What does freedom mean to you? Is that a feeling, a right, a place, an idea or anything else?
Freedom according to Oxford Dictionaries is defined as the “power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.” Freedom covers several aspects such as self-determination, free choice, free will, being independent and unrestricted as well as not being imprisoned or enslaved.
Many of these aspects, such as free speech, have a political dimension. This political dimension has to be ensured by a government that is ideally elected by a nation’s citizens. As we know, people will always have to fight for freedom as governments regardless of their political color seem to have a tendency to restrict people’s freedom in many different ways. Just look at the overwhelming surveillance practices in so-called “free” nations.
Wat does freedom mean? Does it mean that people can do whatever they want? What about the impact of their decisions on others living beings and the environment? First, there are values and principle societies have given themselves to define what’s allowed and what is not. Examples are that you are not allowed to rob another person, or that you have to stop when the traffic lights are red, or that you have to pay a certain amount of taxes, and the list goes on and on.
Second, there is the element of responsibility.
Freedom doesn’t come alone. Freedom comes with its twin, and this twin is called responsibility.
To claim freedom also requires to claim responsibility. Freedom is a commitment to be responsible for your own decisions and the impact of these decisions. That means not to blame others for your decisions and their related outcomes. This kind of responsibility requires a solid foundation of a free mind that can evaluate options in a thoughtful and respectful way, based on consciously adopted values, principles and beliefs. To get to this conscious and free state of mind requires cleaning the basement of your mind first.
The foundation for freedom in responsibility: Free your mind
Developing freedom in your mind is one of the most difficult processes to master. Remember how you were raised. Remember what kind of statements have been implemented in your mind. Think about the “musts” your parents told you. You must sit still, you must not leave the table until Mum or Dad say it’s ok to do so. You must go to the kindergarten, or you must go to school. And you must not wear this or that, or you must eat this, and you must not eat that. The list goes on and on.
Of course, it’s important to teach children good manners and how to behave in society and how to be respectful to other people. But then, we became adults, and we may all remember decisions that were more or less impacted by our parents’ values and beliefs or their expectations. But these decisions were not really ours.
Recognizing this situation is the first step to developing a free mind. The next step is to question and evaluate those values and beliefs that control your mind and to understand where they come from. Then, you have to get rid of those thoughts, values and beliefs that no longer serve you. It’s important to understand that these thoughts and patterns were put in your mind as a child from your families and teachers. To get rid of those values and beliefs in a gentle way, make peace with those thoughts and then to let them go. Be grateful that they served you for such a long time, but let them rest where they belong – in your past.
I’m still smiling when I have my Mother on the phone, and she asks me things like “do you must work tomorrow?” or “do you must travel again to the US this year?” or something else. Growing up, this was “normal.” But there is nothing “normal” about it. Seriously. Statement and questions like this are simply limiting ourselves, as I would have no choice to do this or that. But I had, and I have a choice. Always. And I made my decisions, and I will do so in the future. And I’m happy that I can do creative, inspiring and exciting work that I love to do. Now, I can smile about her questions. Ten years ago, I became angry. All the time. Yes, I have done some work.
Developing a free mind is an iterative journey of awareness and consciousness
Getting rid of those values and beliefs that have been implemented deeply in you, is not an easy thing to do. It’s not a one-time event. It’s a process that comes in iterations. Most of the time, the process begins with a trigger event that forces you to do so, to look closely at these things. Becoming aware of those beliefs that impact your decisions is the prerequisite to change them. Often one trigger event won’t be enough. Others will follow. But with each iteration, you will achieve more freedom, and another issue will be solved. Until another trigger event happens that forces you to rethink another value, belief or principle that has not been questioned so far. Or you have to question a certain principle again and will come to another conclusion.
Saying good-bye to the one or the other belief that no longer serve you is a life-long process because we only see the way until the next intersection. But we will never see the end of the road. And that’s good as it is. We always learn what we need to know to make the next step, to achieve the next plateau. And from each plateau our perspective is a bit different. And what freedom means to us will probably change as well. Self-leadership, finding peace and freedom in one’s heart and mind is a lifelong journey.
In the second part of the little series on freedom, I will build on this foundation of a free mind and focus more on the element of responsibility.