The Fear of Freedom

To find yourself, think for yourself.” – Socrates

I recently wrapped up coaching a client on the development of her personal intention, ambition, and value proposition statements and a plan to make structural changes to her business. She has traveled the world, won multiple statewide awards, speaks a second language fluently, has a beautiful family, grew a business from zero into millions of dollars of revenue, and has incredible designs for how she’ll impact the community in increasingly bigger ways. By many scorecards, she’s wildly accomplished.

During our last conversation, I suggested that the achievement of her newly created goals would be closely correlated to her ability to internalize that she is the average of the five people she spends the most time with. As we strategized how to select this new tribe, we talked about western societies and the desire to exude success through material possessions. She had recently purchased a new Chevrolet when her husband and a close friend were encouraging her to buy the BMW. As we talked through the reasons why she chose the Chevy, i.e. didn’t matter if the kids got it dirty, clients wouldn’t think she spends money frivolously, she didn’t want to make her larger group of friends uncomfortable when they were together, I encouraged her to not view the situation through a deficit-based lens.

In working to achieve her goals, she may have been better off buying the BMW. If you visualize your future state of success three, four, or five years from now, it is much easier to achieve those goals if you create current environments in which you already feel as though you’ve achieved the longer-term goals. Your brain often doesn’t know the difference between experiencing something in a dream or visualization versus experiencing it in your physical life. By creating an environment (i.e. having the BMW, joining more high-level CEO groups, winning national awards now) where her idea of future success is being experienced in the present, it’ll be easier for her to feel accomplished and create small wins that build momentum towards her bigger goals.

In trying to “fit in” now, she was limiting her own potential by not doing what she could to allow the achievement of her goals to happen faster. In some small way, she feared her own freedom.

We live in extraordinary times. We have unlimited freedom and access to any kind of wealth (financial, spiritual, relational, intellectual, emotional, etc.) we can imagine. However, the fear of this freedom also paralyzes us because we don’t want to risk being unique and then ostracized from the herd. This fear is so widespread and ingrained that very few people actually recognize that they’ve already succumbed to it. I watch many friends, colleagues, and clients not face their fear because it’s easier to enjoy some immediate gratification (buy the Chevy and maintain the current group of friends) than to invest more time in making sacrifices and achieving long-term goals (buying the BMW and spending more time with CEOs who have already found success).

In the weeks leading up to a black Friday, retailers artificially inflate prices so that their “sales” on Friday appear to be great deals. Many people still overspend because of the orchestrated media cycle and corporations knowing that in herd dynamics people will feel left out if they don’t shop that day, too. Being left out, not doing what the herd does, or being unique drives a fear in people that doesn’t allow them to break the cycle and truly accomplish what they were put on earth to do.

In some ways, black Friday shoppers fear being left out… and their own freedom.

Although it is scary, unnerving, and difficult, finding yourself, as Socrates suggested, requires you to think for yourself. Success will occur when you develop your intention, ambition, and value proposition statements and consciously choose to live them. You’ll have to sacrifice immediate gratification. You’ll have to spend more time with new friends. You’ll have to choose the BMW over the Chevrolet.

Regardless of what the herd thinks, your ability to focus and remain determined taking action very few others are willing to will pay off as you repeatedly achieve your goals, have experiences few others have, and live the life you’ve always imagined.

Do not fear freedom. Do not fear your potential.

Visualize and find unique ways to experience your future success in the present.