What Is Freedom?
For me, everything began with the notion of freedom—the ability to determine the course of my daily schedule and overall life direction.
I was very motivated by the opportunity to decide for myself. A normal job didn’t fit into those parameters, so I did everything I could to create my own employment and well-being.
But that was early on.
Freedom is still extremely important to me. I’ll walk away from any business deal or career option that restricts my choices or limits future decisions in a way that doesn’t feel right.
What’s changed, though, is the definition of freedom. I learned in the early days that I didn’t just want freedom for freedom’s sake—I wanted to do something with it. I wanted to make things, to challenge myself, and to value growth and learning.
From the work I’ve done over the past few years, I’ve learned I’m not alone in this pursuit of creative independence. More than anything else, most people who are attracted to the ideas of this blog want freedom of their own. They want the ability to make their own choices and determine how they live their lives. In many cases, they’ll choose to value this freedom more than money, physical possessions, or even the perceived security of a traditional career.
The desire for freedom is what takes someone from a comfortable life to an uncertain, but far more fulfilling one. But is there such a thing as too much freedom?
If you haven’t known freedom before, it’s an exciting discovery. You wake up and wander out into the day with no obligations or expectations. You can choose your own adventure, and if you don’t like the morning’s adventure, you can choose another one in the afternoon.
After a while, though, this kind of freedom can itself feel stifling. The whole day is open to you… and you’re bored.
It’s like eating cake. One piece of cake is good, but eating a whole cake at once, or having cake delivered every morning? No thanks.
I think that most of us want freedom to create, to make something meaningful. The freedom that we achieve allows us to move to higher planes of mission and purpose.
So if you’re trying to create more freedom for yourself, I think it’s good to ask… what happens when you get it? What comes next?
For me, when I have nothing but time on my hands, I get antsy. I want freedom with a purpose, a project, a vision to pursue.
Freedom is the opportunity to choose our own future, but choose we must.
What do you think—what does freedom mean to you?
Feel free to share your answer in the comments.
*We’re in search of great stories for the sequel to The $100 Startup. The next book will be all about quests and big adventures. Can you help?
Image: Tal Bright
i only realized that there were alternatives to following the conventional track a couple of weeks ago. not even a month. i was and am just sick and tired of not being able to do the things i wanna do because of stupid money or what other people say etc. i need to break free. so since my recent discovery i’ve been spending every single day doing SOMETHING to get closer to this goal.
and i feel a lot more freedom already, even if it’s just the possibilities i discover now, that open up my mind to opportunities. like “wow, there’s so much other stuff do to out there” or “wow, so many other people just did it”.
so yeah, talk is cheap and i haven’t “actually accomplished” anything in the conventional way so far. but i’m determined now and as a result i feel more freedom coming my way!
Freedom to me is liberating oneself from the turmoiol caused by other people’s opinions and living according to one’s own principles
I think you hit the nail on the head with ‘freedom with a purpose, a project, a vision to pursue’. I want to be able to follow whatever excites me at any given time.
This is something I’m having to learn to deal with at the moment, as I’ve deliberately given myself freedom, by not getting a job after my 2nd degree, and am trying to use it wisely. Any tips, anyone?!
I realised recently that I’m glad, in a way, that I’m gay, because that’s taken me out of the usualy sleepwalk-into-marriage-and-kids thing that everyone does. Even if I have no better option, I at least have the ability to see the different options and choose, rather than go with the default.
Yes, there is such a thing as too much freedom. Its part of the reason I completely flunked my first two years of university. It takes time and maturity to get used to freedom and learn to manage rather than abuse it.
But its also invaluable. As an entrepreneur for 20 years I often tell people that I work harder than most, on multiple ventures, but the fact that everything I do is my choice and mine alone has tremendous value to me.
We all still answer to someone, even if just our customers, but the freedom to do so on your own terms, or decide not to answer to them if you choose, is priceless.
Some people mistakenly confuse freedom with the ability to NOT have to make choices and decisions throughout the day and this is very far from the reality of living in the way you ascribe. Human beings most importantly need ‘purpose’ in their lives. To stand for and accomplish something. Without finding your own individual purpose and pursuing it, all the ‘freedom’ in the world won’t satisfy you! Like you asked at the end of the post “What happens when you get it? What comes next? These are good questions to ask in advance of one’s quest for ‘freedom’.
Freedom for me is, as you say, the ability to choose. Joshua in the bible asks the people: “Which God do you want to follow? Choose today.” Therefore freedom for me is a state of having come into a position that allows me to make my own decisions. From there on it is an eternal series of decision chosing life (“I have set before you life and death. Choose life”). What leads to more life – either for myself or my surroundings. Preferably both.
Freedom, to me, is being your true self without the shackles of a career. Unhinging yourself from the economic constraints of a job, realizing that you can produce your own income and engage in projects that matter to you.
Am I there yet? No.
But I do know that I will have a positive impact on thousands by giving of myself to help others achieve their goals.
Much like you are doing here…
Thanks for the post!
I am seeking “FREEDOM WITH” not “FREEDOM FROM”.
I want all that life has to offer, rather than cherrypicking only the pieces of life that I ‘like’. When I practice this, I appreciate my day more fully. I remember I’m in choice and in freedom. I created it this way.
