Declaring Independence? Consider Your Definition of “Freedom” First

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Between two palm trees, on a beautiful beach, you sway comfortably in your hammock. You dreamily nudge the Panama hat up from the bridge of your nose. To the right: white sands and the crystal blue water gently rolling in to shore. To the left: an appropriately attractive server hands you a mai-tai with just the right amount of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Soak up the sun and smell the suntan-lotion-scented sea air. Every luxury is available at your beck and call. There's more money in your account than you know what to do with and time is of no consequence. The world is, as they say, your oyster. Is this your idea of independence? Is this what you consider freedom?

Independence Day is a great time to consider what independence and freedom means to each of us, collectively and individually. While this island-style life of luxury seems to be the ultimate in both independence and freedom there is typically, counterintuitively, an inverse relationship between freedom and independence. Most of the changes we make in the name of independence, be it as a country or as individuals, may open up the opportunity for some freedoms, but at the expense of others. There are three types of freedom. The first kind, a “freedom from,” or a freedom from constraints. Second, is “freedom to,” a freedom to do the things we want to do. The third (and pay attention to this one) is “freedom to be,” a freedom, not just to do what we want, but a freedom to be who we were meant to be.

As Americans, we celebrate the 4th of July as the day we declared our freedom to be a sovereign nation. But for the 150 years prior to this declaration, the colonies actually did enjoy the freedom to pursue growth and prosperity. Colonies were self-governed and citizens had most of the general freedoms enjoyed in the motherland. It was only after the UK insisted on levying taxes to pay for their constant colonizing and fighting, the US reached a breaking point. We finally put our foot down and said no more to this toxic relationship. Otherwise we might still be queuing up for the bus and eating crumpets. But that day of declaration was not the end. It was just the start of the fight. To gain our independence, we had to give up the support and infrastructure provided by one of the world's major powers. Many young men gave up their lives for this independence. Their freedom to pursue life was snuffed out entirely. This was a steep price to pay for the freedom to control our commerce and to be free from taxation without representation.      

Those who choose freedom from the corporate world to freelance or start their own business also seek a measure of independence. But are you really gaining the freedom to do what you want? Many of your day-to-day activities as a business owner could also be done while working for a company. Perhaps you need to loosen the constraints "the man" has attached to your freedom? Toiling for a company that takes more than their fair share of money and credit for your work can feel like an unbearable tax. But going on your own will almost certainly strap you physically, emotionally, and financially. You won't find freedom from all these constraints down the entrepreneur road. Do you truly gain the freedom to choose all of your daily activities? Losing the support and infrastructure of a company means you lose the support that allows for the freedom to work within an established infrastructure. You lose the freedom to enjoy paid time off and moving your way up the ladder in a defined way. You lose the freedom to not worry about every aspect of a company and just be able to concentrate on the favored area of your expertise. The respect and authority you gain in some corporate jobs, especially after you've gained a level of experience and trust, can give an almost unlimited freedom to work hard, attain financial well-being, and accomplish challenging and rewarding tasks.

The question that must be answered then is:  If you are to declare your own sovereignty, will it allow you to pursue that third freedom? Does it bring you closer to The Freedom To Be Who You Are Meant To Be? America was always meant to be its own country (we find this truth to be self-evident) and all the struggles that got us here are worth it. If you choose to go out on your own, will it allow you the freedom to be what you are truly meant to be? Will it engage and challenge you in the way that aligns with and builds your inherent purpose? While swinging in the sun sounds like a great way to be both free and independent, it's only worth sacrificing and fighting for if it's what you are truly meant to be.

 

By Trent Sultemeier