Image of ball and chain - Text - Is Freedom an Illusion

Freedom of choice: Is freedom an illusion?

Most of us have so many choices that we take them for granted. This freedom of choice allows us to make everyday decisions like where we are going to get our morning coffee or what we will have for breakfast. Are we going to hit the gym and do some weight lifting, or take an aerobics class? 

We are free to choose where we are educated, what our careers are and who we marry. We can choose where we live and how we furnish our house. We choose our own interests and hobbies. We make all of these choices based on who we want to be.

These everyday choices we make, no matter how small, form our identities and empower us in our own lives. But as we go about our daily lives, we may not appreciate that freedom of choice.

Freedom and the First Amendment

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of speech, religion and the press. Most of us believe freedom of choice means an absolute right to do what we want, when we want to do it. 

While this may be true, it also stipulates the limits of these freedoms, such as libel and slander, threats, incitement, invasion of privacy, obscenity, fraud, etc.  This means that while you do have the absolute freedom to do what you want when you want, you don’t have the right to infringe on the rights of other members of society. 

Laws were established to enforce these limits and protect the rights of society as a whole. Just as the freedom of all citizens overrules our individual right to freedom, complying with the rules that society has adopted ensures that freedom is available to all.

Related post: 25 Reasons why life is so hard

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What is freedom of choice?

Freedom of choice is the ability to make our own decisions between two or more options without being coerced, controlled or limited by outside forces. These choices allow us to make our lives what we want them to be.

Simple choices like what to wear, what to eat, or what your favorite color is are usually based purely on personal preference.

Complex choices such your career, romantic relationships, who you vote for or where to travel usually involve other factors such as finances (or lack thereof), past experiences, other peoples’ opinions and personal values. 

Why is it important to have freedom to choose?

Freedom of choice is important because it allows you to compare the pros and cons of many different options so you can choose the one which is the best fit for you. The freedom to make choices can empower you. It gives you a sense of power over your own life, motivates you to achieve more, and improves your overall well-being.

Conversely, lack of choices can result in feelings of powerlessness, defeat and entrapment. These feelings may lead to stress, depression and anxiety. If you are chronically limited in your choices, you may not have the coping skills to even recognize, nevermind make, better choices.

Choices are Freedom

The average grocery store carries around 40,000 products, so you can only choose food from those 40,000 products. But let’s say you’re trying to eat healthy, unprocessed foods. Then you would only have maybe 5,000 products to choose from, if that. But it is enough.

Your dietary preference causes your choices to become more limited, but there are still enough options available that you feel proud and motivated to stick to your preferred diet.

Now let’s say you are economically challenged. Can you really choose to eat healthy, unprocessed food when you only have $20 to feed yourself for the week? It’s not likely, and you may turn to $1.00 cheeseburgers just to keep your belly full for that week. Or you may have to go to a food bank and take what they offer, even though much of it is processed food that you would prefer to avoid. 

Or maybe you are disabled, broke and homeless, with your only options being to steal food or to eat out of dumpsters. If your choices are so limited, you may feel like your lack of choice means you have no say in your life. You have no freedom to choose.

So why is freedom an illusion?

Absolute freedom is an illusion because all of our choices are controlled by external factors. We are interdependent on other people that we need to consider. We have past experiences that influence our decisions. Our choices may be limited due to our financial situation. 

Our circumstances limit our choices. We are not free to do whatever we want, whenever we want to.

If you break the laws of society, you will go to jail. If you don’t consider your partner’s needs and desires when making decisions, you risk losing the relationship. You can’t take that trip around the world if you don’t have the financial resources without taking on excessive debt. 

All of our choices have consequences, good or bad. Each decision we make affects our choices in the future.

What can we do about it?

I recently felt I needed to quit a part-time gig that was slowly sucking the life out of me. But it paid very well. The income had been funding our vacations, dining out and the other small luxuries of life. I had also purchased a new car that I was still making payments on. 

I had become financially dependent on this job and I felt trapped. I didn’t feel financially free to quit.

Then I thought about my own experiences growing up poor. Those experiences had taught me that it’s possible to happily live without the costly luxuries of life. So, I sat down and reworked my budget to include only the necessities (including the car). I was pleasantly surprised to find that my main job would cover my basic expenses, with a little left over for emergencies.

This knowledge gave me the freedom to confidently go ahead and quit that job. That decision relieved the extreme stress I was under and made me a much happier person. It also allowed me the time I needed to start this blog, which I have been wanting to do for a long time.

If I hadn’t had those frugal experiences, I may have continued to be a financial hostage of that part-time gig. 

How you can increase your sense of freedom

  • Try journaling with the Panda Weekly Planner for Productivity & Happiness. I’ve been using this and I have found the prompts get me brainstorming ideas that support me in planning and organizing, as well as inspiring and reflecting. It has helped me be more focused and productive in my daily life.
  • Don’t let your circumstances dictate your choices. They may limit our choices, but we can always overcome our circumstances and make a better life for ourselves. Our freedom is determined by the choices we make. Make educated and thoughtful choices.
  • If you can change your perception of freedom and realize that there are limitations to doing whatever you want, whenever you want, you will allow yourself more freedom of choice.
  • Fear can prevent us from seeing beyond the black and white choices that present themselves. Try to look at your situation from a different perspective and take it into consideration when making choices.
  • Accept that we are all accountable to someone in some way. You have the freedom to choose who you want to be accountable to.

Related post: 25 Reasons why life is so hard

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