“The secret to happiness is freedom…
And the secret to freedom is courage.”
Press play to hear an audio enhancement as you read.
It’s said by some that freedom isn’t free. That’s both true and misleading. Yes, we must pay attention to maintain our freedoms but we are all born free, without needing to do anything at all to earn it.
There’s an effective Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) motivational technique of inserting “now” into a statement, as I did in the subtitle of this blog. “When would now be a good time to feel free?” This is a perfect example of the technique and it raises an interesting question:
If we’re pursuing something, doesn’t it mean we don’t have it? The U.S. constitution guarantees us the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” This suggests that happiness is something to chase, something that we don’t already have. Similarly, the quest for freedom suggests the same limitation.
There is no doubt that slavery exists. Things may have changed legally but recent eruptions of racism have sadly revealed that many Americans do feel prejudiced against certain “others.” Ironically, this means that they are enslaved by their own beliefs, restricted to “us and them” conflict where security becomes an every day worry and gated communities become a symbol of what’s going on inside people.
What conditions would need to be put in place for you and I to feel free? It’s easy to think of the obvious. Having more money frees us to purchase what we need to keep ourselves and our families fed and sheltered. Good weather, loving friends, a friendly community… there are countless aspects of our lifestyle that can contribute to feeling free, and happy.
But let’s consider this on a deeper level. Without negating the necessity of developing those lifestyle components that ease the survival burdens of 21st century life, what gets in the way of feeling free? Because we all know that some people make the most of a lousy circumstance while others can feel enslaved midst enviable circumstances. A line from the Eagles song, Lying Eyes, comes to mind: “Late at night, the big old house gets lonely.”
In other words, having wealth does not guarantee happiness, freedom, or anything else. As I said in the last blog, freedom is an inside job. But it takes courage to be truly free, as Thucydides wrote hundreds of years ago.
So, what about that turn of phrase: “When would now be a good time to feel free?” Let’s get serious about answering that question. How about it? What’s limiting you from feeling free right now. Generate a list. See how many obstacles you can name.
Here’s some examples: I need a better job, want a different government, more money please, if only my husband would change, wait until my kids get through college, I’ve got to lose another ten pounds, etc.
And then, of course, there’s the big issues like climate change.
When we link our experience of freedom to external factors over which we have limited control we doom ourselves to slavery; it’s that simple. However, when we realize that freedom is an inside job and decide to bring freedom into our circumstances – rather than trying to extract freedom, or happiness, from our circumstances, things change instantly.
I call this self-empowerment. You make that choice to contribute. You choose to flip 180 degrees, from a taker to a giver and it happens in a split second. Of course, you need to keep doing it, over and over again, especially in situations where you have felt disempowered or overpowered by forces that seem to oppress you.
Some of them may. But what’s your reaction? What’s your habitual reaction? As I mentioned in the last blog, Nelson Mandela emerged from over twenty years of imprisonment with an attitude of forgiveness. He developed that while in prison!
What’s your prison? How long have you been in there? When would now be a good time to break out?
When we take this attitude, we learn that the door to whatever prison we have been languishing in, sometimes for years, was never locked. It was always up to us to claim freedom for ourselves. Isn’t that amazing?
I encourage you to take inventory of where you feel free and where you don’t. Certainly, there are environmental factors that play a large part in this and you can apply yourself to creating improvements there. But you can also work on the inside to examine your attitude and empower yourself, simply by deciding to follow Gandhi’s sage advice, to “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
That’s true freedom.