Freedom to me is having:
– The possibility to travel to anywhere in the world
– The choice to work from anywhere
– A partner & family who supports me
– The choice to work or not
– Having the freedom to talk about anything I want to
– Not worrying about basic needs
– A strong & healthy body
– To have friends who inspire and energize
Thanks for a great article!
Freedom is a chance to direct your own course in life. To consciously make the choices that lead to success or failure. Some do well with it, some not. So many say they want freedom but shy from it out of fear. They shield themselves with the structure of a conventional life. It can be a bit daunting to step out of the norm.
Freedom means choosing my own responsibilities. Where I choose my own calendar to be my boss, rather than someone else’s. Like you said Chris, choose we must, because without a plan, you are not free, you are just out of control.
Freedom is the realization that there is no suffering. It’s a place in my heart and mind, and we have to fight for it to stay in touch with it: necessary to write our own story.
My children (11, 9, 6) and I have been enjoying freedom by homeschooling. And we do NOT do school at home. We all learn naturally.
Freedom is not having nothing to do.
Freedom is being able to do what you WANT to do.
Reminds me of a story:
A successful business man traveled to a poor country and took a relaxing walk beside a lake when a local paddled ashore with 7 small fish. “Why only 7 fish?” he asked.
“I have enough to feed my family,” said the local.
“So what do you do all day?” asked the visitor.
“I fish a little, play with my children, watch the sunrise & set, take naps, and hang out with my friends.”
“Oh, that’s awful! You could earn a lot of money by fishing more and selling them.”
“And what would I do with that money?” asked the local.
“Buy a bigger boat. Then you could catch even more fish and employ some of your friends, eventually buying a fleet of boats to catch fish.”
“And what would I do with all those fish?”
“Well, buy a shop and sell them to your friends. But why stop there? Put them in cans and sell them worldwide. Within 25-30 years you could earn millions of dollars with an empire of global fishing fleets!”
“And then what?”
The businessman replied: “Then you’d be rich!”
“And what would I do with my riches?”
“You could retire to a house by a lake, fish a little, play with your grandchildren, watch the sunrise & set, take naps, and hang out with your friends.”
I can identify with your thoughts on the definition of personal freedom Chris. A few months ago I left the part-time job I had at the time to pursue my art full-time, to really throw myself into it. It took several of the months after this break to actually learn to reside comfortably within the freedoms I had suddenly acquired. The turning point reconnecting with my true purpose and began a new piece of work that was very ambitious, which was a ‘return’ to where my heart lies as an artist.
Great essay which I shared on FB because it is something I’ve been talking about a lot with friends recently. For me, the anguish is that I’ve had that kind of freedom but am, right now, financially in a position where I have very little freedom at all. That’s a very difficult place to be in without giving in to bitterness; so it was wonderful to read this today and remember what my goals are, and to focus on the whole process rather than the current discomfort. Thank you.
My personal freedom was the freedom from all the attachments and actually be able to be with myself, face being alone and not looking for distractions. To be able to actually recognize my value, create meaning, I need first to really be free within, for that meant, in the moments of boredom, create value on my one, not look for external factors to do it for me.
Ahhh… great question. I love freedom so much that I also started a blog about it, and love digging into every aspect of it.
To me, it’s essential to land on the “freedom to” side of equation rather than simply “freedom from.” If I seek freedom just to escape from something, it usually ends up feeling hollow.
When our actions originate in a “freedom from” mindset, we tend to not look at the root causes of suffering in our life. We are satisfied with a band-aid approach—but it almost always backfires on us later on. We leave a job we hate and get a new one, only to find out after a few months that similar issues are arising. We leave the relationship that was causing us aggravation and then discover that our next relationship hits the same rocky shoals.
“Freedom to,” on the other hand, is about opening up possibilities. “Freedom to” finds its motivation in love. The power and effectiveness behind Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and actions came from the fact that they were based on love for his fellow human beings, not on fear or anger.
So in the end, I think that’s what it’s all about… I seek freedom as a way to create more love in the world, for me and others.
Freedom for me is the freedom to stay home with my son when he is sick without worrying about what will happen to my business or at a job. Freedom is being able to do what I want all week and work around it. Sometimes I feel bad about how much freedom I have because my friends don’t think I work very hard. And I definitely don’t work as much as I used to and they do, but I am more successful in every way, especially the ways that make for a life well lived.
I think of Viktor Frankl’s observation (from his great book, “Man’s Search For Meaning”) that the ultimate freedom we have is our choice of attitude. With the clarity that comes from hindsight, I see that I have been blessed with many things in my life that I did not fully appreciate at the time. It was this lack of appreciation that truly kept me from that nebulous ‘freedom’. Instead of expanding more fully into some wonderful opportunities, I would contract into some drama, angst, or some such foolishness. It’s difficult to talk much about this without resorting to cliches, but this is it. There ain’t no dress rehearsal for your life.
Thank you for your post. I’ve worked constantly in the so called real world since I was 13. At 50 I have now walked away from a harmful profession to live a better life. The change took a full two years and involved a lot of hardship and has also left me in a much less stable economic position. I am, without doubt however, far healthier, wiser and happier.
