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is Your Free Actually Free?

by Judy Ryan

“Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” — C.S. Lewis

Many people are aware of the choices they make. What they may not realize is that unconscious beliefs have also formed when they were most impressionable, and those beliefs remain hidden and unrecognized. They are unconscious intentions that play a significant role in what we feel and do in our lives and work. A dichotomy can occur because such beliefs arise from interpretations that we draw from our life experiences as children. These lead to ideas about our personal options and about life and work, men and women, etc. Such unconscious intentions can cause consequences that seem separate from our intent and free will. That’s why emotional intelligence is critical.

The first step in increasing emotional intelligence is to improve our self-awareness. Only then can we manage ourselves. Sometimes the only way to gain self-awareness is by reverse engineering our patterns and results to recognize our hidden beliefs. Only then can free will become free. Consider the following and notice if you or others in your life and work may be operating from these beliefs:

1. Being Right – Being right is more important than getting what you want. You are more committed to being right than to reaching your goal. You are defensive and justify your choices.

2. Playing It Safe – You have an idea for solving a problem but create fear and intimidation that keeps you from sharing that idea. You have an idea that would likely push the team forward, but you sit on it.

3. Power Struggle – Having your way is more important than anything else. For example, you are always late due to an unconscious motive that whispers, “You’re not going to force me to be on time.” Such power struggles impact many aspects of your life, particularly when you think, “No I won’t; you can’t make me. I want it my way.”

4. Revenge – You feel hurt and strike out at others (e.g., you break company mandates). Your behavior might be sarcastic, mean-spirited, callous, hurtful, and argumentative.

5. Looking Good – You take on responsibilities that you cannot handle because you want to look good to your boss or others. Your commitments are connected to “looking good.” You fear losing status.

6. Life is a Test – Almost everything is difficult. You may make things more difficult in order to prove that life (and tasks) are hard. You think you have to prove and measure yourself frequently.

7. Powerless – You take on the role of victim. You won’t seek solutions and you won’t take responsibility for making improvements. You speak of powerlessness and create discouragement and hopelessness.

8. Proving Self – You must prove that you’re better than others, and you seek praise and elevated status. You are attached to acknowledgement for being best or most special, rather than for the satisfaction of accomplishing something. Your competitive nature wreaks havoc on your team.

9. I Can’t Trust Myself – You generate self-confusion. You refuse to trust your decisions and avoid making them in the first place. You need constant approval and help making most decisions.

10. I Can’t Count on Others, I Can Count Only on Me – You insist on doing everything yourself. You find fault with the work of others to prove you should have done it yourself. You act superior or as a martyr (e.g., you work late, saying, “I’m the only one who really cares”).

In my work, we teach organizations to grow in emotional intelligence and personal responsibility. We foster compassion and curiosity so that the power of your people is directed in service to your highest purposes -- to contribute to the lives of one another and the community you serve.

Judy Ryan (, human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.

People hire LifeWork Systems because we help businesses become agile and manage their priority system: their human system. I hope this article helps you make sense of what’s most crucial to your evolving organization!

Submitted 3 years 85 days ago
Categories: categoryThe Extraordinary Workplace
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