as someone who can make useful contributions. Someone who adds value. So we base many of our choices and commitments on this need. But even when we are recognised for what we have done, we still, and even more so, want to feel recognised for who we are. We want to be recognised for significance. The need stretches further than recognition for our actions and contributions, to our being. We want to feel appreciated for everything we are in a relationship with another person or persons. So we also base many decisions on the need to feel recognised for significance. Our decisions at this level are less egoistic. There is more heart involved in building relationships of significance. It is not only about what we will receive, but also what we want to give.

There is lastly a spiritual driver for our choices. Since we are not only body and mind but also spirit, we also have spiritual needs. These needs relate to what is beyond the ego to the very reason for our existence, the purpose of our lives. It relates to what we believe in and what lies beyond the realm of the empirical world. The widest perspective we can take on anything and any situation we find ourselves in comes from our spiritual beliefs. Gratitude, for instance, is a spiritual disposition. The authentic feeling of gratitude sets a person free of his egoistic desires, even if it is only momentarily.

With the gift of our free will it is our responsibility, especially as leaders, to grow spiritually. With spiritual insight we can recognise the dangers in some of the choices available to us at the physical/sensual level as well as the ego-driven levels of recognition for performance and recognition for significance. With spiritual insight we are more steadfast, principled and balanced. Spiritual insight enables us to see further, understand more and put the different aspects of our lives in perspective.

Author : Dr Gerhard van Rensburg