I do have to say though, that coming to a sudden stop after years of constant running and endless obligations can be very disorienting. I didn’t expect defining the wide open plain which is the rest of my life and extinguishing the cognitive conditioning of my past life to be such a challenge.
This post and these comments are a great help in going forward. Thank you for same.
Sometimes I get bored, but these days I end up staying late reading and writing. It’s a philosophical creative process of sorts. Returning to day-job after a week or two weeks of off-shift is always a pain in the ass.
But real freedom is freedom FROM time, not just freedom in time. The rest is happiness in slavery, as Trent Reznor succiently put it!
We are alive and need to take risks. Freedom is the ability to make choices and be responsible for our choices. Those that said there can be too much freedom, sounds more like hidden jealousy to me. Why do we want to define for other people what freedom should be for everyone else?
Having just spent four days by myself, sans children, I can say I know exactly what you mean. I loved the freedom of living on my own schedule but I needed meaningful work to get me excited. I started outlining a book I want to compile and I reached out to a few career path connections. I could have watched TV or went shopping but I wanted to catch up with as well as push myself. By the end of the weekend I felt productive and content, magnificent.
From John Gray’s Your Sacred Self, p. 21:
Here is Florinda Donner’s definition of freedom… “What does freedom cost?” “Freedom will cost you the mask you have on,” she said, “the mask that feels so comfortable and is so hard to shed off, not because it fits so well but because you have been wearing it for so long.” …”Do you know what freedom is?”..”Freedom is the total absence of concern about yourself…And the best way to quit being concerned with yourself is to be concerned about others”..
Freedom can only be attained by dreaming without hope, by being willing to lose all, even the dream.
…(from Janis Joplin) “Freemdom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
More food for thought.
Very best to all the freedom searchers and livers out there.
Reminds me of a quote from the Bible: ” ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.” Freedom is the sweet, great culmination of everything we can use as a means to an end. And the end of bondage by poverty, greed, lust, pride, tradition, authority or even by self. Freedom is the journey, and the journey is waiting for all of us.
I don´t remember the author from which I read the following definition “Freedom is really being true to yourself”, its not related to lack of responsability but to pursuing one´s own journey, if anyone know the author please give it to me, so that I can give credit to he/she who deserves it.
Thanks for writing about this. I am encountering this feeling of “stifling freedom” right now, but I hadn’t quite figured out how to put a name on it. I’ve recently left the “9 to 5 world” to do freelance work from home, and it’s taking some adjustment to be intentional about my work. I am learning that freedom from subjection to other people’s structure is great, but it doesn’t mean freedom from all structure. Freedom means giving yourself what you need to accomplish your dreams – yes, flexibility and permission to take risks, but also accountability to yourself.
Very well said. I’ve noticed that I tend to limit and restrict myself more than my outside circumstances do. Pursuing freedom begins with believing we have the right to choose our own paths, and to believe that we are the ones making our own rules.
Excellent post! When I first started working for myself, I went through fits & spurts, went bankrupt, and then got it going very well. After a year and half of coasting at a high level, I got bored with too much freedom. Looking back, I realize that I had no purpose. I knew I was rutterless, but I didn’t know a real purpose could be my guide, for some reason I just never thought like that. Four years later, and many mistakes & failures since then, I’m finally realizing my purpose and re-establishing my freedom, how I schedule my day & my work. This time though, I have a real sense of purpose and am keeping my eye on the horizon. I’m at the exciting beginning stage again, so there is no feeling of rutterlessness, so now I just have to learn form past mistakes, remember this state of beginners’ mind, and keep refining my purpose & mission & keep it top of mind.
My conception of freedom is about living life on your own terms. I come from a culture where you do what you’re supposed to do, where you don’t complain as long as you have food and a roof over your head. Happiness was something that awaits you in the hereafter… Unlike most of my childhood friends, I believed there had to be more. My freedom is following my life path without explanation, without waiting for permission, and without apology. Freedom is about authenticity and truth.
I grew up in an incredibly traditional Chinese household, which explains why I’ve been on a lifelong quest for freedom to be myself. It’s an ongoing process as far as the family is concerned. To this day, even though they’ve accepted the fact that they lost the ability to control me when I turned 20, they still live in such a different world from mine that I’ve had to live a double life to keep the peace. My ideas and views are far too liberal for them to even consider, much less understand. The only time I’ve felt totally free from judgement and had the freedom to really explore my individuality was when I lived thousands of miles away from my family and this stiflingly collectivist culture that is Malaysia. The 4 years I spent in Glasgow, Scotland were the happiest years of my life, bar none. I’m back in Malaysia now unfortunately, but I returned with renewed confidence and awareness of who I am. So the quest for my ultimate freedom continues! 🙂
Chris, your title reminds me of a road sign from my college days. I attended a small college in Appleton, Wisconsin. On our way to school, students passed an exit sign that announced “Appleton –>” and “Freedom < –".
Ah, yes, the sign was photographed many times and even ended up in the yearbook. The town of Freedom is still near Appleton, but the highway signs have changed due to urban sprawl.
