Individual vs Collective Responsibility

Known as the “Group Trap”, the belief is that that you can accomplish, acquire and see greater reward by collective responsibility, than by individual responsibility.

The more responsible an individual is for individual achievements, the greater incentive there is to increase one’s individual effort through the outcome of greater rewards.

The Group Trap

The Group Trap is the assumption that greater strength can be achieved by sharing. Unfortunately however, the opposite happens: Individual achievements are watered down, time and effort are less effective in arranging compromises and individual incentive is reduced.

The individual becomes much less flexible and mobile, because he must deal with others before getting on with the task at hand. As Thoreau said, “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”

Collective Responsibility Means Sharing the Rewards of Hard Work

If an individual is required to share what he produces but can also have a share of what others produce, his obvious incentive will be to produce as little as possible and live off the rewards produced by others. Consequently, total production will be reduced and there will be less to split up. An extreme example is Communism vs Libertarianism.

Direct Alternatives

You’re sure to accomplish more for yourself in a situation where you can increase your reward through your own effort. A direct alternative is one that requires only direct action by yourself to get a desired result. An indirect alternative requires that you act to make someone else do what is necessary to achieve your objective.

You control only yourself. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to convince someone else to act in a way you’d like him to act. But the process of having to hope for a favourable reaction from someone else makes an indirect alternative less certain than a direct alternative.

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What are morals? Do they limit my freedom?

How do you define morals? What are morals?

Morals are a person’s standards of behaviour and beliefs as to what is and is not acceptable for them to do. Put simply, it is your individual view of what is right and wrong. While it may seem as though we all live by the same code, when we drill down to each individual’s morals, it is not the case. Different genders, generations, countries, religions, cultures, social classes and quite simply, different upbringings and experiences throughout our lives have left everyone with their own morals that while often similar to others are the same as none.

The Morality Trap

In Harry Browne’s “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World“, he defines the Morality Trap as “the belief that you must obey a moral code created by someone else”. If you’re acting in ways you hope will satisfy someone else’s concept of what is moral, chances are you’re using a code of conduct that won’t lead you to what you want and may trap you in commitments and complications that can only cause you unhappiness. In terms of this trap, what you do isn’t as significant as why you do it.

When looking at your own personal morals you need to consider the consequences of your actions; they are the point of everything that you do. Acknowledge that each and every act will cause many consequences, ranging from good to bad and everywhere in between.

What is the honest question that we are asking ourselves when making a decision?

“How can I get something I want without hurting my chances for other things that are more important to me?”

The whole purpose of personal morals are to keep you aimed in the direction you most want to go. A personal morality is the attempt to consider all the relevant consequences of your actions.

Can someone give me a a list of morals and values?

Sure, but will you be able to live by a list of morals and values that someone else has defined for you? Does the moral code in which I live by define who you are as an individual?

No matter how you approach the subject, you will always wind up at the same place: others cannot decide for you what is and isn’t moral. No matter what it is, you are living by a personal morality. The question is whether or not you’re acting deliberately to make it the morality that will bring you the kind of life you want for yourself.

Right vs Wrong

So how do you determine right and wrong? It’s probably simpler than you think:

  • Right is what will bring you happiness
  • Wrong is what will cause you to be unhappy

The same definitions apply to the words good and bad.

Questioning your Morals

When examine each of the rules you are living by, ask yourself:

  • Is this rule something that others have created on behalf of “society” to limit others individuals? Or have I created it in order to make my life better for myself?
  • Am I acting by an old moral rule that no longer makes sense but is “accepted”? Or have I personally determined it’s morality from the knowledge of who I am and what I want?
  • Are the rewards and punishments attached to each rule vague and abstract? Or do the rules point to specific happiness I can achieve or unhappiness I can avoid?
  • Have I accepted this morality “someone undoubtedly knows the reason for it”? Or is it one I’ve created because I know and understand the reason for it?
  • Is it fashionable morality that is accepted by everyone around me? Or is it specifically tailored to my style?
  • Is it a morality that’s aimed at who I really am and against my self-interest? Or is it a morality that is for me and comes from who I really am?

Questioning those that think they have “high morals”

When you decide to take matters into your own hands, others may not like this act of independence. “Who do you think you are? Who are you to decide for yourself in the face of society and centuries of moral teachings?”

Easy! You are you, the person who will live with the consequences of your actions. No one else can be responsible, because no one else will experience the consequences of your actions as you will.

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Intellectual and Emotional Traps

Freedom won’t just come to you, it will take effort and planning. To become free requires a well-conceived plan of action. Last minute decisions without prior thought and “gut feel” actions won’t help you. To be free, you need to know what you’re doing and why, else minor hindrances can cause you to discard your plans and give up.

The Intellectual and Emotional traps are all about the what and why of your actions. In the Emotional Trap, you don’t have a meaningful long-term view of what you’re doing. In the Intellectual Trap, you don’t know why you are doing it.

Intellectual Trap

If you try to censor your emotions in order to comply with an intellectually determined standard, no matter how plausible the standard may be, you’re in an Intellectual Trap. If you deny your feelings, all the intelligent thinking and planning in the world won’t lead to happiness.

When you try to deny positive feelings – such as attraction for someone who your parents wouldn’t approve of, or enjoyment of something that others may frown upon, you are in the Intellectual Trap. You’re also in this trap when you believe you should be happy purely because you are doing what you have been told will make you happy.

