Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Power of Free Will

I am part of Toastmasters International. I joined this club through office. Its an orators club that helps improve communication, management and leadership skills. As part of my Competent Communication Certification, I am expected to deliver 10 speeches, each with a different set of objectives. Today I had to deliver my 3rd speech with "inspiring and persuasive" as the general purpose and "Power of Free Will" as the specific purpose. I just thought I should share my speech. It is a 7 minutes speech, so a little lengthy ;-)

"Paul the Octopus had the whole world in his tentacles for over a month. Right now I am sure there are people who cannot name 10 international footballers but know all about Paul.

Paul's seemingly psychic abilities got me thinking - Are our destinies predetermined? Is the universe heading to a foregone conclusion. Are we really wasting our time thinking qualities like hard work, honesty and sincerity will help?

Fellow Toastmasters and guests, I am here today to share with you why I think the answers to all of the these questions is an unequivocal "no", and share with you whatever little knowledge I have about the power of free will.

Let me tell you a story. Jessica was born without arms as a result of a rare congenital disease. She did not understand why she had no arms like the other children. “It

was difficult to be different...” - she says. She frequently felt opposed, downtrodden and on the verge of tears resulting from anger due to her lack of arms. For Jessica, the main challenge of being born without arms was the constant perception of others more than the physical adversity. Please note i used the word "perception". She decided she would be everything that the world presumes she cannot be! Today she is a holder of a degree in Psychology from the University of Arizona, she always attracts attention when she fills her car with gas. She is able to write 25 words per minute, dry her hair, put on her make-up, and wear her contact lenses at the same ease as anyone. Not with artificial hands, but with her legs! Jessica is 26 years old and 1.55 meters tall, is the first lady in history to pilot a plane without arms. She said in one of her interviews - “Most of the times fear starts from the lack of knowledge of the unknown. There is a universal fear, that of lack of confidence in yourself." Surely Jessica could not have been
destined to live normally in our society, let alone pilot a plane and have the lives of many people in her hands (or should I say legs)! This, my friends, is an example of the power of free will.

So what is free will? Friedrich Wilhelm defines will as "any internally motivated action", but more of a "creative spark," a certain independence and stubbornness. It helps us believe "you want it! you get it". It requires focusing all your thoughts and thought motivated actions into achieving something. The vedas say "yad bhavam tad bhavati" meaning whatever you think so wil it be.

How can it be so easy, you might wonder. The answer lies in the fact that we are all connected. Every thought of yours radiates a certain energy. Your actions are bound to be directed by that sphere of energy around you. So, if you think positively you have created a sphere of positive energy around you, negative otherwise. Sigmund Freud did a lot of research and analysis on the same lines ie., power of free will or the power of subconscious. Psychologists today more than willingly accept his philosophy of power of free will.

Einstein famously remarked "...subtle is the lord, but he does not play dice with the universe..." Looking past concepts like determinism and Einstein's views on randomness in the universe, we can see the basic idea that man can determine his destiny. It is a belief that you reap as you sow. It is a belief that good will prevail over evil.

While reading the book on free will, I came across this wonderful concept. The book said life is a simple mathematical equation. Its just like the movement of a boat against the stream. If your force is greater than that of the stream the next movement is in your hands, else otherwise. Your force here is symbolic to ur free will, and the speed of the stream is symbolic to what we blame on circumstances that life places us in and the restrictions, constraints that life inflicts upon us .

Though free will has been debated a lot in the recent past and even stuff like Heisenberg's principle has been applied to certain way of theorizing it, my take on it is that we, as humans, have a power - the power to judge ourselves, the power to analyze our actions and do what we think is good for us, good for humanity, good for everyone. To exercise such free will, one needs discipline, the discipline to resist the evil forces that try to tempt us into the comfort zone, even against our conscience.

I would like to conclude by quoting Gandhi - " Strength does not come from physical capacity it comes from indomitable will". Shimon Peres, a noble laureate referred to Gandhi in one of his interviews - A man without an army, without a head quarter, without a state, without a party, a single person equipped with a moral strength, he wasn't afraid of violence, he wasn't afraid of public opinion, there is no other person in recent history that possessed such a will, and all of a sudden he shocked the world!"

"If you want x+y to be 100, irrespective of how negative the value of y is, there is always an x which can make the sum 100. Exercise your free will!!!! "Go be what you want and stun the world!

Thank You!"

P.S - Thanks to those who helped :-)


  1. Congrats on winning the "Best Speaker Award", for the millionth time :)

  2. It was really nice :-)
    At the same time, few personal comments:
    1. try to be slower. probab next time go for a 1 page or lesser content speech and speak for 7 full minutes.
    2. give urself space to be entertaining. enjoy the attention. utilize the space. its high time to concentrate on improvements and delivery pattern.
    I feel all your 3 speeches were very rich in content but vast scope for improvement in ur presence still exists.

  3. Pavi, what is the meaning of ToastMaster?
    Why is it called so?

  4. As with paul the octopus... you must read this: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/496086-it-must-have-happened-for-a-reason