“How important is freedom to you?”
Almost twenty years ago, my coach, Michelle Sherman, asked me this question. To my surprise, I had never really thought about what freedom meant to me – even though many people had botched my first name to “Freedman.” Like most of us, I simply took certain freedoms for granted, such as the ability to travel easily to most places in the world, express my opinions, vote according to my beliefs, and pursue what promises to bring me happiness.
Yet, when Michelle asked me this question, it dawned on me that many of the choices I had made in the past were driven more by the need to feel safe than the desire to be free. I had become a physician, because it seemed the secure and logical career choice, considering that my parents and sister also were doctors. I dressed rather conservatively, because I believed that this form of attire was expected from a young physician. I stayed in relationships, at times too long, because they provided me with a sense of comfort and stability. Yet, looking back, none of these choices made me truly happy, nor were they a reflection on my truth.
On the other hand, whenever I had chosen to follow my heart, to take a risk and make a significant change, without worrying how other people may judge me for it, my level of confidence, happiness and contentment grew exponentially. Choosing to leave Germany and move to Seattle to focus on research rather than clinical work, to delve into a journey of self-discovery through Kundalini Yoga and meditation, and to ask Danielle, my wife, to move from Tennessee to Seattle just a few months after we had met – None of these choices were reasonable and safe, but all of them brought an immeasurable amount of growth, joy and fulfillment.
Michelle’s question made me realize that freedom was more important to me than security. Consequently, I decided to end my career in academic research and focus on developing my own mind-body healing and coaching practice, which has become my true passion and purpose.
“How important is freedom to you?”
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, and co-author of the declaration of independence, said: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Yet, you may have also found that the more you are dealing with fear and anxiety, the more easily you are willing to trade in freedom for a sense of security. Like I have in the past, you may avoid speaking up, make changes, or take risks. You may hide in the safety of your comfort zone, and give up on the freedom to explore and express your true potential. You may stop being open, curious and tolerant towards others, and instead judge and reject all those who you deem as different. While these self-protective patterns are understandable, the truth is that safety and security come from within, and are much more than just avoiding danger and discomfort. When we are taking the freedom to become the most authentic and empowered version of ourselves, we discover that we have the gifts and resources inside of us to make the journey of life meaningful, fulfilling and safe.
Now, reclaiming your freedom doesn’t equate to become careless, reckless or selfish. Being free to become more of who you truly are is a path and a practice, which you can pursue every day in small and, at times, bigger steps. Here are several forms of freedom you could focus on:
The freedom to…
- Ask for what you want
- Make up your own mind
- Speak your mind
- Say “No” and have boundaries
- Share your ideas
- Share your gifts
- Put yourself first
- Take care of your mind, body and soul
- Dress the way you want
- Challenge righteousness and injustice
- Be your own authority
- Show kindness and compassion
- Be vulnerable
- Forgive and let go
- Admit when you are wrong
- Let others in
- Love fiercely and unconditionally
- Discover unknown aspects of yourself
- Explore your sexuality and sensuality
- Change your habits
- Mix-up your routines
- Surprise yourself and others
- Make a difference
- Accept, appreciate and love yourself
Pick, every day, one or two of these topics and then journal about how the choice to be more free has made you feel, what you have learned from the experience, and how it served you and those you care about.
Join me this Independence Day, Wednesday July 4th from 11 to noon PST, and learn how the freedom of being your most courageous and authentic self will bring you a greater sense of safety and security.