A $500,000 a year income, freehold mansion, wife and kids doesn’t matter if you are terribly unhappy. Intellectually, it may seem as though you have ticked off many “life goals”, but if your emotions aren’t satisfied it’s best to pay attention to them. You’re in the Intellectual Trap if you let your intellect tell you what you should feel.

Emotional Trap

The Emotional Trap can be summed up by the assumption that one’s momentary feelings will be permanent. This inspires actions that produce consequences that have to be attended to after the feelings have passed. You are in the Emotional Trap if you let your emotions make significant decisions for you.

Resigning from your job while angry at your boss or colleagues or proposing to someone because of a sudden infatuation are perfect examples of the Emotional Trap.

Emotions are involuntary; you can’t command yourself to feel a certain way. Listen to them – they are valuable, but keep important decisions until after the moment when your emotions are in control.

Freedom through logical, yet emotionally honest decisions

Both your intellect and emotions are essential, real parts of you. Each has a purpose and neither can be ignored in order to get what you want in life. Both traps lead to trouble and to deny either of them is to fall into a trap. If you want genuine, durable happiness, you have to recognize your emotional nature and use your intelligence to think ahead to create situations that will trigger happy emotions from your unique nature.

When your plans have produced your desired outcomes, you can disregard your intellect, relax and embrace your feelings. You are now free to act spontaneously within that situation because you have removed the possibility of negative consequences. You can allow yourself to be engulfed in a flow of genuine positive emotions, something that absolutely makes life worth living.

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Identity Traps Limit Personal Freedom

Identity Traps are the belief that you should live in a way that is determined by others such as your friends, colleagues and family, and the assumption that these people will react to things as you would.

To find true happiness, you must understand how your unique emotional nature responds to things. You must take the time to observe and seriously consider your own emotional reactions. If you attempt to fit your emotions to a standard that is defined by others, you lose touch with your true self and blind yourself to the most important part of you-the things that would make you happy.

You don’t have to live a life that isn’t yours

Your negative emotions can act as signals, letting you know that there’s a part of your life that is uncomfortable and needs attention. Don’t suppress these emotions but rather acknowledge them honestly and without judgement.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s just as damaging to deny your positive emotions. Certain things that please you may be frowned upon by friends and colleagues. So what?! Your happiness is the object of your actions. Does it really make a difference if others claim they know what is “correct”?

Your personal positive emotions are the seeds of a happier and true life. Every day they are trying to tell you how you can be happy. Ignore them, suppress them, or deny them and you lose the vital guideposts that could lead you toward happiness.

Acknowledge these four basic principles to help to avoid the Identity Trap:

  1. You are a unique individual that is different from all other human beings. No one else has the exact same nature as you; no one else reacts to things or sees the world exactly as you do. No one can dictate what your identity should be; you are the best qualified person to discover it.
  2. Each individual acts from his or her own knowledge in ways that they believes will bring them happiness; acting to produce the consequences that they think will make them feel better.
  3. Treat things and people according to their own identities in order to get what you want from them. Just as water isn’t a sandwich, it’s just as unrealistic to expect one person to act as someone else does. You have no control over the identities of people, but you can control the way in which you deal with them.
  4. You view the world like no one else as a result of your own experience, interpretation and limits of perception. You need not know the absolute truth about everything in the world.
    Instead of searching for absolute truths, ask yourself: does it work? Does your identification of things lead to the consequences you expect? If it does, what you’ve perceived was true enough for that situation. Acknowledge the context of the situation and be skeptical when generalizing from that test to draw broader conclusions.

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Personal Freedom

Personal freedom is hugely important to who we are. After all, every individual is different. Each has their own identity with it’s own knowledge, understanding, perception and attitudes. While many individuals may look, act or think in a similar fashion every one is indistinguishable in some way.

Your Personal Freedom

You are you and only you. You live in a world of your own, composed of your own experience. You can’t be someone other than who you are. You can try, but you will always be stronger than the mask you are trying to wear.

Freedom of Others

No matter how hard you may try, you cannot control the natures of other people, but you can control how you’ll deal with them. You can also control the extent and manner in which you’ll be involved with them.

The paradox is that you have near absolute control over your life, but you give up that control when you try to control others. The only way you can control others is to recognize their natures and do what is necessary to encourage your desired reactions from those natures. As a result, your actions are dictated by the requirements involved when you attempt to control someone else.

Consequence of Decisions

The barriers that we perceive are typically only consequences. Everything you do will produce an effect or consequence of some kind. The consequences you will depend upon the identities of things and people and how you deal with them. To be able to predict those consequences depends upon your ability to perceive the true identities of things and people.

A positive decision is one in which you choose among alternatives to maximize your happiness. For example: deciding whether you’ll be happier going to a movie or the opera.

A negative decision is one in which you choose among alternatives to minimize your unhappiness. For example: deciding whether to let your roof leak or to deplete your savings account to get it fixed. Neither choice will increase your happiness; you’re trying to decide which choice would be the least unpleasant.

Someone with personal freedom spends most of their time making positive decisions—choosing among attractive alternatives.

Instead of taking for granted assumptions about what you “should” be, start from the inside – from inside of you. Start by finding out who you really are – your unique collection of feelings, desires, perceptions and understanding. When you find it, respect what you see in yourself.

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