The Price of Freedom

by May 28, 2013Building Courage33 comments

A lot of people tell me they’re looking for freedom.

I completely understand, because much of my life has been a crazy courtship of the concept. I just didn’t understand the cost until recently.

After high school, I joined the military to escape a totalitarian father, which even I have to admit is funny. It’s true that, by comparison, the military was a picnic. The upperclassmen at the Air Force Academy nicknamed me Cadet Happy Camper because even when they were yelling in my face or making me do iron mikes, I couldn’t help but smile.

The military culture convinced me I was willing to die for freedom, the kind that belonged to someone else. But I struggled to take even the tiniest risks to grant me my own.

I picked a college major that would be more likely to pay the bills should I ever return to a civilian life. I accepted a car loan I couldn’t afford. I got engaged to a perfectly nice man I didn’t love because my heart had been broken by someone else and I was afraid at 25 I’d never find anyone to love me.

When I finally got the courage to leave the military and take a chance on a new career, I thought I’d finally done it. I was free! I could do anything I wanted!

But the ability to do anything was undermined by my fear of failure. Could I really make a living? Were all the doubters right? What if I never amounted to anything?

So I hedged my bets by maintaining some financial life-lines to my previous career instead fully committing to the work I really wanted to do. I wrapped my freedom up in bubble-wrap and told myself it was safer that way.

And it was safer. But it wasn’t better or happier or easier.

We tell ourselves lies about freedom all the time. We think if we just had more money or power or flexibility that we’d be free. We think freedom is a border crossing and we just need to get to the other side.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When people say they want freedom, what they really mean is they’re not living the life they want and they think something outside of themselves is preventing them from getting it.

Neither money, nor power, nor time will magically grant you a life you love. Trust me, I’ve tried all three. It’s not circumstance that held me back. I had challenges to overcome just like anyone else of course. But the biggest challenge by far was me.

The price of freedom is pretty low, but it requires a currency few of us carry: courage. [Click to tweet]

Moreover, you don’t just buy freedom once. You have to purchase it again and again, as long as you want it.

This is good news. It means if you value freedom over everything else, you can have it.

What I wish someone had told me was that you’re not always ready for freedom. You have to work up to it. Freedom is a wild animal you have to tame.

So if you don’t have complete freedom yet, quit berating yourself or your circumstances. It’s okay. Really.

Work instead on a freedom mindset. Practice vulnerability. Inch closer to the edge and look out, not down.

You’ll fail at freedom far more times than you’ll succeed.

Give it everything you’ve got and cherish the pride that comes with trying.

It’s just as sweet.