Free to Choose

Posted on January 23, 2014 by Robert Ringer


One of the things that fascinates me about life is my mental state when I wake up every morning.  Some mornings, I feel as though I need a head massage to get my brain cells going.  Other mornings, I feel a heightened state of awareness that tells me it’s going to be a great day.

This morning, I experienced the latter.  I was inexplicably exhilarated, with my mind fixated on the awesome reality that I have the power of choice — the power to make conscious decisions.  And so do you.

I’m not talking about the kind of choices animals make, but choices based on human awareness.  Neither of us did anything to earn this power.  We were born with it — born with free will.  We are free to choose.

You should always think of yourself as the guardian of two invaluable gifts — the gift of life and the gift of choice.  You will make an infinite number of choices in your lifetime, and the quality of those choices will, for the most part, determine the quality of your life.

I say for the most part, because the inevitable is always lurking in the shadows.  I have no explanation for the inevitable, but I do know that people often make the mistake of believing that many things are inevitable that in fact are not.

For example, if you come from a poverty-stricken background, it is not inevitable that you will go through life poor.  If you’re born with a serious physical handicap, it is not inevitable that you will never be able to accomplish great things.  If you’ve been unlucky in love, it is not inevitable that you will never find a satisfying love relationship.

Which is where free will hooks up with attitude.  As a matter of fact, the two merge in the human psyche.  In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, who survived three years of torture in Nazi concentration camps, wrote, “Everyth­ing can be taken from a man but one thing:  the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Frankl believed that the one thing all survivors of Auschwitz and Dachau shared was that they chose to have a positive attitude.  He certainly didn’t mean to imply that it was a guarantee of survival, but he did believe that attitude was the most important factor for those who made it through alive.

The good news is that you aren’t in a Nazi concentration camp.  To be sure, you have problems — some serious, some not so serious.  But you also have an incredibly powerful weapon at your disposal — free will, the ability to choose the manner in which you react to, and deal with, problems.

Just know that the quality of your life is directly tied to how consistently and effectively you use this weapon.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

30 responses to “Free to Choose”

  1. Alex says:

    Thanks mr ringer today i made à decision to start my own company one of THE most difficult of my life and this article is so helpfull to See i did THE right thing thanks again for this and all your other advice

    • ROBERT A. MULLEN says:

      Hire someone to edit your stuff. Terrible punctuation, capitalization, etc.

      • Day-Seizer says:

        Why on God's green earth would you feel the need to write something so negative on a site like this? Seriously?? (Plus, if you're going to throw stones, check your own punctuation first! "Terrible punctuation, capitalization, etc." is not a complete sentence. If you're going to start with an adjective, finish your sentence properly, — particularly if you're going to slam someone else's writing while doing so!. Good Lord, Mullen. Who gives a flying turd? It's the MESSAGE you should be looking at (one which you clearly missed).

        • Marie says:

          Tuche (sp ? ) as they say in fencing when someone scores . Some people get their kicks out of finding fault in others ( especially if the oithers are more successful ) . English is my second language but Robert is perfectly clear to me , and I like his ideas , punctuations not withstanding . Thanks for the site . Makes my day to be able read you .

        • YoOleMe says:

          HEAR!!! HEAR!!! … the words of such erudite expertise: “Who gives a flying turd? It's the MESSAGE you should be looking at (one which you clearly missed).” … Perhaps a little self-assessment may be in order, as the “Alex” person’s grammatical skills, in a start-up business of whatever type, shall virtually guarantee a NEGATIVE BUSINESS BALANCE SHEET from the GET-GO – and, as you so eloquently note, “It's the MESSAGE you should be looking at (one which you clearly missed).”

          TRULY, within The "Good Lords" exasperation's; HOW LONG shall it be before we regain the WISDOM of NEGATIVITY, APPLIED TO ERROR, IS A POSITIVE ACT!!!!

          • Jean says:

            I am a professional writer, but I worked for a self-made millionaire who couldn't spell worth squat and had atrocious grammar. He was also a mechanical engineer, and could solve calculus problems at lightning speed in his head. I don't concur that being able to write a proper English sentence is an absolute necessity for running a successful business – entrepreneurs tend to be numbers people rather than wordsmiths. And once those numbers people have the cash flow they seek, they can hire ME to do their writing for them.

      • Alex says:

        Hi Robert thank you for your kind advice

  2. ROBERT A. MULLEN says:

    My horse is sick and the dog just died. My friend's secretary is pregnant and his wife has retained a lawyer. Obama is president and Biden stands behind him. They're legalizing pot all over the place, and our pastor is under indictment. Morality is at an all time low. Profanity is common, taxes are high, our schools are corrupt and healthcare is a joke. Whiskey is expensive and the weapon you suggest I use keeps misfiring. What should I do?

