Deep down, it’s freedom we are really after. The money, the status, the security, the hard work, the investments, all of it we do because we count on it taking us to a place where we feel a sense of freedom that makes sense to us.
From Dictatorship to Democracy
Maybe freedom means leaving it all behind on Friday afternoon and having the time of your life every weekend. Maybe it means being able to set your own hours but doing whatever work they ask so long as you get the paycheck. Maybe it means working from any locale on earth and making it to the beach every summer for one month. Maybe it means having no boss and being the master of your own destiny, even if you are working yourself to the bone.
Your freedom may be someone else’s cage. Don’t judge others. What matters is that you look deep inside and find out what gives you the ultimate freedom in your life.
To me, freedom means living in a free country, something that most may take for granted every day not because they are ungrateful or out of touch with reality, not at all, simply because they cannot imagine NOT living in a free country since that is all they have ever known. After all, how can you know what you have never known or experienced?
I was very young when the Iranian revolution happened. Now, some 30 odd years later, I still remember what the absence of freedom felt like in my young mind – emptiness, hopelessness, terror, and a slow spiral into despair. A day does not go by when my Iranian roots don’t remind me of the stark difference between living in a free country and a horribly chained one. Gratitude runs deep in those moments.
Moving from a dictatorship to a democracy was my first – but not last – taste of true freedom. I lived in a dictatorship and dreamt of living in America when I was a little girl and this last weekend, I exercised my right as a citizen and voted again in the US Presidential elections. Life can be full of miracles, I swear!
What Does Freedom Mean to You?
Small or large, what is your definition of freedom?
And are you living a life that affords you that freedom (preferably all the time!)?
Take your job for instance. Or your business, if you are self-employed. Even if you are in it for the money, the security, the comfort, the luxury, the big toys and the fancy vacations, deep down, you must believe that those results and outcomes will lead to a sense of freedom for you. Or else why are you doing it?
You want the freedom to be you, to be happy, to be fulfilled, to do whatever you want, and your personal compass to freedom tells you to do these things so that you can land on that freedom.
The question is when the scales start to tip and we start getting confused.
How much sacrifice is too much? How much freedom do we give up now so that we gain more later? And what do we do if our calculation is a little off? What if we give up so much freedom now that it leads only to regrets rather than what we really bargained for, which was more freedom?
The Trade-offs for Freedom
It gets really hard when life puts you in those trade-off situations. You are not alone. I have gone through the same thing as have many others. I know that doesn’t fix anything but I just had to remind you because we get so down on ourselves. Try not to do that. You will figure it out. Have faith. And keep reading.
Take me for instance. You’d think that coming from that crazy dictatorship, and living in a free country, I’d learn my lesson and guard my freedom like I do my physical body, that I’d be particularly sensitive about my own sense of freedom, because I would know better, right?
Ironic answer here: Not really. Even I lost sight of it all as I got so caught up living in a rat race and moving up the corporate ladder. I traded so much freedom of choice that somewhere on that path, I forgot I even had a choice, I forgot that I can choose to be free of this job and the chains that I had myself created.
Are you forgetting the same thing maybe? The fact that you always, always, ALWAYS, have a choice. You have a choice on what to do and how you feel and how you stay or leave a situation and move on to another one that you create for yourself.
But if you forget you have a choice…. well, then you might as well be in a cage, because you are not using your freedom at all.
I once heard this very sad phenomena about a certain insect that when it’s first trapped in a glass jar, it jumps and bangs its head all over the place until it gives up. Then, you can open the jar and leave it be, and the insect won’t even budge.
So the moral of this story is to make sure you are not too conditioned to stay trapped in a cage and to watch for the door, and if it’s closed, then go open it and walk out if your current life is trapping you and costing you your freedom.
Of course, this is not Disney Land. Freedom has its price and its sacrifices and staying in a miserable place can seem more attractive if you are not willing to pay the price for freedom. Generally, you won’t even be thinking about this freedom until you are in enough pain but when you start thinking about it, know that it will take effort.
The simple question is: What are you willing to do to live a life that meets your definition of true freedom?
However you look at it, freedom isn’t cheap. You have got to work for it. You have got to be willing to protect it and sacrifice for it, not once but all the time. You have got to know your tolerance for giving up things that you may like or be used to having in order to gain freedom. Generally speaking, I hate to say it, but there is some kind of sacrifice involved.
Freedom Comes Down to Choices
If your job brings in a sweet income, but you have to put up with a horrific boss, the question is: Do you want to be free of having a boss so much that you are willing to give up that income or trade it in with another job with a less horrific boss but a less attractive income? Is the loss of income at this point a loss of major freedom for you and if so, is this financial freedom – the income – more important than the personal sense of freedom – the boss vs better boss vs no boss – also known as your sanity?
So which is true for you? And how do find out the right answer in all situations in your life where you have to give up some freedom here to gain more freedom there?
You gotta ask these questions and understand the consequences of your choices. Then, you will start to have an understanding of what freedom really means to you, and where you place the highest value for freedom in different areas of your life.
It is when the scale start to tip further and further away from freedom that you need to pay attention and to question things. The less freedom you feel you have in your life, in your choices, in your relationships, or in your career, the more trapped you feel.
Freedom is what everyone on this planet yearns for. Freedom is what the citizens of a dictatorship dream of. Freedom is what a bird in a cage sings about. Freedom is what an entrepreneur wants from cubicle life or general state of employment. Freedom is what lovers need to love each other. Freedom is what the writer needs to write and a painter to paint, but freedom is also what you need, even if you are none of the above. You are still a human being, and freedom is one of your very basic needs. Don’t dress it up in other words and don’t cover it up with excuses.
So take a look at your life right now. If you feel you have freedom, then carry on with your business, you’re good … but if you feel you yearn for freedom, then it’s probably worth a closer look and a deeper introspection as to why.
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