Thanks Chris for your sharing about freedom. Thank you everyone else, there is such wisdom in the comments here.
I want to invite an even larger experience of freedom. Beyond the joy of having power and control over one’s life, freedom can be experienced at a deeper level.
You can also have freedom from your past, freedom from your self-limits, freedom from a narrow mind and a closed heart.
This freedom comes from awareness that you are not your story, your experiences, your thoughts or feelings. You are truly infinite in your capacity to love, infinite in your capacity to create, infinite in your mind’s ability to expand in consciousness.
You are totally free if you live fully in the present, with an openness in heart and mind and a willingness to be guided by your intuition/soul/higher nature.
Purpose flows richly from this river of freedom.
Freedom is what I wanted when I became a nomad, and it was what I found. The most valuable reward that freedom gives me is the time to let the random encounters of the world grow and come to fruition. I’ve fallen in love thanks to this freedom!
For me freedom is the ability to work on art every day. Sadly I feel like lately I’ve been getting distracted… time to refocus my priorities!
Freedom to me is very hard to grasp. Freedom is the choice to do whatever yu want regardless of whatever other people say or society says. The problem with freedom is that people use theirs to hurt other people. I also feel like money can really put a damp on your freedom because yu can’t do something’s without money. I want to climb Mount Everest, but to do that I need lots of money for equipment, pay off the government, guides, etc. not to say that money can stop you, but it can slow your goals down
Freedom, to me, is managing your own time for your own purposes. For me, it would be the freedom to create without obligation to spend my time on something I don’t believe in.
I’m working towards it. It’s hard, but it will be worth it.
Nice article! The cake metaphor is great, but is it really about freedom?
I mean, freedom is freedom, you either have it or not. Freedom is the ability to act instead of being an object on the scene.
It seems to me that your “cake” is “free time” and having too much or too little free time is a problem.
To think about how “much of anything” we need, I like the “bike riding” metaphor.
The only way to keep balance riding a bike is to keep moving, to keep choosing. If you go to slow you’ll fall and if you go to fast you may scape the desired trajectory. Also, the definition of “slow” and “fast” depends on the terrain and your ability, on where you actually are in your life path.
Having the ability to make decisions on my terms, rather than someone else s terms is freedom. I call this “being leveraged”
To me, freedom is not that you can always do what you want, but that you have the wisdom and courage to take steps to change your path if necessary. And hopefully to have the support of those closest to you, but if not, to be able to do so anyway. Unfortunately, I have often been an enabler for some of those closest to me, in the interests of keeping the peace. Now that I have begun to see and change my ways, I am getting a great deal of push back from those I had been enabling. Frankly, I strenuously dislike conflict, and it has been difficult for me to stand my ground at times. However, the more I do, the more light I see ahead and the more freedom I have to move forward. In addition, I am starting to see how those I was trying to help hold up, are learning to walk better on their own and achieve their own freedom, without me to prop them up, because they have to. And the farther I go, the more I see that it is not just my own freedom that is benefiting from my setting of better boundaries with people…
Freedom to me is not sitting around and doing nothing, it’s being able to choose what it is that brings me happiness and fulfillment. Spending time with my loved ones and working on a business that I find pleasure doing – that is freedom. Thank you again for such a well written and thought provoking post.
freedom with a purpose…exactly what i want…to design my own day filled with animals and my art. i couldn’t think of a better life!!
Of course, one does not have freedom if he or she is told what to do all day, but we are not really free if we aren’t doing what we were created to do, and that is to help this world be a better place. This is why there are many rich and sad people as much as there are poor and sad people.
Freedom is what you accept.
After leaving the financial services industry after the panic of 2008 I felt strongly having a career wasn’t for me. Since then, I have had a few part time jobs which I quit since they didn’t feel right. After being widower since 2006 I was lucky enough to find love again and be remarried in 2010. My second wife is happy I don’t follow a career path so we have the flexibility to enjoy our lives especially since we are older and we are working on our “bucket list”. The problem is she is worried since I haven’t been able to contribute monetarily very much since we got married. So recently, I took a bartender’s job which I thought would be a nice way to pay the bills while I worked on a business idea.
The problem is that this job has turned out to be one of the worst I have had in my life and is making me ill! My wife’s advice has been to “deal with it” since she works in the restaurant industry.
My question to the board is how to not let your spouse down by quitting a terrible job and give her hope that starting a micro-business is the way to go? My wife was once self employed and folded the business since she didn’t make a living and isn’t keen on the idea.
For me, freedom is the ability to build things and create changes of my own choice which outstand and outlast my life.
Oh, and the ability to pursue my own variants of happiness. =)
To me, freedom is choice about what you do, where you do it and who with. It doesn’t necessarily mean being very rich, but it means living a lifestyle of your choosing. It means having your own identity and not being labelled as a product of your upbringing or background.
I agree with you about needing freedom with purpose. Without a purpose we would probably not contribute much to the world and life would seem aimless. When I’m not traveling, writing or doing other things with my freedom, I love being able to serve others. As long as I can do that there is always purpose.
Freedom is very closely linked with power. To the extent that we are empowered we are free. To the extent that others or things exercise power over us we are not. Ironically, those with the most power at not always the most free, and those with little power often enjoy a great degree of freedom.
