Thursday, March 08, 2012

Choosing the Right Behaviors

Free will versus determinism is a knotty philosophical question. Do we really have the ability to choose our behavior? Or, is free will an illusion and — given the circumstances — whatever happened was fated to happen? There are definitely benefits that come with the belief that we have choices in life. A team of researchers led by Tyler Stillman of Florida State University found that a belief in free will predicted better career attitudes and better performance evaluations.

It reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago … so long ago that I can’t even remember the source. It was about a king who’d heard that Moses was a kind, generous and courageous leader. The king consulted his astrologers and had the court phrenologists study a portrait of Moses. (Phrenologists back then believe they could deduce a lot about a person’s character by examining the shape of his skull.) Having completed their studies, they told the king that Moses was actually greedy, self-centered and cruel.

The king’s curiosity was piqued even more by this, so he decided to visit Moses himself … and found him to be a very good man. The king related what his advisors had told him. Moses listened and then told the king that what the astrologers and phrenologists had said was quite true.

“They saw what I was made of,” said Moses, “but they couldn’t tell you how I struggled against it, so that I could become what I am.”

I was really struck by this story because it so clearly demonstrates that behavior is the result of conscious choices. Your character is not your destiny. You can shape your own future by choosing the behaviors that will enable you to win.

Or — to put it even more succinctly — as Mark Twain once said: “Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.”

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Blogger steveballer.mathis said...

I think that this question of the ability to choose our behavior is something that all communication professionals must attempt to answer some time during their careers. The ability to have free will and that subsequent behavioral aspect is something that people often underestimate. It is underestimated because people create routines in their lives; these routines blur the fact that people actually make choices that affect the way they live. Even if the routine choices are made out of habit, they are still part of the habitual notion of making conscious decisions.

Monday, April 09, 2012 10:18:00 AM  

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