    • Paul Anthony says:

      Are you still alive? Then you still have the power to decide how to respond to all the things that are happening all around you.
      Notice I said 'respond' rather than 'react'. There is more than a semantic difference between the two.
      When something occurs, ask yourself: "Is this something I can control?" If no, don't waste your time, but if yes ask the next question: "What can I do to make this better?"
      If you ask those two questions and really think ,not just feel, you will be able to respond.
      We respond after giving thoughtful consideration to our options, but we react when we let our emotions overrule our rational thoughts.

    • Reality99r says:


    • Gordon says:


    • Scott theczech says:

      There is an old blessing, or curse perhaps that says; "may you live in interesting times." Do you?

    • RealitySeeker says:

      "The weapon you suggest I use keeps misfiring.What should I do?"

      Lol…..Well, you could try your hand at country songwriting ( I know there is the makings of a hit song somewhere in your lamenting scribble) because it seems to me that your creative writing is not entirely as witless as some of the littleminded people who don't seem to appreciate your biting sarcasm.

      I for one enjoy your well written negativity; and if country songwriting doesn't appeal to you, then I suggest that you try building an ergastulum, so that after the U.S. economy collapses from the affects of extortionate taxation, moral decay, currency debasement, offshoring the middle class' jobs and U.S.-military-NSA hegemony and imperators like Obama, you will then be in a better position to house and employ the half-witted and half-starved American slaves who used to believe in collectivism. Perhaps you could eventually offer your slaves peculium or even manumission…..

    • Bob says:

      Choose a different attitude.

    • Jean says:

      Just look at all of the problems YOU can help to solve! That in itself should provide you with some motivation, and that attitude is a CHOICE.

      As for the friend's secretary being preggers and his wife being (rightfully) PO'ed, just what kind of FRIENDS do you choose? This person sounds like scum, and you do know that you are the sum of the 10 people with whom you associate. Just sayin' ……..

    • Robby Bonter says:

      Get a job as a comedy writer.

  3. Aldahl62 says:

    The idea of free will is an interesting subject. Sam Harris has a book out that says that free will is an illusion. It makes one think.

  4. Murray Suid says:

    I agree that attitude is important. The question is: Why do some people have a negative attitude, while others "choose" to be positive? To me, simply advising people to be positive–or to use their will–isn't enough. What are the determining factors? Maybe having a coach or mentor? Maybe–by luck–having a positive experience? Maybe reading about people who have positive attitudes, or seeing them in movies? Maybe taking a course?I I suspect it takes work of some sort, and experiences–not just hearing that attitude matters. That's too easy.

    • EJM Elisabeth says:

      Dear Murray, From experience I know that creating a positive attitude starts with the decision you want to have that. Then a proces starts to -slowly- develop that attitude. Two elements are important in the proces. One is: take responsaibility for everything that goes on in your life. And start to make all the changes you are able to make. It is a gradual proces, not a 0 to 100 jump.
      Two is: be grateful for the good in your life, you will be more awareof that, if you keep a gratitude log, and write 10 things in it, every morning and every evening.
      Follow these steps for 6 months and you will experience major changes.

  5. Bill U says:

    Attitude is always a choice, look at the obvious in Mr Frankl's case. No one can cause you to have a bad attitude. If you follow the laws of cause and effect and you are the route of cause, then your attitude is directly the result of your choice.

    Ergo I refer back to Mr Anothony's comment about being responsive or reactive. If you choose to respond then you have realized that you still hold the power of control of your life. If you choose instead to react then you have foolishly given control to the one who caused the reaction.

    Therefore I submit that when it comes to our attitude we always have a choice!

  6. laleydelexito says:

    Thank you Robert, you always make my day!

  7. Even to not choose is a choice. It is the decision to let others choose for you.

    • Don Pinge says:

      "Not to choose" can be considered as a choice, but actually, it is a passive way to live, living "at the mercy of your environment (or situation, or other people, etc.)", so to speak, without active thinking involve. On the other hand, choice is taking an "active" role in "deciding" what to do in any given situation or circumstance. We learn by observing during our formative youth and then, passively, replay the things we "recorded" without critical thought (passive, reactive…at the mercy of our environment) as reactions. When we learn that we can improve our "lot in life" by taking full responsibility for our actions, we begin to think about the way we interact with our situations and circumstances, and we make choices…calculated responses…that we learn from, and gradually learn to make better and better choices and responses that actually do make things better. Attitude is a major part of taking the "active" path in choosing. Habits can be our own worst enemies. They are difficult to change, but it can be done. It gets easier the more it is, as with anything, practiced. Even deciding what kind of a life one wants, going forward, can be difficult to put on a good course if one is in the habit of thinking and feeling things just absolutely cannot get better. Well, I'm here to testify that things DO get better when one makes the choice to do so and then begins the study and practice needed to make it so. Now, will the negative ones be able to choose a better path? Only those individuals will know that, and only in the future. I challenge each of you to question where you are in accepting total responsibility for your current situation and circumstances, and for what will come. Can you…will you…choose to live a better, happier, more joyful life? It not only can help you, it can help others you come into contact with. Joy! From me to you….ALL!!!