The ability to choose is extremely important, but often a luxury of the privileged few. Too much choice however seems to incapacitate many, because they are so concerned about about making the ‘right’ choice.
As in everything, there is a need for tension and balance. As Peter Parker discovered, “With great power (freedom) comes great responsibility”.
I agree with the original author. To me, freedom is the ability to make my own choices, take risks, walk away or create something. I’m a well-respected educator and program creator who walked away from several promising offers because I did not feel ethically and morally okay with the system I was in. I made it work by spending double the time creating programs based on research and experience. The schools continue to run these successful programs. I shared my curriculum so my department had something to use; it really didn’t have any, yet parents were promised xyz. My career was driven by student need, and so now, I help kids privately. I do not ignore current standards or best practices. I use the framework, but incorporate elements I feel necessary. I also want to help those who can’t afford my specialized services, so I’m working on some ideas.
I may not have much money right now, and I do not apply for many jobs. But, the work I’m getting is valued and appreciated, plus I get paid well. And I help a lot of kids and parents. I like what I do. Others seem to as well.
Good post Chris. Right now I would kill to have your kind of freedom and not feel so stuck working in an office and paying the mortgage. But it’s like Maslow’s heirarchy of needs – if you’re starving, survival is the focus, but if you have your basic needs met you can concentrate on more philosophical or egalitarian pursuits. I look forward to experiencing that kind of freedom again soon – I used to have it, I’m not sure what happened!!!
After surviving 3 rounds of layoffs and an involuntary company-wide salary cut, freedom to me meant finding a way to work for myself so that my job security and my earning potential was no longer in the hands of someone else. After I went independent, and the more time I spent working for myself, the more freedom began to take on a new tone of creativity. Creativity, in the sense of being able to shape my pricing, products, but also explore my own creative talents more, and create time to get back into my artwork, which I wouldn’t have had quite as much flexibility to do working for someone else. So freedom changes shape throughout your career, and even takes on multiple shapes at once. Interesting post, and comments!
There is a Graham Greene book which has this line – ‘People don’t appreciate reality until age forces it upon them.’ This is the kind of obligation freedom creates. Freedom is highly radioactive & it must be handled responsibly. If we don’t accept the responsibility that freedom creates then eventually age will force us to realize it. It is very easy to let go of everything in the name of freedom only to realize that now we end up staring at vacant days ahead. I like how you describe freedom as having to do something that challenges you on your own terms & that is in fact very useful.
We can also be free in a 9to5 job as long as the same principles are followed by the employer & we get to work on our projects which help both, us & the firm. This is not widely followed though because there lacks a construct on how to monitor sincerity of efforts.
But I get your point. I loved your book $100 startup. Thanks for writing it.
I’ve been living in post-corporate freedom for the past 11 years, have tried lots of things, made many mistakes, and through this learning process am finally understanding that I want to write for love and living. Something I should have started a long a time ago. Of course, my love of gardening has me getting up all summer with a purpose: I have a small and enjoyable business for looking after my client’s flowers. You are quite right: freedom has to be something to do with, something meaningful. With the end of the gardening season and long winter days ahead, I look forward to the freedom of learning to write articles, perhaps a blog, and definitely a book. It’s been exciting getting the first paragraphs on paper.
I recently read a clarification of freedom that i liked in a biography of Joseph Campbell (my paraphrasing):
1. Physical freedom – plenty of time, money, health, flexibility
2. Mental freedom – thoughts and beliefs of your own
3. Emotional freedom – independent of good/bad opinion of others
Each has it’s own challenges.
Quite a sensitive concept. Freedom is individual. If freedom is set as a goal, then it can rise and then fade away. But if it is part of a purpose, it is a whole different story.
Financial and personal (geographical, business, etc.) are built into my purpose. I believe in it and I have no doubt that I am, going to fulfill that purpose. One tough aspect of it is to find the right support. In my family, friends, community, etc. For me there’s an additional element. Online community. It took me a while to get there, but eventually, after lots of research I managed to find the entry point. Once I had that, the rest kept flowing in. I found the right people, blogs, resources, etc. This website is one of them, that’s for sure. But you gotta be careful. The other day I came across this – apparently – very prominent coach, consultant and his website. 80-90% of what he stands for was in line with my purpose and my mindset. We all agree that mindset is crucial in our quest to do something extraordinary. Launching a successful business or just making a difference requires extraordinary measures. 95% or more of us will never do that. Why? It is the mindset! Then there was his view on freedom. In a nutshell, here’s what he says:
* Freedom is on the list of almost every aspiring entrepreneur, but the reality kicks in sooner or later
* personal freedom: geographical freedom applies only to those who do online business. They’re the exception.
* financial freedom: takes a long time and even then it almost never works out as expected.
…and here’s my problem. I respect the personal experience that resulted in the above statements. But…
…If you’ve set your mind on achieving something extraordinary, that in itself is exceptional. As such, achieving an exceptional personal or financial freedom is perfectly possible. Of course this is where Purpose comes into picture. Why do I want that freedom? What do I want to do with it? That is the question. And the answer is in the purpose and the freedom to be creative.
