Sunday, 31 October 2010

Three Ways to Make the Most of Our Freedom

"Hold your own, know your name, go your own way." Jason Mraz - Details in the Fabric.

Freedom! I sometimes think that’s a strange concept. Something that has been prized by humans for millennia, something to die for, to kill for, to sacrifice everything for – apparently! 

Many of us actually have more freedom than ever before. Freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom to vote on reality TV...etc.

Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten what that freedom actually means and why we even wanted it in the first place. 

It’s easy to become apathetic, to take it for granted and just drift through life without really ever standing for anything, without ever really exercising our freedom in a constructive way. Maybe we don’t even really think about our freedom and how precious it is until something threatens it. 

That got me thinking - how can we actually make the most of our freedom? As I was thinking that I heard the lyrics from a song by Jason Mraz and I think he sums it up perfectly. So here’s my take on those lyrics – you might like the whole song by the way, the lyrics are very insightful.

1) Know your name
It's important to our name. Living in a ‘free country’ means we have a lot of control over the type of life we lead but how often do we actually sit down and think about what our deepest values are, what we stand for? We all have deeply held values, even though they may be hidden under a few layers. We know when we violate them because it makes us feel pretty bad. 

When we get down to it, it doesn’t take much time to think about what we stand for, what is our ‘name’, what is really important to us? It helps to focus on our deepest values like kindness, passion, growth etc. 

The trick is to keep them at the forefront of our mind. You could make a list, go through them first thing in the morning or make a schedule to develop each one for a week at a time. Every time during that week that you see an opportunity to act on your chosen value, do it without hesitation. 

This can have a massive effect on our life:
  • It means we live congruently with our deepest values which brings a profound sense of satisfaction
  • As we start to act out our highest values, we benefit those around us and we start to build a reputation that is truly aligned with who we are.
The great thing about freedom is that our values are not imposed by anyone else and so when we act on them it brings the highest form of satisfaction.

2) Hold your own
We all have different talents and abilities but we are all human and we all possess a great deal of power. We have the freedom to develop our own patterns of thought, to create our own dreams and to touch other people’s lives. 

If we’re alive we belong to a very special club, the human race. Not only that, we are all living beings, walking miracles, residents of Planet Earth. We have great power as human beings. 

Sometimes it’s easy to see the potential for harm that a single human can have, and we forget that a single human has an equal potential for good. If we ‘know our name’ we can hold our own with every other human out there, we can be a force for good.

Once we are aligned with our values, our power as a human being is magnified tremendously. If you see an opportunity to influence something positively, try and do it. Get involved, act from your deepest values. Why leave it to someone else? Remember, you can hold your own with every other human being.

3) Go your own way
On first reading that may sound a bit selfish. Surely it’s better to do what others would like us to do in a spirit of self-sacrifice? That concept is something many of us are taught from infancy and I actually think it’s a massive misconception. Here’s why – it’s impossible to live a truly fulfilling life if we spend our time trying to live someone else’s way, that’s their way, their values, not our own. 

First we need to know what our way is, that can take time but it starts with the first point – knowing our name. Once we know what our deepest values are and we realize our power as a human being we can start to go our own way. I'm not saying we should just go and do our own thing regardless of others, in fact it’s quite the opposite.  

As we live from our deepest values we usually find that we do many things simply because they benefit others even though they may be difficult or inconvenient for us at the time. The key thing is we are motivated internally by our own values and that leads to a truly rewarding and congruent life.

Here are a few ways we can go our own way:

  • Don't Follow the Crowd
    The crowd are not living their own life, they’re living someone else’s. Sadly most people have no idea of their ‘name’ and their concept of ‘holding their own’ is simply putting down people who they consider inferior to themselves and feeling jealous of those they consider better. They live someone else’s life, the life sold by advertising and the media. Such a life is hollow, where feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction are only occasionally broken by short periods of indulgence.  This is not to be critical of others; everyone is doing their best to find happiness given their current state of awareness. With greater awareness however comes freedom.
  • Listen 
    As we start to live from our values, our own way will become apparent but we need to listen. At first it may be just a whisper – listen! When that crazy idea pops into your head at 9.00pm on a Tuesday night, listen, take it seriously, write it down, research it even if you think it’s impossible. You never know where it may lead.
  • Go
    Finally we have to ‘go’. To ‘go our own way’ we must take action, that’s when things really start to happen. Your way has always been there, sometimes it just becomes overgrown through lack of use. Take the first steps and the way will become clearer.

Freedom only really has any value if we use it wisely. If we simply give away our freedom by living someone else’s life then I think that is a great tragedy. Know your name, hold your own, go your own way!

Thanks to Jason Mraz for writing the lyrics which inspired this post.

Image courtesy of Sanctuary Photography


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