Sunday, September 09, 2007

Structure and Planning Does Not Necessarily Negate Ones Freedom

In the process of living a meaningful and happy life, most people also want to have a sense of freedom. And while there are numerous definitions of “freedom,” for purposes of this Post, I shall be referring to the “inner autonomy” (philosophical) considerations of freedom: “…known as self-determination, individual sovereignty, or autonomy. Freedom can also signify inner autonomy, or mastery over one's inner condition. This has several possible significances:
* the ability to act in accordance with the dictates of reason;
* the ability to act in accordance with one's own true self or values;
* the ability to act in accordance with universal values (such as the True and the Good); and
* the ability to act independently of both the dictates of reason and the urges of desires, i.e. arbitrarily (autonomously).

Over the years, nonetheless, I have known numerous individuals who have avoided structure and planning in their lives because they erroneously considered doing so an infringement on their freedom.

In his excellent article in his fall 1997 Education article, “The consequences of freedom without structure,” Lloyd P. Campbell said, “Who among the populace does not like freedom? Yet unyoked freedom has the seeds of self-destruction sown within. Freedom without some accompanying guidelines is dangerous to children in every dimension of life-physically, emotionally, socially, psychologically, and mentally.” I could not agree with him more.

In Chapter Thirteen of my pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway, I talk about the importance of living life “Structurally,” and begin that chapter by saying, “As a person, not only as a psychologist, I always have appreciated the importance of having structure in ones life. Having some sense of organization, some systemic design for what is going on in ones life, indeed appears to be a central and pivotal component of living a meaningful, fulfilling and happy life.” (p. 96) In the Epilogue of the book, I also say, “Structure is not necessarily the antithesis of freedom; self-determined structure is the avenue of freedom...... If freedom – getting what you want in life – and happiness are important to you, live your life, structurally.” (p. 160)

At times, a person’s implementation of functional structure comes forth in the form of planning. To wit, in my pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ’Em, I tell the story about the time a good friend, Gene, invited me to go on a day cruise with him and some friends on his beautiful, rather large sailboat. When I arrived at his house, he was platting a chart for our sail. Knowing that where we were planning to sail was familiar territory for all of us, I asked him why he was plotting a course for us. Gene quickly replied, “My father was a sailor, and a very good one too. Taught me everything I know. And one of his mottos was,
Failing to plan is planning to fail.” (p. 68)

Question: Based on your experience, does structure and planning “add to” or “take away from” your sense of freedom?



Anonymous said...

I definitely have a greater sense of freedom when I have some structure in place. Without a little structure I would not know when I have to be certain places, what is expected of me, etc. By having things planned out in advance I am able determine what free time I have and do whatever I want to do - as long as my wife says it's OK :)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Maconole,
Glad to see you… it’s been a while.
Thanks for sharing your experience with the “freedom – structure” issue. Possibly by knowing things such as you mentioned, one feels comfortable, safe and secure – thus being able to more fully enjoy the “free time.” (Having your wife’s concordance is also a good idea – “When Momma’s not happy, nobody’s happy” I think you said once in the past).
For me, your Comment also harkens a cliché I always have held near and dear: “Beauty is freedom within structure.” Take for example, music, poetry and painting… with each of them there is structure and it is what the artist does within that structure that creates the beauty. Back in the 1960s some artists tried “freedom without structure” and what resulted was chaos (at least that’s my view on it).
Thanks again for the visit… always delighted with and energized your Comments,

Mostly Happy Thoughts said...

I am definitely an "adds to" kind of a girl.... This post makes me think of myers briggs, ie: judging versus perceiving preference. I have a judging preference and have come to pay attention to whether other people like structure, details, timeframes, or unlike me value spontaneity and less structure.... Interesting post, as usual :)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Thanks for visiting and offering your thoughts an experiences. (I also appreciate your gracious comment about the Post.)
You make an excellent point – while it is important to have a sense for (i.e., value, judge) your own propensity for structure, it also is important to have a sense for such things for the person with whom you may have a relationship. Can you imagine… “Lets plan a spontaneous weekend…”
Thanks again,