Authority and Autonomy

What or whom would you say has a substantial amount of authority over you? Sure the government and police have authority over us all (We are 10 days away from Tax Day…) but aside from that, we really don’t have much else to hold us accountable.

Although Liberty is an ideal I hold very dearly to, I question whether or not it is a good thing to have such freedom from scrutiny. We as humans crave security and guidance and until recently, we have maintained at least some semblance of respect for our elders and cultural hierarchy to make us feel like we are never “out there” all by ourselves. The baby boomers learned to “question authority” and “never trust anybody over 30” during the 60’s and 70’s. In my lifetime, I have seen elementary teachers go from Mrs. Stevens and Mr. Brown to Sally and Bill. Children are constantly told by adults to call them by their first names and give them a high-five rather than a handshake lest they make them feel old. Since when did being old become something ugly?

How does this relate to the life of a mover you ask?…

Sports can provide a person, young or old, a sense of healthy respect for authority. Even the professionals who can buy and sell their coaches and referees ten times over maintain respect (for the most part) and operate under a hierarchical system to perform at an optimal level. So too does a perpetual dieter know the authority that scale has over them if they fail to make their temporary healthy diet a lifestyle change. We all lose that performance potential as the everyday athletes that we are as we eliminate the authority figure in our lives.

Authority need not come from a person. You don’t have to pay someone to scream at you when you come up short. If you are religious, you are accountable to your deity and your religious community. If you are involved in a book club, you are committed to the others for the sake of rich participation at your next meeting. I won’t even mention the work dynamic in this post because work is just that….work. The sad truth is that the majority of us are not doing something we love or would otherwise do for free.

This is where the opposite side of the authority coin comes in; Autonomy. Autonomy is central to your very human experience. It is the subjective enjoyment you get out of doing whatever it is you want to do. This is seemingly paradoxical to authority, but it is not. Authority and autonomy actually co-exist in the healthy psyche of a healthy human being. We need a sense of authority for the aforementioned reasons. We also need autonomy as a way to keep us motivated to practice our trade, stick to that diet, er…ahem…lifestyle change and to keep us curious. Autonomy fosters engagement and does not undermine authority, rather it internalizes it and insulates it from our ethereal social environment.

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2 thoughts on “Authority and Autonomy

  1. Pingback: open to authority (figures of speech) « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

  2. Pingback: Why does my personal trainer tell me to exercise less? | A Mover's Blog

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