“Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them … and then, the opportunity to choose.”
— C. Wright Mills
At a recent small-group gathering of executives, one individual commented, “There is one word that guides my thinking right now. ... That word is perspective.” Mission Integrity Action
His comment caused me to dig down into the bedrock of personal choice making and comment on its fundamentals: I Have To or I Choose To. Integrity always acts from the foundation of I choose to. In contrast, integrity is compromised on the quicksand of I have to.
It was June 1944. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower gathered his generals to make the decision to launch the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The meeting was filled with diverse viewpoints, for and against the brief weather window of time to act. After listening, he informed his team it was a go for June 6. He adjourned the meeting. History reveals he immediately penned a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt informing him of his decision and that he took full responsibility for its success or failure.
I choose to: Unequivocal. Rock solid. It’s mine. I have reviewed the alternatives. This is the choice. No coercion; no scapegoat. No nuance. This is my decision. It is mine to live with – good or bad.
I have to: Posturing. Finger-pointing. I can’t help it. I am the victim of circumstance. I am not to blame.
If you want to find the source of every ethical bedrock moment in our professional walk of life, it comes down to what we might call the Eisenhower moment: I choose to. If we aren’t acting from that foundation, then we are back in grade school. Do you remember those moments on the playground or in your classroom when you said to your teacher, "I have to. S/he made me do it?" Foolish, false and failed actions always come from the blinded I have to choice.
Perspective – a fabulous word to understand the I have to, I choose to paradigm. Seeing your choice-making world as a Leader of Integrity is a constant invitation to ask a question: Am I living in grade school as an I Have To Decision Maker or am I pursuing Ph.D. choice making as an I Choose To Decision Maker? The words that come off your lips this week in conversations with colleagues will inform you. Dig deep. Hit the bedrock of I choose to.
Passkeys Foundation/Ethical Edge ethicaledge.org