“Don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy to prove to you that they are. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.” — Jack Nicholson, as George Hanson, in the 1969 movie Easy Rider
I’ve come to realize that my highest value is freedom — I want the ability to pretty much do what I want to do, when I want to do it. To most people this notion of freedom is a pipe dream — who can live such a life? Yet a lot of my friends and acquaintances shake their heads in admiration (or is it jealousy?) when I tell them that my weekend begins no later than noon on Friday — in the summer, I’ll be at Wrigley Field for a Cubs day game. They also raise an eyebrow when they notice I come and go as I please — they’ve never known anyone so available. And it really irks ’em when they learn I have ZERO regularly scheduled meetings each week except with my Financial Advisor clients.
This does not mean that I spend my days as a shiftless hedonist — I am totally dedicated to and am passionate about coaching my clients. But I believe everyone has the freedom to set up their life just the way they want it. The question is, will you take the responsibility to do the work to get there?
And, trust me — it is work. Over the past three decades I’ve spent thousands of dollars on books, audio programs, personal development workshops, professional training and one-on-one coaching in making the effort to get my life to the virtually stress-free place it is today. When I say “virtually stress-free,” I mean that most stress is self-induced by inadvertently allowing negative, fearful thoughts to trigger anxiety instead of monitoring our thinking. Most people are stressed out because they haven’t taken conscious control of the way they want things to go, and therefore default to our society’s general stress-manufacturing mantra: “You always need more; you never have enough” — not enough time, not enough money, not enough “stuff.” What a nasty merry-go-round ride that is.
So here’s what I recommend to begin the process of getting yourself free:
Mission Perhaps the first and most important step on the road to freedom is to develop your own Mission Statement. Most people never take this step to become an “inner-directed” human being, not knowing that it’s even a possibility. Let me rephrase a well-known personal development quote: “If you don’t define your mission in life, you’ll be working for someone who has.” And that describes about 98% of all people. Have you created your Mission Statement?
Goal setting The late, great Earl Nightingale said it best: “People with goals succeed because they know where they are going — it’s as simple as that.” The vast majority of people spend more time planning their vacations than their lives. So if you don’t set goals, I know exactly where you’re going — NOWHERE, a place I used to spend a lot of time at. Once you’ve defined your mission, set your goals: the benchmarks of what you’ll need to accomplish, by what date, to fulfill your Mission. Do you have specific, measurable goals written down?
Time management I occasionally run into acquaintances who say to me, “Man — I am SO busy!” And then they proceed to describe how overwhelmed they are, as if this is a badge of honor I’ll be impressed with. I used to live that way, but you know what I think now? “You mean to tell me, with all of your advanced education, you’re not smart enough to figure out how to run your life better than THAT?” Once you’ve set your goals, sit down and schedule the activities you’ll need to engage in to fulfill your goals. I recommend you do this on the weekend. I call this “the most important appointment of the week” because you’re setting up the coming week for success. Are you taking time to schedule yourself?
Visualization Freedom begins in the mind — the concept is, “You’ll see it when you believe it.” Once you have your mission and goals, be like a great athlete: Use mental rehearsal to visualize the outcomes you want BEFORE they happen. Do you picture your successful outcomes on a daily basis?
Assertiveness Because they know where they’re headed, inner-directed people are skilled at making clear requests for what they want. They also persist in asking, as they know they’ll often need to make numerous requests to get results. And they don’t worry about getting turned down — they are unconcerned with others’ approval. They live by the acronym “SW4” — “Some will, some won’t, so what? Someone’s waiting.” Are you good at asking for what you want?
Life-long learning I graduated my Chicago public high school with a 1.74 GPA, and couldn’t wait to get out of there — at that point I thought I knew EVERYTHING. It’s pretty interesting that now I read at least 50 non-fiction books a year because my clients depend upon me for ideas. These ideas can be found as close as the local library, which is where I get all of my books. What’s your learning goal?
Fitness The effort to get free takes energy. I heard a quote once that really grabbed me: “You can only take care of others to the degree that you take care of yourself.” How are your eating habits? (The “Chocolate Donut Diet” may not be the highest-grade fuel.) Are you exercising regularly? (“Lite beer lifts” won’t build muscle, but will do wonders for your spare tire.) Getting enough sleep? (I know — the latest comedy bits on late night TV are too much to resist.). Are you committed to staying in shape?
Recreation All work and no play makes you a burnout candidate. You’ve gotta have outlets, ways to blow off steam and amuse yourself — otherwise, what’s the point? What are you doing for fun?
Gratitude, generosity, forgiveness In my opinion these are the “trifecta” of attitudes that’ll have God smile down on your quest for freedom. Can you wrap these three spiritual qualities around all you’re up to in life?
I know I’ve made this sound simple, but trust me — it ain’t easy. It all boils down to this: Are you willing to be proactive about creating the life you want? Most people drift downstream to the prevailing current — they’re practically drowning but figure this is the best they can do. I’m suggesting you learn to swim upstream. It’s gonna be a struggle at first, and it will take you years, but once you attain traction you’ll be on your way to a virtually stress-free life.
I hope these words inspire you to begin to get free, then stay free.