25 Personal Freedoms to Claim This Independence Day

Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery. ~Wayne Dyer

Not long ago I read one of the most compelling books I've ever encountered. Believe it or not, it was a biography of one of our founding fathers — John Adams.

I know. Yawn.

But please bear with me.

The book is aptly titled, John Adams. It's by David McCullough, the brilliant biographer who also wrote 1776. But the reason the John Adams book is so compelling isn't just that it is well-written (it is beautifully written). It's that the subject of the book is truly fascinating.

When you look at John Adam's portraits, you see a pudgy little man who looks more like an accountant than a revolutionary. But when you learn more about him, you discover this brilliant man selflessly dedicated his entire life to one cause — freedom.

Throughout history, freedom is a cause that has inspired people to greatness and compelled millions to sacrifice their lives in order to achieve it .

But why do we fight for freedom? What is it that inspires so many to die for it?

Freedom, according to dictionary.com, is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” Freedom is basically the power to be ourselves.

The desire to be who we are and live accordingly is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Ask the Jewish people. Ask African Americans. Ask homosexuals. Ask women. Ask any number of enslaved or repressed people all over the world.

When freedom is hindered, our natural instinct is to reclaim it. Without freedom we become angry, bitter, and depressed.

But here's a strange irony.

Many of us who enjoy the larger freedoms in life have unwittingly enslaved ourselves in other ways. We've allowed ourselves to accept insidious forms of restraint and self-entrapment that create the same internal angst that arises with any loss of freedom.

Often we aren't even aware of how we are giving up our freedom and thus causing ourselves unnecessary pain. Take a look at these 25 personal freedoms to see where you might be restraining yourself from living authentically.

1. The Freedom of Simplicity.

You have entrapped yourself with many life complications. Too much clutter. Too many things. Too many activities and commitments. You feel overwhelmed.

2. The Freedom of Peace.

You live in emotional or physical turmoil with people and situations that are volatile, disruptive, or simply agitating. You don't have peace of mind or spirit.

3. The Freedom of Inner Calm.

Your mind is always reeling. You can't stop thinking, cogitating, or worrying. You have no sense of inner calm or tranquility.

4. The Freedom of Saying Yes or No.

You feel obliged to say yes when you mean no or to say no when you mean yes. You can't be honest and state what you really want.

5. The Freedom from Distraction.

You are addicted to your computer, your cell phone, your television, your to-do list. You allow others to interrupt you, to steal your time and attention. You are rarely focused and in the flow.

6. The Freedom of the Right Work.

You know your job is not right for you. You are bored, unhappy, and unmotivated. But you don't make any efforts toward change. You remain trapped and resigned.

7. The Freedom from Bad Relationships

You are in a unsatisfactory romantic relationship. You surround yourself with people who are negative, who drain you, who put you down. But you don't do anything to improve the relationships or disengage from them.

8. The Freedom of Good Health

You are overweight, sedentary, eating poorly. You don't take action to create good health and remain trapped in low energy, pain, or illness.

9. The Freedom of Aging Gracefully

You fear aging and fight against it tooth and nail, falling into the trap of overspending on products, surgeries, procedures, or material things to make you feel young. Or you simply decide you are too old and give up on living an optimum life.

10. The Freedom to Fail

You believe that failure is a statement on your character, so you never allow yourself to do anything where failure is a possibility. You hold yourself back from opportunities and challenges.

11. The Freedom to Start Over

You believe you have just one chance in life to get it right. There are no “do-overs.” You must continue on this path, even if you are miserable, because you've made your bed and now must lie in it.

12. The Freedom to Forgive

You've been hurt and you are justifiably angry. Forgiveness is impossible, so you stay trapped in your anger and bitterness.

13. The Freedom from Your Past

The old wounds and issues from your past constantly come back to haunt you. They prevent you from being fully happy and engaged in life. You haven't done the work to fully let go or move past old pain.

14. The Freedom to Love

You have been hurt by love before, so you can't open yourself up to love again. You have built up walls to protect you from feeling those painful feelings, but in the process you have imprisoned yourself from the joy of expressing or feeling love.

15. The Freedom to be Lighthearted

You take life seriously. You can't let go, let your hair down, laugh at yourself, or feel lighthearted. Having fun is for those who don't understand the serious business of life.

