What is real happiness? Many times, it’s simply about having the freedom to do what you want in that moment for yourself, without the constraints of limiting factors. How often can you pick up a bag and shoot off for a weekend just by yourself? Time, money, family… often hold us back. That is simple lack of freedom. Not a bad thing, per se, but over time, we all slowly but inevitably sink into a comatose state of being unaware of how much of our freedom and happiness is being sacrificed unconsciously.
So, what is freedom actually? Many believe Freedom is the feeling of not being oppressed! Really? Think about that! Nothing or no one ties you by force to give up any sort of freedom. Some think Freedom is being rich, thinking rich people have the money and means to do what they want. For some others, Freedom is simply living life without any responsibility.
The truth is, while these concepts of freedom are not irrelevant, they limit the definition of actual freedom. These are concepts and notions handed down through books, history and others. Therefore, we’ve given up our freedom long before we even thought about what it really meant to us.
As a generalization there are two types of freedom – ‘Freedom From’ and ‘Freedom To’…. Freedom to do whatever you want, freedom to say whatever you think, freedom to do good, freedom to bring change. ‘Freedom to’ has great value. It is about wanting autonomy. You want to control your time, to cover your bases, to have great new experiences that you’ll enjoy.
But it’s the ‘Freedom From’, that is the relevant, significant freedom. It’s the internal freedom we all seek. Think about it. It’s the freedom from reaction, it’s the freedom from guilt, freedom from anger, grief, hurt. It’s the freedom from being forced to do things, both externally and internally, that actual constitute real freedom. As individuals, the following are types of ‘Freedoms From’ that we struggle with, daily:
Freedom From – Status: Status is the false belief that material success and social influence pave the way to happiness. Money can buy you happiness. If it isn’t already, it’s quickly becoming today’s most pervasive dogma. More people want to become rich and powerful fast, than exercise and do good in the world. ‘Freedom From Status’ is easy to attain. Stop being a greedy, insatiable consumer. And stop caring what people think. If we stop buying into this idea of more, quite literally, we will see a calm descending into our lives. The extra money you save by not throwing it down some car dealer’s insatiable gut may free you in more ways than one.
Freedom from Status is easy to attain. What is challenging is making these two decisions. One – ‘I will stop buying what I don’t need’. And two – ‘I won’t care what people think’. Once you get that ball rolling, your life will be different.
Freedom From – Dogma: This one is perhaps the most difficult to address and shirk of. Dogma is something you inherit, learn and are conditioned to over great periods of time. It can be inherent, latent or all out there, in your face. Dogma is anything that clouds your ability to see clearly. Joining a cult leads to dogma, investing in a bubble scheme leads to dogma, even your clique leads to dogma.
Dogma is everywhere, we fall for it, and there is no way to avoid it completely. Every day we treat people differently based on religion, race, communities. People fight over, within and between these everyday -because dogma gets in the way. The best way to fight dogma is by avoiding any groups that practice obvious black-and-white thinking. Don’t blindly trust any rulebook. Take time to reflect regularly. Account for your biases everyday by developing self-awareness. There’s enough room for endless religion, beliefs, philosophies, book clubs, and communities in the world. Fighting dogma isn’t the job of our priests, our leaders or our friends. It’s ours.
Freedom From Reaction: An impulse is a real, physical sensation. While emotions can trigger them, it takes conscious thought to reinforce them. All emotions are based on impulses. Impulses of anger, grief, jealousy, cause us to react. Anger is an example of one of our strongest impulses. Emotions in excess are bad. If you are excited about a change, you might be crushed if it doesn’t happen. If you’re too sad about a change, you can’t move forward and adapt to it. Emotions kickstart impulses. So, we must learn to control them. Freedom from emotions and individual thoughts, though difficult, is the true path to happiness.
We all dream of shedding our responsibilities more often than we’d like to admit. We feel our anxieties will leave us if miraculously if we shed responsibilities. But life always catches up with us in one form or the other. Life is all about choosing what to do, think, and how to spend our time. So instead of focusing on how to win every rat race, we should realize that, we ourselves chose our tasks and responsibilities to begin with, and if we accept them, they can indeed be meaningful to our lives. All commitments are usually stepping-stones.
Freedom takes many forms. Thinking is freedom. Non-judgement is freedom. So is autonomy and calmness. Freedom means different things to different people. There are indefinite definitions of freedom, but the ones that matter the most… are your own!