Michael Michalko wrote an inspirational article on choice, how we can choose our attitudes deliberately and consciously.
I’ve been reflecting on the nature of belief lately. Belief in a God, or not. Belief in a caring Universe, or not. Belief in personal power to do good, or not. Belief in free will and the ability to change outcomes, or not.
It strikes me that many of these questions are unanswered and unanswerable. Nobody can prove to me that free will exists. Nobody can prove to me that there is a power in the universe that cares about my well being. Nobody can prove to me that consciousness is more than a set of electrical impulses in the mechanical system of my brain. Philosophy is the study of that which cannot be proven, we are unable to know truth in some areas, we have to cast about to find that which we believe in. Belief is a choice, is it not? And what you believe is the bedrock on which you form your attitudes and outlooks upon life. So if you have a choice, choose that which gives you the most happiness and allows you to be most effective in your life. Unexamined belief can lead to foolishness. Purposeful belief that improves effectiveness by shaping your lens on life can be very powerful. What do you want to accomplish and what beliefs would help you get there?
I saw a study in which people were given the choice to cheat or not in a simple game. The reward for cheating was a few extra dollars at the end of the game. The price of cheating depended on a personal belief system, on whether they could feel good about the choices they made. Before the game began, half of the people were given information that refuted the possibility of free will. Once they started playing, the people who had been told free will did not exist were much more likely to cheat. If they could not be responsible for their actions then why not make a little extra cash? This doesn’t prove anything about free will, and if you think about it you’ll understand why, but it illustrates how our beliefs and preconceptions influence our actions.
I choose to live in a universe in which I have free will, my actions matter, there is a loving force that cares about my well being and rewards that which is good (perhaps it's my wife :)). I believe I can make a lasting impact if I choose to.
Its worth asking yourself, what kind of a universe do you choose to live in?