16. The Freedom from Gossip

You talk negatively about others because it makes you feel better about yourself, more powerful and above it all. But you don't realize the trap of gossip, keeping you from natural self-confidence and compassion.

17. The Freedom to be Spontaneous

You feel safer and more in control when everything is just so. You have a plan and must stick to it. But you prevent yourself from the spontaneous joys of letting go and allowing life to just happen.

18. The Freedom to be Sensitive

You've been told you are too sensitive, you feel too deeply for what is “appropriate.” So you've learned to hold yourself back, to hide your emotions so you don't make others uncomfortable.

19. The Freedom to Cry

If you allow yourself to cry, you will open a floodgate of feelings that you don't want to deal with. Plus, it's weak to cry. So you hold in the tears. You repress your feelings.

20. The Freedom to be Affectionate

Affection makes you uncomfortable. Or maybe your partner or spouse doesn't like affection, so you hold yourself back. You don't have the freedom to give or accept warm and loving touch.

21. The Freedom to Take Time Off

You work hard and take your job very seriously. In fact, you feel guilty or agitated when you take time away from it. You can't just leave it behind for a few days or weeks.

22. The Freedom to Stick to Your Principles

You feel pressured or compelled to pretend you believe differently than you  really do. You don't speak up when the crowd says one thing but you think another. You fear rejection or shaming if you let on how you really feel.

23. The Freedom to Like Yourself

You don't feel worthy or lovable. You look at other people and feel “lesser than.” If you like yourself, it might reveal that you accept yourself as flawed or deserving.

24. The Freedom to Be Unique

You've always marched to the beat of a different drummer (or at least you've want to), but the consequences haven't always been pleasant. So you try to confirm to a more “acceptable” ways of living and behaving.

25. The Freedom to Just Be

Sitting quietly, right here in the present moment makes you feel anxious. There is too much to do, too much to think about. Your mind can't shut down. You are trapped by the future and by your thoughts.

This week in the United States, we celebrate our freedom as a country. What better time than now to reclaim the innate freedoms that are always available to you.

Take some time to examine your life to see where you have unknowingly enslaved yourself to emotions and behavior that prevent you from living freely. I promise — it's a cause worth fighting for.

Do you have any other personal freedoms that you have claimed for yourself? Please share them with us in the comments.

Comments

  1. “This week in the United States, we celebrate our freedom as a country. What better time than now to reclaim the innate freedoms that are always available to you.” Nicely said, Barrie! What a wonderful way to honor the sacrifice of those who laid the groundwork for the nation’s freedom we enjoy today and will celebrate this Wednesday.

    Someone once said that the greatest battle we will ever wage will not be on a distant battle field, but within the chambers of our own hearts and souls. Your list is that battleground I think was being spoken of. Thanks for the inspiration here to carry on that personal journey of self-improvement as a reflection and in honor of Independence Day.

  2. Hi Barrie,

    Very well spoken, and I like the different kinds of freedom that you listed, some of which got me thinking.

    The freedom to just be – I’ve improved my ability to cultivate this at regular points through my days, and I don’t regret it. Each time I stop and be in the present moment, admiring the beauty of life for what it is, I feel a sense of completion, a sense that time has stopped and will continue to stop until I let it start again. Truly magical.

    Another freedom which I’ve improved on is the freedom to fail – failure used to be a scary thing for me. If I didn’t get something done by the end of the day, then I failed. If I didn’t get in touch with an old friend, then I failed. I was very hard on myself. But by giving myself the permission to let go of that need to succeed, and to focus on appreciating what I HAVE done, I began to release the fear of failure. I realised that it was OK to fail – we all fail at something every day, if you think about it. The key is to let it go.

    Thanks for a wonderful post Barrie ­čÖé

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Stuart,
      You are so fortunate to have learned these things at a relatively young age. Many people go their entire lives without the ability to “be” in the moment and to have compassion for themselves. Failure is an important piece of success. We must fail many times as a way to reach success. In fact, failure teach us far more than success. Good for you that you are actively seeking to learn these things and live in freedom.

  3. Hi Barrie,
    Enjoy your july 4. The ‘freedoms’ that you have listed are indeed heart warming, much like choices, however being free to do these does allow the extra latitude to drink it all in. Thankyou and
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You are so right David. Ultimately, they are choices. But when we are trapped by our own perceptions, it feels like we aren’t free. One of the most freeing realizations is that you have the key to unlock yourself from your own prisons.

