3 Positive Ways to Pursue Personal Freedom

Independence is neither simple nor easy. Focus on your strengths to stay empowered and energized.

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Posted in , Jun 29, 2018

Personal freedom

“Freedom isn’t free.” How many times, and in how many contexts, have we heard that phrase? Sometimes it’s spoken in reference to the sacrifices of our military members. Other times, it refers to the emotional costs of tolerating political views that differ from our own. For me, though, it gets at a simple but powerful idea—independence doesn’t happen to us, we must seek it out, investing something of ourselves in the process. 

As the 4th of July approaches, I’m thinking about the many meanings of independence. Other writers will recall moments in history or reflect on current events. But for me, walking a positive path on Independence Day means asking what I am willing to invest in my own freedom.

1)  Be Honest About What Holds Me Back
I used to have chronic lower back pain, and as a result of my years-long journey out of that quagmire, I sometimes still think of myself as someone with “a bad back.” Recently, my husband and I bought a stack of bags of mulch and compost for our garden. The next day, during a free hour alone, I saw that stack and decided to try picking one up (following all my healthy lifting techniques of course).  To my surprise and delight, I could lift and spread the soil on my own. If I hadn’t dipped a toe into slightly challenging waters, I never would have realized how strong I actually am.

2)  Do My Part to Support Others 
The ground-breaking baseball legend Jackie Robinson famously said, “There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.” I believe that strongly—my progress toward empowerment and independence doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but as part of a greater cultural and communal whole. When I support local organizations financially or with volunteer hours, or when I simply take the time to encourage or lift up a friend or neighbor who’s struggling, I can feel that some of my independence is there so I can share it.

3)  Know the Limits of Independence
One dictionary definition of independence is “freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.” Certainly it’s a positive thing to avoid being controlled or unduly influenced by others. But I believe we are all connected through a web of social, spiritual and other points of contact. So I am never willing to pursue independence so much that I stop desiring the support and help of trusted people in my life—or stop looking for ways to provide those things to others.

In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader

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