  8. GroganAustralia says:

    Ironically, today was the first time in a month that I woke up feeling the former. I slept an hour longer than I committed to myself that I would. Then, in a state of sluggishness, I picked up my phone to check emails, another bad habit I chose not to continue. Your email was the boot in the backside I desperately needed to keep on the right path, and it hurled me out of bed in a flash.

    Since I was 19, when I first read your book Winning Through Intimidation your words have inspired and motivated.

  9. YoOleMe says:

    G'Day RJR;
    In keeping with “You should always think of yourself as the guardian of two invaluable gifts — the gift of life and the gift of choice. You will make an infinite number of choices in your lifetime, and the quality of those choices will, for the most part, determine the quality of your life.” …

    Being constantly mindful of source for those “gifts” (e.g., Psalms 103); Notwithstanding the fact we have the attendant 66-Book library, chuck-a-block FULL of concomitant promises & examples of “rewards” in either case of our choice[s], albeit: within scope of that framework, the task of “choice[s]” becomes at once, incredibly simple, yet per-determinate of that “inevitable” event, as our options are thus reduced to JUST TWO:

    God’s Holy Will: or EVERYTHING ELSE!!! …

    As a professional aviator, and Captain of a flight on which you have booked passage; if you discover that I fail to perform my duties in accordance with that aircraft Manufacture’s Operations Manual – much less, even bother to look at that manual at least once-in-a-while: I DOUBT you would be in the cabin of that flight, when I next “put the wheels in the well”!!! … Yet: In accord with all I’ve seen in your cyber-ink verbiage, based, as it might be, upon the alleged “Great Works of the Western World”, while constantly leaving a verbal “Black Hole,” wherein ONLY “The Holy Bible” can possibly FIT. I’m compelled to wonder: “WHY?” you so sedulously avoid that Manufacturer’s Operations manual for the Living Soul (adam nephesh) of Mankind? Lest we forget:

    THROUGHOUT the 1776 Declaration & seven Articles of the 1791 certified federal Constitution; EVERY TIME word “law” appears, it is preceded with specific article “the” and capitalized “Law”, in its English grammatical rule title form. Such connotes one – and ONLY ONE – form of law in the universe, to wit:

    “—the Law. 1. the Mosaic law, or the part of the Hebrew Scriptures containing it; specif., the Pentateuch [.]” … As word, “law” is restated & defined in Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd Ed. p799, near the bottom of the generic entry.

    When all else fails: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!!!! … and in this current state of affairs, I'd say: NOW IS THE TIME TO DO SO, YESTERDAY – IF NOT SOONER!!!!

    God Speed,
    YoOle Me

  10. Ego monster, has an appetite that can never be fulfilled. The response to any negative comment following mr ringers post is just a poor choice to take away from the message. All if any who responded have made the choice to be right instead of the choice to be happy.

  11. Robby Bonter says:

    Now if I could just choose the attitude of those around me, especially the slanderers, gossip mongers, hypocrites, thieves, power mongering extortionists, and professional sandbaggers, ahh, how life would pick up in a nano second. What all this "positive thinking" suggestiveness overlooks is how we cannot say anything, or turn around sideways in this world without experiencing consequences for even our best, most well-intentioned words and actions, unless we belong to the "inner circle."

    What we all really need, to be counted in this world are the basics: money, power, and contacts. Failing that, all the positive thinking in the world is not going to cut it, in fact, the outward expression of "freedom-based" ideals just serves to bring negative attention upon ourselves and help to take us down.

    You believe in God = better keep it to yourself and out of the public domain. You believe in morality in marriage = you are a disgusting bigot. You believe the world should be a peaceful place for all to live in harmoniously = you are a coward and a traitor. You are not rolling in money = you are "trailer trash," etc.

    It occurred to me yesterday, as I was watching the film "The Firm" for the 10th time, that the people who scare me the most in this society are those who take either an oath of office, or an oath of allegiance to an organization or to a cause of some kind. It should not be necessary to have to take an oath when it comes to reflexively doing the right, moral, and ethical thing on behalf of one's own and the greater good. In fact, these people who "solemely swear" to this and that are the ones who are in the influential and potentially- corrupting position to inflict the most damage upon a society, in their own perceived self-interest, and we read and hear about liberties taken by "people of trust," starting with politicians, judges and lawyers, all the time.

    Just my take, but it seems to me that the outward expression of inward "postive thinking" is a blind alley of self-delusion.

    • Patrick says:

      Good point and one of the reasons why the Kennedys were disliked so much, is because they bought their elections and if they had to use the same amount of lesser knowns such as Humphrey and Johnson of normal parachiol schooled people, they would not have gotten far. As it were, the Kennedys used the slogan of civil rights, but it was Johnson and Humphrey that got all signed into law.