Just my 2 cents. Once you defined your purpose, watch out who you listen to. It can make a huge difference.
Definitely came at the right time! thanks for giving me some good food for thought 🙂
Freedom for me is the conscious ability to choose what feels easy + graceful + do what comes naturally. In contrast to the pushing + striving + doing that was the cornerstone of my corporate clone years.
Freedom means ending the day with a sense of completeness + contentment rather than the underlying feeling that I ‘should’ be doing something more, bigger, bolder.
Freedom is peaceful. Freedom is impactful. Freedom feels delicious. 🙂
Thanks Chris for another thought provoking post x
Freedom for me is moving from the (restrictive) vehicle of public education to full time coaching to inspire woman’s leadership. There are plenty of opportunities to influence in the school setting, but too much time is diverted away. Without tapping into our authentic voices women live a life of relativity, rationalizing that at least things are better then they used to be. Playing it safe is not good enough and means we’re wasting the creativity and genius of thousands of woman. My freedom means freeing the talents of women, especially in the arena of politics.
Discovering how to be free while living in the world is an ongoing process! I found the negative part (below) particularly difficult in my teens and 20’s.
In the book Be Still and Know, Osho speaks of three kinds of freedom. “One is ‘freedom from’; that is a negative freedom: freedom from the father, freedom from the mother, freedom from the church, freedom from the society. That is a negative kind of freedom – freedom from – good in the beginning, but that can’t be the goal…Now whom to say no to?
…The second kind of freedom is ‘freedom for’; that is positive freedom. Your interest is not in denying something, rather you want to create something…
…And then there is a third freedom, the highest; in the East we have called it moksha – the ultimate freedom, which goes beyond both the negative and the positive. First learn saying no, then learn saying yes, and then just forget both, just be. The third freedom is not freedom against something, not for something, but just freedom. One is simply free – no question of going against, no question of going for.”
Osho is a meditation master who has a whole book about freedom called Freedom: The Courage to Be Yourself.
For me, freedom is I being fully self-expressed.
This is a response to David’s question to the board about his situation. I was in a similar situation where I was doing something part time that I just wasn’t compatible with. It was amazingly liberating to just walk out of that job, which I did! I’ve since been work on my own terms as an artist. Unfortunately for you, you have a partner to consider. I would recommend you look for another job asap, I mean totally throw yourself into it. Find something, show your partner how serious you are about changing and being proactive about it. Once you’ve got that other job, throw yourself into structuring your micro business idea without involving your partner. It is viable and you put things in place, then go for it! Your partner may be wanting to keep you at bay and could be jealous that you’ll make it work. Change is inevitable, stasis is a killer!!! Good luck David. All the best.
“Freedom aggravates as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual. And as freedom encourages a multiplicity of attempts, it unavoidably multiplies failure and frustration…Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden…We join mass movements to escape individual responsibility…” Eric Hoffer.
I am going to be completely honest and say that I think complete freedom would scare the hell out of me. Now, having the freedom to say Yes when I wanted and No when I didn’t feel it.
Having some purpose, direction is important with freedom. When I was a stay at home mom, I would often lose a whole day doing nothing simply because I didn’t have some direction for the day…multiply that by 15 years and that’s a lot of wasted time.
Right now I would like the freedom to have EXPERIENCES that would be fore the betterment of myself and others…but there is a part of me that knows there has to be some structure in order for it to be productive.
Interesting post, it made me think. I left my previous job about a year ago, partially on a quest for freedom. Went to Central America for a month, very illuminating. Restarted my old company and had more control over what I did everyday, but still working way too many hours. I am about to have my first book published by McGraw-Hill, very hectic and time consuming, but also fulfilling.
Every day I take a walk from my office to unwind from editing, planning etc. At the interstate exit just up the road there are three people who have been living there for the last month or so. They take turns standing at the off-ramp with a sign asking for . People stop and give them a little change, it must be enough to live on because they seem to have set up camp there. The weather has been really nice here lately and sometimes I really envy their “freedom”. I used to dream about hopping a freight to parts unknown, not a care in the world… Escape from the stress…
But then reality hits, I head back and keep working… there’s nobody that makes me do it anymore, its all my choice. And really, isn’t that freedom?
“The desire for freedom is what takes someone from a comfortable life to an uncertain, but far more fulfilling one. But is there such a thing as too much freedom?”
That sums it up perfectly for me.
For me, freedom is mainly an internal or spiritual thing, rather than a lifestyle that lets me do whatever I want.
I live within the confines of “normal” employment, yet I feel free to be who I really am, to not conform to what others expect, to say no when appropriate, to pursue goals I consider worthy, and to choose for myself what is important instead of having that imposed on me.
Being able to go traveling whenever I felt like it would be nice, but not being able to doesn’t stop me feeling free, at least on the inside.
I have been free for two years ago after I left my old copywriting job to move to QC, Canada. I thought I would miss the structure, the pay check, even the stale coffee. After the first few months, I found myself re-discovering beautiful sunny afternoons in parks and not having to do it during a 30-minute lunch break. The stress and pressure and fear of losing what(?) washed away. I look younger, even though I am two-years older! And I am writing even more, but it’s what I want. And I now speak another language.
