What is personal freedom and how can it help you to live a fulfilling, happy life?
Personal freedom might sound a bit woo-woo, but many people get tied down by obligations or expectations and end up living a life they feel trapped by. This can be for many complex reasons such as people pleasing, not trusting in oneself or not feeling ‘enough’ in some way; this is often due to trauma or negative past experiences.
Your mind can be your best ally or your worst enemy. The good news is there are some simple ways you can harness the power of your positive mindset and feel more free…and you can start working on them today.
What does personal freedom mean to you?
The first thing to discover is what personal freedom means to you. Here are some ideas to help you create your definition:
- To have flexibility at work or in your business
- To be able to express yourself freely
- To have no limitations on spiritual and emotional growth
- To be led by your feelings and intuition
- To choose to spend time with people who you like/love
If you’re struggling with this, a good way to start is by writing down things that you know you definitely don’t want in your life. Next, work out what the opposite of those things would be, and you should be a bit clearer about what you want to attract more of in your life.
There are so many parts of your life you cannot control, from the need to earn a living, to finding true love. But you can control your mindset, your thoughts, and how you act in the world. So how can you overcome your psychological blocks and open your mind to achieve greater freedom?
1. Tune into your Inner Cheerleader
Everyone has a constant inner monologue or brain chatter; what psychologists call self-talk. Unfortunately for most of us, it’s usually set to negative and seeks only to scupper our enthusiasm, fill us with self-doubt and make us second guess our choices. Any messages you get in childhood about being bad, hopeless, selfish or stupid all get absorbed in your malleable child’s brain and resurface in adulthood as your Inner Critic. Remember that teacher who always used to belittle your work when you were 6? Their voice will be the one you hear just as you’re about to start work on an exciting new project, reminding you that your work is never quite up to par.
It’s important to remember that this programming serves only to keep us safe from perceived danger. Any time your mind senses ‘danger’, your inner critic appears to be your knight in shining armour “this is bad…run!”. This goes back to our primitive brain, when listening to our Inner Critic meant we would be saved from being eaten from a sabre toothed tiger. The problem is of course, nowadays our sabre toothed tigers are our modern world dangers – the thought of going live on Facebook could trigger the same fight or flight reaction!
The good news is that you can reprogram your Inner Critic and turn it into an Inner Cheerleader!
The first thing to do is be aware of when your Inner Critic puts in an appearance; be alert for phrases that start ‘you always or ‘you never.’…watch out for ‘shoulds’ too. Once you’ve identified your Inner Critic is at play, begin to make a list of all the negative things it says.
Then take each negative message and turn into a positive one, counteracting it where possible with evidence that what your Inner Critic is saying isn’t true.
Change your self-talk broken record to a new track full of encouragement and positivity – your very own inner cheerleader who’s there to help you feel confident, supported and calm.
2. Expect good outcomes
Just like our Inner Critic wants to keep us safe, so too does expectation, after all, what’s the point in lighting a fire for camp if a sabre toothed tiger is going to chase you away from your home? Our negativity bias crops up once again to help us avoid disappointment and stay safe.
However, studies have shown that the most significant contributors to success or failure are your expectations. Happy people expect things to go well; mistakes or problems do not crush them, they see them only as temporary setbacks. Conversely, if the expectation is to fail, then any issue will confirm the expectations, and you won’t try again. This is great, but how can we be happier and have great expectations when our pesky negativity bias is always holding us back? The answer is surprisingly simple; practice again and again and again. Over time, you will create new, positive neural pathways and it will get easier to be expectant of a good outcome.
Expecting things to work out is not wishful thinking; it is choosing to be positive no matter what the circumstances.
Another way to switch focus from negative to positive is to start a daily gratitude practice by listing 3 things you are grateful for each day. That’s not to say you don’t deal with any difficulties and challenges, they will still crop up, but rather than get consumed by those things, you instead focus as much as possible on the good things in your life, no matter how small. Talking of gratitude….
3. Change your focus
Modern society almost trains us to be dissatisfied with what we have now and makes us constantly strive for bigger, better and shiner. We are on a hedonic treadmill driven by marketing/advertising, our desire to fit in (with the tribe) and the fear of missing out. Whilst we stay on this treadmill, we will never truly be free because we are driven to get the next ‘best thing’…and then we’ll be happy…expect that day never comes.
You can choose to step off this treadmill, look at your own buying habits and do your best to be grateful for what you have right now, even if you feel like it’s not ‘enough’.
Developing a habit of gratitude will eventually free you from this gnawing pressure of materialism. Studies show that the more you feel grateful, the more resilient you become in the face of life’s ups and downs. You feel happier with what you have and more open to receiving, cultivating an abundance mindset rather than a lack mindset. Even better, just as practicing those positive expectations does, you rewire the neural pathways in your brain so that your mindset defaults to positivity. You start to see the good things before you notice the bad. Over time, you perceive life as positive, and your expectations change, freeing yourself from the burden of negativity.
Have you made life changes to help you get a greater sense of personal freedom? Share your views and comments below.