At the end of his novel, Middlemarch, George Eliot noted that
“There is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it.”.
Indeed, we are subjected to the outside force to a larger degree than the inside force, and thus we have less control than most of us might want to think. This makes sense when you think about how insignificant and small your existence is to this world:
We are a unit of living thing in countries, which make up a planet, of which many of it make up star systems, which make up galaxies, which finally make up the universe. If the Universe reverses the process of Big Bang, going against the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (for reasons outside our knowledge), we would be gone. If the Milky Way collides with other galaxies, we would be gone. If Sun dies into a supernova or a black hole, we would be gone. If the Earth gets invaded by aliens or assaulted by meteorites on a planetary scale, we would be gone. If world leaders don’t put in more coordinated effort to counter climate change, we would be gone. So what makes us think that we have control over our lives when it is subjected to external force to such a large extent?
As Rene Descartes had put it accurately:
“Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.”
Situational Pressure > Internal Motivation
Situational pressure + (Internal Motivation / 10) = Action
The above equation is self-crafted by yours truly and admittedly speculative but it is in fact more of an accurate representation of the actions of people than what we instinctively think. This is because we are not truly free (read the post on Are We Truly Free? for explanation)
That’s all for this post, this post is intended to emphasize on the superiority of situational influence on the individual and the tragedy of how powerless we actually are. I’ll move on to its implication and how it can be used to our advantage in the next 2 posts
Gilovich, T. and Ross, L. (2015) The wisest One in the room: How you can benefit from social psychology’s Five most powerful insights. Philadelphia, PA, United States: Free Press.