3 steps to achieve personal freedom

For the biggest part of my adult life, I was unfree in a free world. I could do whatever I wanted but I didn’t use that freedom. Unwanted obligations and invisible expectations were holding me back.

Modern-day life is full of obligations. We don’t only need to make a living, we also feel like we need to please everyone in our social lives and keep up with strangers on social media.

If that’s not bad enough, we keep spending our money. And our bank accounts look like a leaking bucket. We keep making money but it leaves our bank account at the same rate, sometimes even faster.

If we’re unfree in a free world, it’s because of our own doing. At some point, I realized that if I wanted to be truly free, I needed to make it happen. No one else will do it for you. Not your parents, brother, sister, partner, or friend. No one but you is responsible for your life. Here are 3 steps I took to become free.

Step 1: Create Awareness

Never feel like you have to do something. We all have these false stories in our heads.

  • “I have to be successful at my job”
  • “I have to be in a relationship”
  • “I have to get kids”
  • “I have to spend time with family, co-workers, or old friends”

The truth is that you don’t have to do anything. Until we don’t accept that fact, we can’t be free. Everything we do should be a conscious decision.

You’re free to do whatever you want as long as you’re not harming others. It’s none of other people’s business what you do with your life as an adult. If you have solid core values for yourself, you will only make things better for everyone when you’re free.

But life is not a one-way street. Your co-workers or clients should only work with you because they want to work with a person like you. Your spouse should want to be with you because you’re a good person. And that’s also true for your friends. Other people are also the rulers of their own kingdoms. No one should force them to do something.

A free person respects another person’s freedom more than anything else in the world. Why? Because freedom is the most important thing.

Your parents, partner, manager, co-workers, or friends are not your boss. You are not the boss of anyone either. You are only your own boss. Everything you do in life is your choice. Even in the bleakest circumstances, you decide to endure it. You never surrender your power to someone else.

Step 2: Give Up What’s Caging You

All this stuff sounds easy. “I can do whatever I want!” Everyone can say that. In fact, I also said that when I was unfree. It made me feel better temporarily. But it was a lie.

Words are cheap. Real freedom is expensive. It requires you to give up things that are standing in the way of your freedom. What are those things? Here’s a list of things I’ve given up:

  1. Stability—I always assumed life should be certain. There’s no such thing. Accepting that will help you to embrace uncertainty.
  2. Comfort—What’s comfort good for if it only makes you weak?
  3. Lies—We lie to ourselves and others all the time. It’s like a bottomless pit we can’t get out of.
  4. Incompatible People—Some people have different values than you. And that’s okay.
  5. Fearing Money—When you’re so scared to lose your money, you won’t be able to make more of it.
  6. Mindless Entertainment—You can’t escape your responsibilities by distracting yourself.
  7. Expectations—Believing that the world should be a certain way will only bog you down.
  8. Debt—When you owe people something, they own you.
  9. Unwanted Help—Some people don’t want your help. Don’t feel obligated to be a “good Samaritan.”
  10. Defending Your Ideas—If others don’t like your ideas, so what? Never feel pressured to defend yourself. For example, a lot of people disagree with this article. I’m not trying to convince anyone to do anything. These ideas are simply not for everyone. I’d rather connect with people who share the same ideas.
  11. Forced Happiness—Sometimes life sucks. Don’t try to force your way out of it.

You can find the full story in my book, What It Takes To Be Free. When you give up these limiting factors, you’re finally free to be yourself.

But freedom isn’t just a matter of giving up things that are caging you. We still need to pay the bills. We also need people around us. There’s nothing noble about giving up everything and moving to the woods. That’s escapism.

Step 3: Plan For Freedom

Wishing, hoping, wanting, talking—it’s all useless without action. And to become free, you need a lot of action. While taking action is better than doing nothing or dreaming, action without thought is a waste of effort.

For years, I had a strong urge to be free, and I took a lot of action. I said yes to every opportunity, traveled a lot, did a lot of different type of work. But I wasn’t precise in my actions. I didn’t have a thought-out plan.

I write about my whole plan in my book. But there’s one thing I want to share with you here. It’s called the “I Can Always…” technique.

This exercise helps you to get comfortable with uncertainty. I used it when I quit my job in 2015 and took a step back from my family business. I wanted to earn a living as a writer and be free to do what I want.

Like everyone who starts something new, I started from 0. I had nothing. No website, no social media, no followers, no readers. There was a lot of uncertainty and that caused a lot of worries.

The good thing about starting from nothing is that you have a clean slate. I could try a lot of things. But at the same time, I also had thoughts like, “What if this fails? What if I go broke?” To battle my insecurity and anxiety, I came up with this technique. It goes like this:

  1. Open your notebook or note-taking app
  2. Think about the work you’ve done in the past
  3. What skills have you acquired? Think carefully about the type of work you’ve done and what you learned. Too often, we just look at job titles. “I was just a store attendant.” No, you learned sales and communication skills.
  4. Write down the skills you acquired
  5. Now, think about all the potential jobs that you could do
  6. Simply, write “I can always…”
  7. Then list everything you can think of

Here’s what I came up with: “I can always work in sales at any company, build websites for people or organizations, work at any store, become a teacher, work as a copywriter, work remotely for companies all over the world, buy and sell popular products, etc.”

You can do a lot of things to make money so you can pay the bills. There’s no need to worry about that stuff if you’re willing to do any job. You can’t control most things in life. But you can control your will to succeed; if you’re willing to do whatever it takes, you will.

Taking some time to think about all the things you could potentially do to survive, will help you relax. Otherwise, you will be held captive by your own fear and worry. But the goal is not only to survive. You want to be free, which obviously requires work.

The reality is that you can do anything you want, spend time with people you enjoy, and have a career that you love. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not.

That’s because the price of freedom is high. I learned that the hard way. But if you’re willing to pay the price, you will be free. To me, it’s the highest aim in life. Hence, I’m willing to pay ANY price.

This article first appeared on DariusForoux.com.