Your Freedom to Choose?

Neil Hawkes
3 min readMar 10, 2024


Human beings have the freedom to choose their attitude. V. Frankl

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I am sometimes asked for my thoughts on why humanity is in the existential crises in which it finds itself.

There are of course so many debatable reasons. However, recently I’ve been reflectively people watching and gained an insight, which may help us understand a key reason for humanity’s plight. I’d be interested to know if what I am suggesting makes sense to you, as it challenges us to consider the quality of our consciousness?

I’d like to invite you to reflect on what percentage of your time you live as a member of the following three general groups of people.


Sleepwalkers tend to passively walk through life. They live a lot of their lives in a personal bubble that keeps the focus of their consciousness on their habitual behaviour. It’s the mental state when we are on automatic pilot. Sleepwalkers often look for immediate gratification. Their worldview can be influenced by implicit biases and ways of thinking that represent the group or groups to which they identify. This makes them susceptible to being influenced by people who have views that suggest that their lifestyle is being threatened.


Controllers want to control other people. They can be ego-centric and insensitive to the thinking and behaviour of those with whom they disagree. Their mantra can be that the ends justify the means. They come in various guises, such as or the demagogue, who wins power by creating an atmosphere of fear. Conversely, they can use their charm and guile to gain control. Controllers are determined to get their own way and sometimes can seem self-delusional. They enjoy power and are often driven to succeed by being workaholics.


Guardians are self-aware with a secure sense of who they are. They are open minded but can be critical of themselves; resisting being in the spotlight. They prefer to get on with their lives, being private about their compassion and altruism. They care deeply, having developed a holistic worldview, which sees the connections we have as a species. Guardians consequently see the need to address existential issues and consider themselves to be a part of a global community.

An Invitation

In thinking about these three broad categories, may I invite you to consider how much time you spend in the state of consciousness of a Sleepwalker, Controller or Guardian? Please remember that the above descriptions are merely pointers, generalities, which call for clearer and more expanded definitions. However, I’m confident that you will understand what each general category represents in human nature.

My Thoughts

Reflecting on my own state of consciousness, I think I have spent a great deal of my life as a sleepwalker. I will admit too, that I have sometimes been a controller. Increasingly though, I have felt the imperative to check out my thinking and behaviour, ensuring that my consciousness is more representative of being in a guardian’s state of consciousness.

As the founder of Values-based Education (VbE), I have witnessed that values-based organisations, that live the values they proclaim, help to encourage people to develop the consciousness of the Guardian’s way of thinking.

Is it possible to shift consciousness so that we have a greater chance of successfully solving the issues that threaten life on Earth?

Dr. Neil Hawkes




Neil Hawkes

Dr. Neil Hawkes is well known as an inspirational speaker, educator, broadcaster, author and social commentator. He is a popular TEDx presenter.