Photo © Jenn Shallvey

Photo © Jenn Shallvey

Freedom for many of us in the world is assumed and often taken for granted.  I invite you to pause for a moment and think of all that you can do in your life that some of our brothers and sisters in other countries cannot.  Think of the options and choices available to you that maybe your neighbour does not have.  This is not a suggestion to go into comparison and ranking. Instead it is a starting point of perspective, reality and relativity.

Given your perspective let’s acknowledge your freedoms.  What are you free to do in your world?  There are the big freedoms such as speech, right to vote, travel, access news and information.  Within your skill levels you have the freedom to choose what you do for a living.  If not able you can choose to learn and study to develop the skill and knowledge.  Depending on your circumstances you have freedom to choose where you live.   On a simpler level you have freedom to decide where you will shop, eat and hang out.

Let’s get even more basic and go down the path of acknowledging all that we are free to do in our life and world within which we live.  Start with waking up. You have freedom to often choose when you get up.  Let’s say that our reason for staying in bed is because we are not well.  Everyone who has had a day off work knows that there are days when just a little sniffle is enough to gratify the need for a break. And then there are others where the flu won’t keep them away because of an overriding commitment to obligations.

In the context of all these choices we have the backdrop of our reality and circumstances.  A fact in life is that whatever the situation you are in there is likely someone in a similar place. Whilst you share the same experience you don’t share the same perspective. This is where it gets interesting. You start to diverge on perception, views, emotional connection, personal triggers , etc.  By the time two people go through the same or similar situation you will find two entirely different stories.

Let’s take an example in the workplace.  Consider a company where there are several people working for the same manager in the same exact job as others.  On paper and in structure the job description for each is identical.  The location of work is the same. The person to whom all report is the same person.  Let’s make it even closer in similarity.  Pick two people and assume that they started on the same day as well.  Their physical environment is the same. Their pay is the same.  Yet their experience is not.  Sitting down with each separately draws out the perception one has of not liking their job and the other loving their job.  So what is the difference?

There are many possibilities for difference to arise. Start with the assumption that each individual has a unique background, upbringing, personality, career history and education. Then add in the life experiences shaping the emotional state including various relationships, health, financial. I may be stating the obvious but I want you to consider the weighting towards individually unique responses to situations.

Our choices lead to consequences.  So there is also a line of balance to contend with. Considering our example above we can choose to stay in bed all day if we want. Yet if we also have other commitments then perhaps the consequence of this choice is to miss out or let another person down. In balance we will consider the needs of both and weigh up what is most important.

So we have freedom to choose or as I say we can 'choose freedom'.

You may say this is a play on words, just semantics.  No. The active aspect of ‘choose freedom’ is intentional.  As noted above we live every day in a world of choices.  For many of us in the world we have ample external freedom. And no matter where you are in the world we ALL have internal freedom. We all have inside of us the freedom to choose. Choose how to think, live, vote,  express, speak, act and engage. Yet so many of us walk around arguing for our limitations and setting ourselves up in a virtual prison of ideas and thoughts.

Who has the key? We each have the key but for one reason or another we don’t want to use it, find it or even look for it. Instead we look outside of ourselves and blame the world around us for the prison we are in.  When we go deeper we find that many of us are caught between what they believe they should do and what deep inside they feel is right to do.  This is not an ethical dilemma, but one of authenticity and personal alignment to one’s values.  Choosing freedom then is at another level about letting go of limitations and living according to our own values and what is right for us.

What can we really do when we choose freedom? We can be ourselves in every moment at all times. No one takes this away from us.  We have the choice to act or not act. We have the choice to stay still or move.  We have so much choice it is endless. Our entire day is filled with choice.  When you realise this you see that you are in fact free, free to choose how you be.

Real life stories abound of people who faced inconceivable hardships yet prevailed.  You are likely to know a few people as well in such situations.  Maybe this is your experience.  The stories often include the telling of how initially the person dove down into the depths of despair.  Then something happened within them. Something clicked into gear. They switched into a different paradigm of thinking. Rather than focus on the external world around them as the cause of all their grief and worry they went within. It is within that they found the inner peace and strength to persevere.  Even beyond that their experience of no control and lack of physical and external freedom in no way stopped them with believing inside they were free.  For inside no one could control their thoughts and beliefs. This is the ultimate place of true freedom.  What amazes me is the transformative result and example such a person sets for others. 

We all have this resilience and ability in us. We all have the capacity to choose freedom. We all can. We just don’t all do.  So now is your turn to consider how you can choose freedom - whether in small steps or giant leaps. You have the power to go where you want and think what you want to think.