Freedom from or freedom to?

This week is July 4.  Here in the States, it’s the celebration of our nation’s declaration of its independence in 1776.  For the young nation, that independence meant freedom, freedom from the rule of England.

That’s still how we usually define independence – as the freedom from something.  Financial independence is the freedom from worries about money and dependence on others.  Personal independence is the freedom from restriction and reliance on others.  (These two types of independence are often reasons that some people start their own businesses.)

This type of independence is what I call freedom from.

With freedom from, having a strong defense is clearly the way to stay independent.  In a nation this means a strong military.  Financially this means having a lot of money in a savings account.  Personally, it means being self-sufficient and relying on yourself.

When this type of independence is lost, we end up feeling hurt, angry, cheated, and weakened. 

There are three big problems with freedom from:

1.  You’re fighting against something.  And when you fight against something, you’re still connected to it, engaged with it.

For example, when your primary goal is financial freedom, concern about the lack of money drives your choices.  It prioritizes your day.

Coming from this position, you’ll never feel rich no matter how much money you make or have.  If you feel good with $50,000, you’ll feel even better with $100,000.  Or $200,000.  The bar keeps moving higher.

What you’re fighting against is the possibility of needing something in the future that you don’t have.  And often, the need for this type of freedom is based on something that happened in the past.

In this model, your freedom, your well-being and your happiness rely on something outside of you, and therefore are out of your control.


2.  When your defenses are what keep you free, you become dependent on them to feel safe.

You have to have a certain amount of money in the bank in order to be okay.  You have to have your own business, whether or not you actually enjoy it.

Rules like this limit the choices you can make, the opportunities you can take advantage of.  The very things meant to keep you free can quickly imprison you.

You can become a slave to your defenses and lose the freedom you’re seeking.


3. Independence from means you can’t depend on others, can’t be too connected.

Did you notice that the definitions of both financial and personal independence above included freedom from dependence on others?  You have to stand on your two feet and make your own way in the world.

The truth, though, is that our world works better when we’re interconnected.  Our economy functions better.  Our inner and outer worlds are enriched by our exchanges with others.

This has never been truer than now.  According to Seth Godin, we’ve moved from an industrial economy to an economy of connection.  To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to able to form genuine connections with clients, prospective clients, and other entrepreneurs.

From a business perspective, it’s impossible to be too connected.

There’s another type of independence, though, one that comes from the inside.  It’s not a reaction against something else.  It simply is.

With inner independence, you know that you’re safe, you’re okay no matter what.  No matter how much money you have in the bank, whether you live alone or with others, whether you work for yourself or someone else, you’re okay.

With inner independence, you’re free to instead of free from.

Free to make decisions based on current information and events rather than what’s happened in the past or fears about the future. Free to change direction if a better opportunity comes.

You’re free to connect with others.  Free to learn.  Free to try.  Free to be yourself.

You’re free to move toward your passion rather than away from what scares you.

The only route to this type of independence is acceptance.  To be truly free of something, you have to accept it.  I know that’s paradoxical, but the great truths of the Universe are.

The way to stay independent, to stay free, to stay grounded in yourself instead of others or events around you, is to be yourself, to be vulnerable.  To live life with an open heart.

True strength and freedom come from inside.  From our own clarity.  Our own groundedness.

When you get strong inside, you naturally build up things like physical strength and a supportive network of other people.  They aren’t defenses but natural outgrowths of your own abundance.  It all flows from inside you.

You’ve probably heard that happiness is an inside job.  Well, independence is, too.  The secret lies in knowing that you are already free, already strong.

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