Freedom to me means the ability to work on my terms, to write what I believe in, and not to compromise my values. I have to make a living, as they say, so I am returning to work on a contract basis very soon. But now that I have reclaimed my freedom there’s just no going back. My goal is to figure out how to give back and travel as much as I can while I am still on the planet. Freedom is having the time and using it wisely.
What does freedom mean to you…It is what I already have as my God-given possession but I take it up. I’ve learned the hard way after years of working for employers, some who think being a boss gives them the right to berate you, tear you down, criticize you, or hold you down…no more. Freedom is not having to sell-out my soul, my well-being, self-worth, care and grace towards myself, my beliefs and convictions, or any part of me, for the sake of a paycheck, …or money or fame or whatever. I’m done believing the lie that we must suffer doing that which we our conscious may not agree with or that we know is not for us- just to make a living!! Thank you for being a part of the bold message that tells us the truth that there is another way!
Freedom is the possibility to have choice and purpose helps you choose. Freedom is the space around you, where your purpose is your compass showing you where to move in that space. Otherwise even with freedom, you might be lost…
Viktor Frankl spoke of freedom as the twin of responsibiity, that the two flowed into and out of each other. I would guess that most people reading this blog and your work in general, have experienced great swaths of time where it was an open road – they were free – but little was accomplished because everything needs a form; otherwise, like water, we’ll find our lowest level. Accomplishment, purpose, building meaning cannot be conflated with nothing to do – that is not freedom, it is a vacuum and no good comes from it. To be free you must accept form, direction, purpose.
Again, Frankl (and Aurelius and Epictetus) place one’s responsibility to one’s life, one’s time as the primary objective of a life lived fully engaged and awake. Freedom is found in the commitment to a cause larger than yourself – love, creative effort and the products of that love, of that effort. Sitting on the couch with a bag of Cheetos is not freedom; it is a waking death.
Exactly right. I want freedom in that I don’t want to be stuck in the cubicle I’m writing this in and the freedom to design my life how I want. But what I want includes travel and volunteering and writing and working to make this world a better place, not simply sitting on a beach with no plans (although that is nice sometimes too!)
I believe it’s really just about living an epic life that is what you choose rather than following the life society finds to be the norm.
Freedom to me will be the ability to do as I choose, not as I am expected to do.
To me, freedom is a feeling. It is a result of right living, right attitude, and right action. I often have the feeling of freedom when I travel, but not always. I am free when I seek and follow my own personal truth – and trust God in the process. It doesn’t matter where I am, but if I happen to be in some exotic paradise at the time I experience my freedom then, hey, all the better….
To some extent, I like structure.
Honestly, I haven’t yet given ‘full freedom,’ a try – but I’ve been slowly moving out of my comfort zone (I mean, I live in a country where I don’t speak the language).
I have been re-examining what I define as necessity and what I can happily do without.
Some things I’ve ditched for good, others, I realize I really liked having in my life and want to bring back. But it’s an experiment.
And honestly – what do I even mean by full freedom? I’m so freaking happy with how much freedom I’ve created for myself – even though it hasn’t meant the whole ‘give up your day job,’ I’ve strived for a day job of a different flavor.
Sometimes I have to step back and remind myself though.
Not only that, but my job provides a work permit and one year visa.
So I have the freedom of a one year visa by working this job.
I’m also building experience in my profession, even though currently I’m terrified of how my profession is being degraded back ‘home.’
Freedom is a give and take equation. And you’ve constantly got to readjust the variables to decide if you’re making the right decisions in sacrificing freedom, to gain freedoms in another way.
For me freedom is the highest discipline one can have … it is about taking 100% self responsibility and knowing what makes you tick to follow what is right for you. This is moment to moment living in full awareness of what is.
A coin is a perfect metaphor for ‘human’ – society on one side of its existence and freedom on the other, I think.
Freedom is about surrounding yourself by people who motivate and inspire you to be better than you were yesterday, so that you can pursue a meaningful cause, in a manner that leverages your unique strengths.
That posting sure struck many chords. It was the best yet, and deserved the big response. I worked for several companies / organizations, always managed to build an island of freedom within each one; always felt free to move if the job ceased to be fun; retired at 60 in 1982 and am still free and secure.
Freedom is a state of mind rather than a specific condition of existence.
Freedom for me is being late to post here wishing I would have found this sooner. My ongoing challenge only makes me fight to get to that never ending place where I can actually live in this ever challenging world without too many unnecessary limitations. I am just hoping it doesn’t get any better than that!
I really felt this post…I cherish my freedom. I spent the last few years working toward ultimate freedom. I have been in the spot before too…where I worked so hard to get a weekend with no obligations and then, even though I had tons to do, felt like I was without purpose. Can you imagine having a whole year that way? It is good to plan ahead. Thanks Heather!
i work at a job that demands time and effort. Roughly 25 hours per week. Then I have college that also demands time and effort. Roughly 10 hours per week. I feel that my current life is stiefling my freedom. but i choose this tyrrany to make more money. and i choose the college to have a career in teaching because I want to make 42,000 a year instead of twelve because i think the 42,000 will afford me more freedom and peace. but i’d have to sacrifice 40 hrs per week for that. how will i find true freedom and thus my true heart?
