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The Role of FREED Will in Health and Wellbeing 

The Role of FREED Will in Health & Wellbeing 

Why not start out the BE…coming journey by diving into a concept that has been engaging philosophers and neuroscientists for thousands of years (free will)? That shouldn’t take more than a few paragraphs, right? 😊 No – we’re not going to jump in the middle of the Plato, Immanuel Kant and modern day Sam Harris discussions but rather turn our focus toward something much more practical. Rather, let us consider the role of something we’ll call FREED Will, or the hypothetical range of free will each of us has available to us through our BE…coming journey. The following diagram provides a simplified overview of the concept and the influence it has within our broader lives:

The Role of FREED Will in Health & Wellbeing

In short, we generally live a life in which stimulus drives response (autopilot action). But “generally” doesn’t mean always, and the microsecond between that stimulus and response contains our BE…coming opportunity. It’s that microsecond (referenced by Covey, Frankl and others) where BE…coming, well, Be…comes!

For today’s purposes related to this initial stage of our BE…coming journey, focus on 3 key aspects portrayed in the diagram:

  1. The vast majority of our actions are on autopilot and do not involve freed will.
    1. This can be great when we create positive habits that involve little to no thought. For years, my lunch has been simple: big salad with a protein source. Autopilot. But autopilot doesn’t necessarily translate only to positive components. Dessert following dinner… Netflix nights… Social media whenever stepping away from desk…Alcohol after long day of work… All autopilot – not necessarily in a good way.
  2. However, when tuned in, a critical moment of awareness can move us out of autopilot. 
    1. There are many influencers of this potential, unique critical moment and we’ll address them in the coming weeks. A solid starting point is to begin tuning into them. Notice yourself saying “wait a minute – why did I just do that?” or “interesting choice I just made there.” The awareness itself expands the critical moments and increases their likelihood of shifting us out of autopilot.
  3. Our time/money/health debt can limit or even cut off our accessing our freed will. 
    1. When we’re crunched for time, face a significant financial deficit or are at the end of our physical rope, one or more of these can essentially block the potential of the critical moment and shifts us back to the autopilot path of least resistance.
    2. This is an important consideration not only personally but also for those of us involved in employee & community health/wellbeing promotion. For example, launching a steps contest among employees already short on time and money only exacerbates the problem. Failing to tune into these real-world “clamps” others are facing even if we may not be, limits our (and our employee team members if in this setting) progress forward.

William James famously stated: “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.” As we begin Phase I of the BE…coming journey today, I challenge you to take it one step further and tune into the potential role of freed will – if we choose to access it.

Next week we’ll turn our attention to where that potential freed will can take us – the “who” we are becoming and the vision that entails.

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