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Freedom & Choice

Freedom & Choice

By Andrew Cooke | April 10, 2018

Choosing your own way, and choosing to be free of interference from others in doing so 

What does freedom mean to you?  You will come up with many answers covering many concepts, situations or contexts – but they all fall into one of two categories: freedom from and freedom to.

  •  Freedom to” – this is the freedom to attain certain outcomes and realize our full potential (an ability)
  • “Freedom from” – the absence of others (or things) forcibly interfering with the pursuit of our goals

One must be free in both senses to obtain full benefit from making a choice. You need to have the ability to choose an option and not be prevented from choosing it by any external force. If you go too far to either freedom from or freedom to then your opportunities are limited. So people tend to favor a balance between the two extremes.

Some people, however, tend to lean more one way than another:

  • Freedom From “I am a slave to no man”

Here you see yourselves and others as having high personal control. You tend to favor this as it provides more opportunities to attain personal goals, and because it rewards your effort. Here you have an internal locus of control; you believe you control your life.
This is also known as negative freedom as it is freedom from external interference that prevents you from doing what you want when you want to do it. These restrictions are placed on you by other people. The more negative freedom you have, the fewer the obstacles that exist between you and doing whatever it is you desire.

  • Freedom To “I am my own master”

You believe that your success is primarily determined by external factors, not you. You believe that no amount of effort can guarantee your success. You have an external locus of control.
This is also known as positive freedom, the freedom to control and direct your own life. Positive freedom allows you to consciously make your own choices, your own purpose, and to shape your life; you act instead of being acted upon.
Negative and Positive Freedom Illustrated
Imagine a man driving a car. He comes to a crossroads. There is no traffic light, no police roadblock, and no other cars; the driver is free to turn whichever way he wants to, and he decides to turn left. This is negative freedom; the driver is free from restrictions which force him to go one way or the other. 
But what if the driver turned left because he needed to stop at a convenience store to get cigarettes, and he stopped even though it would mean missing an important appointment? It was his addiction that was really steering the car. This shows a lack of positive freedom; the driver lacked the freedom to do what he really wanted – to get to the appointment on time.
The freedom you have and enjoy varies and is both positive and negative at different times. These types of freedom are not polar opposites, if you are one you are not other, but rather express a blend of freedom you may create or experience for yourself as shown in the continuum.
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