“Everything can be taken from a man but one last thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
–Viktor E. Frankle, Man’s Search for Meaning
During the span of my career as an empowerment coach, I noticed that no matter what kind of challenges that my clients faced, they all had one thing in common. Below the surface of every challenge was a pervasive feeling of deprivation, caused by their perceived limitations.
Whether the limitations were due to a lack of time, money, love or energy, all my clients felt stuck and could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Each one hoped that I would be their torch to light up a path to take them out of the darkness.
Much to their surprise, the message that I consistently conveyed to my clients was that finding the right path does not only depend on their capacity to change their circumstance, but also on the clarity that they have about what they really wanted in their life and their openness to understanding the lessons along the way.
We can apply the same principle to experience a deeper sense of freedom by firstly getting clear on what “being free” really means to us. Having a clear vision for personal freedom will provide us with a North Star, which we can steer our ship towards. Any storms that we encounter along the way will be easier to navigate, as it will be seen from a place of meaning and purpose.
Freedom has been a coveted luxury since the dawn of civilization. Many of our ancestors had to sacrifice their lives to attain the basic kind of freedom that they knew was their birthright. They fought against injustice and inequality in the face of oppressive governments and dictatorships. It is because of their brave and heroic acts that we live in a predominantly free society.
My own maternal grandfather was a freedom fighter who fought against the colonial British rule, but sadly lost his life in the process. Now, whenever I feel a sense of lack in my life, I tap into the spirit of my grandfather as a reminder to appreciate the basic things that I tend to take for granted – such as the ability to stand up for my rights and create a life based on my own terms.
While I believe that it’s important to appreciate the privileges of living in a more evolved world, I do not advocate using it as an excuse to accept the things that are not satisfying us. Our aim should always be to strive for progress and create a life that gives us the freedom to be the highest expression of ourselves, no matter what that means to us.
For a woman living in a conservative, male-dominated society in a developing country, freedom might mean earning the right to receive an education. For a professional woman living in a big city, her idea of freedom might be to find a job that she loves and provides an income to fund a lifestyle that she’s aspiring towards.
Neither of their definitions are trivial or frivolous. They are equally valid to both individuals considering the context of their situation. No matter what your idea of freedom is, you should be proactive in pursuing it, and more importantly, managing your inner world during that pursuit.
Any pain experienced during our search for personal freedom occurs only if we see our limitations as chains that bind us. Realizing that these chains are imaginary and are created within the realm of our minds is the first step towards liberation.
We can continue releasing ourselves from these chains by doing the following:
By enjoying these “bite-size” bits of experiencing freedom in your daily routine, you avoid being overcome by feelings of restriction. This is replaced with a sense of abundance that will make it easier for you to focus on your long-term goals of creating the desired changes in your circumstances.
No matter what kind of limitations you are facing in your life, remember that there is one thing that others can’t take away from you, and that is the ability to dream and create a grand vision for your life. In truth, you have always been a free-spirit since the time you entered this earthly plane – somewhere along the way, you have just forgotten that you have that power.