My reply proved to be too longwinded so I read the replies listed above and have to say the best in my opinion is the one by TIM:
” ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Freedom is a very relative thing and what is freedom to one person may well be the a total lack of a challenge and purpose to another. It also raises the question; just who ?……. can handle total freedom, whatever that might be. Look through all the history books and you’ll find the pages littered with dismal failure by those who had, as the saying goes “ Everything going for them”
We talk about freedom as if it is a virtue, but it would seem to me it is no more than a tool and in the hands of the inexperienced that can spell disaster for more than just the person who is handling it.
By nature we are presented by the challenge to harness nature for the benefit of mankind, and whereas that has very good as well as limited application, it becomes a problem when we try and harness or exploit fellow human beings for our own benefit and take away their freedom. Now,… we could talk about that until the cows come home, but I like to take a bee-line for the ultimate freedom.
So what is that experienced handling of this tool called Freedom?
That , unfortunately will take more than the available 154 characters.
Jim van Ommen
What is freedom? Well, many people have had a go at defining this and although their interpretations vary greatly, it seems to have a common thread and that is that we …LIKE IT ! Since we all differ and have different tastes it stands for reason that we differ greatly in this interpretation. Now surely there has to be a better way to define it that we can agree on, in principle at least?
When I have trouble defining anything I try to go to the very opposite meaning of the word, the antonym and work back from that way. The word that comes up in my mind is “slavery” and that can have many connotations apart from the obvious. Slavery is considered to be that bad that most of the world, except for a few multi nationals, have passed laws to ban this practice.
(Continued next comment)
Such a stone, being conscious merely of its own endeavor and not at all indifferent, would believe itself to be completely free, and would think that it continued in motion solely because of its own wish.
Baruch Spinoza quote.
What do you say?
Am interested coz i all need to have a good opportunity to choose my own future that suits me but am not exposed well to the world am living with the people who are still in the dark and i want to be out of darkness and be free… who can give me more tips of how i can be out of these darkness life i am now thanks.
When Chris stated, “when I have nothing but time on my hands, I get antsy.”, he then proceeds to creative actions.
I do not think this is freedom, as we are driven by our boredom and angst into endless activity. These activities will have a combination of negative, neutral and positive effects. And so we continue the conditioning that will imprison us within this paradigm. We are not free from endless activity and its results.
Even when we retire from work and hopefully have some money, we are not free. We are just free of the tyranny of the workplace.
For me, freedom is the big freedom where we are not driven or compelled towards any conventional goal. Freedom is free from the tyranny of our psychological and physical constituents. Hate/aversion, desire/greed, and ignorance are all elements that obscure and undermine the freedom we all possess.
This is the greatest challenge of human life. If we cannot free ourselves, how can we help others do the same? May we all find the way of that great freedom that truly embraces all of our experience. May we all find the freedom that frees us from sufferings of our human lives and our human minds. And may we find the freedom that brings lasting peace and the well-being of all.
Thanks Chris for your writing and the opportunity to respond. Be well.
CONTINUED…….. Slavery that is inflicted on us by others is indeed bad, but have we thought of another type of slavery as in addiction? We can think of many such as drink, drugs, smoking and many others and their consequences mostly finish up in poor health and premature death. And there are endless other addictions and indulgences even if we don’t give it that ugly name, perhaps we prefer compulsion or habit, as in overeating and gambling etc., but these likewise can end in tragedy.
Coming back to my earlier statement about freedom that we… LIKE it…, we are now confronted by somewhat of a conundrum…..Do we like tragedy ?
It seems to me our trouble is not with the interpretation or meaning of the word, but with ourselves…..we need to make up our mind as to what we want
Ultimate slavery is not what mere fellow human beings inflict on us, it is what we give into or more specifically who we give into. Ultimate freedom is much more than what this world has to offer to us.
Think about it, it might give you a totally different interpretation as to the real meaning of the word freedom.
I have a concern with the display of the comments. After posting today’s comment, 1st June 2015, I see that this comment was already published on the 20th May 2014., BUT WAS NOT DISPLAYED on this website just prior to I posted my comment of today 1st June 2015. I have come across this before and causes confusion. Would you please remove the duplication. Kind regards, Jim.
It’s pretty late over here and I must say..I am happy that you’ve written this article (blog) to express what you feel or what you’ve learned.
Freedom, to me, is more of really being your own person. You learn to accept your differences from other human beings or living organisms. You learn what you’re curious about and being able to do what you want to do without feeling any discomfort. Freedom..is a very wonderful feeling. Being a follower is different from being inspired. Someone can have a similar idea or thought but if you follow that person and idolize, that’s far from being free.
What I hear all the time is that non-conformity is the state of being different from the crowd. Which is true. But then..when you see people who are different from specific sheep herds they are most likely adjoined with another specific sheep herd. It’s very complicated but yes..it’s true. Or when you are basically acting “crazy,” “outgoing” or “loud” when being different is simply being different. Not a group of people who are pretending to be three of those things. But back to my statement about freedom. To me, freedom is the control you have over yourself and has creative independence.
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