You Are Wrong About Freedom

I talk to a lot of people who long to be free. They want to express themselves, travel the world, live in the moment, go with the flow, and experience life as a boundless possibility.

I get the desire for freedom because freedom seems to offer so much possibility. And a lot of other things we want have the promise of freedom wrapped up in them.

Wealth is really about the freedom to buy any experience or item you want. Attractiveness gives you greater freedom to choose partners. Confidence gives you the freedom to take risks and be yourself.

But even though freedom is compelling I found that people who seek freedom rarely achieve it. Because . . .

When it comes time to do work, they don’t feel like it. When it comes time to invest energy into a big project, their doubts arise. When a relationship is challenging, they’re looking for the exit.

But the missing piece in all of this is the freedom to commit.

If freedom is all about the ability to choose what we want, then having the ability to NOT exercise our freedom is an integral part of that ability.

I’d say it’s at least 50% of freedom and it may be the most important half.

How we relate to commitment –

Often the way we relate to commitment is that it’s a trap. It’s something we say we’re going to do, a person we promise to be with, a project we’re going to complete and then immediately we feel the restriction of that.

What a moment ago was a choice, now is a prison.

Many of us have felt the burden of the commitments to school, a partner we no longer love, or a project we don’t really care about anymore. This burden can make us feel like commitment is never a good idea and always a trap.

But this is a very basic understanding of commitment.

If you look up various definitions of commitment you’ll read words like dedication, and engagement. But you’ll also read words like obligation and restriction.

Both are parts of what a commitment is, but what makes the biggest difference is how we relate to our commitments.

If you choose to take your commitment and turn it into a parent. Into a thing that is oppressing you.

That’s how it will feel. And then freeing yourself from that will feel liberating.

I made a commitment to work. But work feels hard. I’m afraid my writing, coaching, or whatever will be bad.

So I’ll rebel. It will be like a kid when I snuck a cookie from the jar. It will feel so good.

Except when you do this over and over again, you’re not free.

The freedom you’re creating is an illusion.

You built a prison and escaped from it.

But the cycle repeats again and again.

The path out.

The pathway out of this is to make a commitment. Not as an obligation, or should, but as a choice from a part that is deeper than the part that seeks a sort of false freedom.

When you do this you may actually experience a whole new kind of freedom. The freedom of commitment.

At the monastery, I never had to decide when to wake up. That freed me up to focus on practice, to be engaged with my life. I was free from that choice because of my commitment. Some mornings I love it, others I hated it, but the freedom was there either way.

Part of why I ask for a minimum of 6 months of commitment in my coaching is the freedom that it offers.

We’re not wondering week to week if we’re doing this. We’re here. We’re in. Stuff will come up, but we’ll face it together.

For me, that offers a very deep kind of freedom. A kind of freedom that is only possible on the other side of commitment. It took me a long time to learn this and it still shows up from time to time.

I don’t want to write when I said I would. I wonder what it would be like to be with someone else when I’m in a relationship. I dream about having so much money I wouldn’t ever have to budget or plan I could just get what I wanted.

But when I look at people with a lot of wealth, or fame, or beauty. Not many of them seem really free to me. In some ways many of them seemed the most trapped of all.

I’ve learned to understand that while the first kind of freedom feels good in the moment, over time the freedom commitment offers is even better.

It’s the freedom to choose and be with my choice. It’s the freedom to be with the hard parts of life without needing it to be different. It’s the freedom to find new ways to empower what’s happening and truly live in the present moment, even when that present moment is challenging.

So for me, there’s no freedom without commitment. Not random or obligated commitment. But the kind of commitment that comes from a place deep inside of me.