If we could get to know all the consequences of our actions history would be nothing but an idyllic and constant harmony of free wills, or the infallible unfolding of a rational design. We would then always act rationally, that is, we would not act at all, since we would simply follow a pre-established and sterile pattern. But then we would not be free.
We are free, however, and this means literally that we do not know what we are doing.
Years ago, while I was establishing myself in a new executive coaching practice, I supported my family by working as a part-time, outsourced CFO. Here is a reminiscence of a deep learning I earned during one of those accounting gigs.
I sought help from my own executive coach with the very difficult behavior of a bookkeeper employed by my client. She had called several urgent meetings with the partners and each time threatened to quit, more or less because of me. These meetings were very exasperating as she made charges that were either too vague to dispute or clearly contrary to plain facts. For example, although we repeatedly assured her that she had her job as long as she wanted it she insisted she could not continue to work under such uncertainty and would resign immediately because we were conspiring to take her job away. The partners felt obligated to placate and mollify her because she was the only bookkeeper out of several they had tried who was able to make any progress in getting their bills out to clients.
I said to my executive coach, “I am stressed and bothered because of her unpredictable behavior, of course, but I am mostly bothered by the fact that it bothers me. I am so ‘trained’ and ‘transformed’ I ought to be able to deal with her behavior without becoming stressed, hurt, or angry. I try to remain calm, not react to her outbursts, and keep on working because I need this income. I do what is necessary just to keep getting paid, so why do I lose sleep and spend my non-billable time talking about her with my coach, family, and friends?”
By the way, is this scenario reminding you of anything in your life, right now?
My coach reminded me of the dangers of attachment, of identifying with our property or positions. We confuse preferred outcomes with necessary results. We grasp so avidly to particular bits of property or actions by others that we forget we can still be ourselves without them. We attach money or prestige to ourselves so firmly that we forget that we are not our results or our reputations. What I want is not what I am.
I then remembered the old samurai expression (I suppose all samurai expressions are now old).
The most effective warrior dies before entering the battle.
The bookkeeper was not damaging my body or physically invading my free time. My attachments were the only things making my life difficult. I was attached to looking good in the eyes of my client, I was attached to (more…)
From a Buddhist perspective, the description of reality provided by quantum mechanics offers a degree of freedom to which most people are not accustomed, and that may at first seem strange and even a little frightening. As much as Westerners in particular value the capacity for freedom, the notion that the act of observation of an event can influence the outcome in random, unpredictable ways [i.e., Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle –Editor] can seem like too much responsibility.
It’s much easier to assume the role of the victim and assign the responsibility or blame for our experience to some person or power outside oneself. If we’re to take the discoveries of modern science seriously, however, we have to assume responsibility for (more…)
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.
–Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997)
in Man’s Search For Meaning