      • Janeen Sharp says:

        It’s so hard to remember that the only thing we can change is ourselves – how we act, think, react. Many of the items on your list involve us tempering our own behavior to conform to what we believe others expect in an effort to get other people to treat us the way we want to be treated. That never works! You can’t change what someone else thinks or does – only what you think and what you do.

        Our wonderful country is caught up in trying to change and control everything – from caring for our bodies (let’s outlaw large sodas) to the climate. It’s exhausting! I don’t have the energy to worry about every single person, plant, animal and raindrop on the planet – I can barely make it through my own day.

        I think we need to “mind our own business” a little more (in a caring way, of course).

        Thanks for the succinct reminder!
        Janeen

        • Barrie Davenport says:

          Hi Janeen,
          Yes, we are in control of our own destinies. And if more people on the planet worked to achieve these personal freedoms, perhaps we’d all be in the frame of mind to do the right thing for others, for our environment, for our money management, etc. Once we feel comfortable with ourselves, we don’t feel so compelled to control others!

  4. Hi Barrie – I enjoyed your post and just realising how many freedoms we compromise – crazy whe we are so lucky to enjoy real freedom that others don’t that we often entrap ourselves with our own negative thought patterns! Happy 4th of July to all Americans, from a freedom-loving Aussie…kathy

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Kathy,
      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. The freedoms we enjoy as Americans (or any other democratic nation) often trap us in other ways. We have so many freedoms that we get trapped in complicated lives, chasing money and things, trying to live up to expectations. But fortunately, we have the freedom to choose to release ourselves from those patterns. Thank you for your July 4 wishes! Looking forward to a relaxing day.

  5. Glynis Jolly says:

    An inspirational post! Most of them I am well aware of and try to exercise but there were a couple I hadn’t made myself aware of that I need to work on.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Glynis,
      That is true for all of us. I think it is a work in progress. But awareness is so important. It is the biggest step toward change. ­čÖé

  6. I love your list Barrie,

    Ever since I was a kid I’ve been passionate about anything that had even a hint of freedom. As I read your list the idea of being able to laugh, really laugh came to mind. That deep, resonate laughter that comes from deep within our being.

    Happy 4th,
    Susan

  7. You know, my family and I were cruising around the Wadsworth Athenium yesterday, which is the premier art museum in Hartford, Connecticut. One of the pieces in the early American section featured John Adams. In so many ways the early Americans constructed their lives with the freedom that is the birthright of all of us…and the LIBERTY that springs from it!

    Great piece, Barrie. If I may be so bold to add a 26th…the freedom to take risks, either calculated, managed ones, or throw caution to the wind ones.

    Thanks,
    Larry

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Larry,
      How coincidental! I’m so glad you liked the article. And you are so right, the freedom to take risks is a great addition. That is certainly a lesson that John Adams taught us. All great change and achievement comes with risk. I guess that one goes with the freedom to embrace failure! Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  8. Janeen Sharp says:

    Hi Barrie! After mulling your post over for a couple of days, I was inspired to write a post of my own based on two of the freedoms you listed. The Freedom to be Spontaneous and the Freedom to Take Time Off are particularly difficult for parents of children living with chronic health conditions, and they really resonated with me right now.

    Here’s the address of my post – http://kidneymom.com/freedoms-lost/- I hope you like it and I really appreciate your thought provoking article.

    Thanks for the reminder of the many freedoms we all take for granted!
    Janeen

  9. You brought up a lot of great points here. In case you haven’t already read it, I have a book recommendation for you: “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” by Harry Browne.

    The book discusses various mental “traps” that we can fall into, and how they limit our freedom. I found the Identity Trap to be especially important. We have fallen into the trap whenever we believe we should be someone other than ourselves, or whenever we expect others to do things the same way we would.

    Obviously in the first case we have limited our freedom by pigeonholing ourselves into living a predetermined way. In the second case, you expect someone to react to something the same way you would; for example, you might think everyone should believe in the same religion as you. This would greatly limit the way you interact with other people, and lessen your control of the situation.

    That’s only a very brief explanation, and for only one of the topics discussed in the book. If you haven’t read it, you should add it to your list of books to check out.