By way of casual observation, it occurs to me that people prefer enjoying a sense of freedom and autonomy as opposed to being restricted, confined, and constantly regulated. “OK, Colonel Obvious, what else have you ruminated lately?” you might ask. Here’s a short list:
- As a society, individual expression and an entrepreneurial spirit have been the hallmarks of our development and success.
- We celebrate individuality in ways that most of the world has a difficult time understanding or appreciating, but it’s who we are as a people.
- We revel in being autonomous, in being the captain of our own destinies, in being unique in our individual abilities, thoughts, and expressions.
- Some people are risk-takers while others are more comfortable staying where they are.
- We need risk-takers and we need the people who help us see the edge of the cliff.
- Taken to the extreme, even good things can hurt us.
Last week my wife and I spent a lot of time with four of our 11 grandchildren and their parents. It was interesting to watch how similar – and different – those kids are, growing up with different sets of parents with different parenting skills, rules, and expectations.
As grandparents, we had the opportunity to exercise our rusty parenting skills on occasion and are happy to say that there was no blood-letting, no angry words spoken, and no hostile retaliations. No one got their eye shot out with a BB gun or fell overboard on our fishing excursion, nor are we aware of any other near-disasters. The potential for all that was always present, of course, but establishing and enforcing certain boundaries (aka, rules) provided freedom for everyone.
In fact, it seems that kids generally understand early on that once boundaries have been established and know that they will be enforced, they feel free to run and play without concern and will do so with great delight and exuberance. It’s a joy to watch them revel in their freedom to just be kids!
For a recap of an interesting study, check out this video:
Think about it. It’s the same for us as adults. Once we know what “The Rules” are at work, we inherently know that we are free to do whatever we want or need to do within that structure. And as long as we do not violate the boundaries, we don’t have to worry about getting into trouble.
We’re always going to have drivers who exceed the speed limit or drive under the influence, putting others at risk of injury or death. The laws that govern our interactions in society don’t keep someone from doing what they insist on doing anyway. What they do promise, however, is that when the rule-breaker is caught, there will be consequences (hopefully) designed to ensure that the person will not behave that way again in the future.
For the chronic rule-breaker, rules are seen as an attempt to restrict them and take away their freedom, so when caught and held accountable for their behavior, they may rebel and lash out with indignation. Breaking the rules, in fact, results in imposing restrictions and the subsequent loss of freedom of action.
There is freedom in obedience. There is freedom within the boundaries. And where there is freedom, there is pleasure, joy, laughter, and peace.
So let’s do the right thing even when no one is looking. Let’s treat and honor each other with respect and dignity. Let’s be the unique individuals we are while upholding and honoring the boundaries that have been established to ensure our freedom, and therefore live in peace and harmony at work and at home.
John Trombley is The Village Business Institute's Consulting & Training Manager and also serves as an Organization Development Consultant and Trainer. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo where he serves as an adjunct faculty member. He is a motivational speaker with over 18 years of experience in providing training programs and consulting services in a wide variety of organization development scenarios. John is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator under ADR Rule 114, and is also certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.
Previously, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.