The saying “with freedom comes responsibility” is well understood by most of us adults, and when freedom is withheld we tend to do our best to rally against it. The travesty is that we are the ones who have made things so difficult for ourselves. There is an easier way for you to live.
Life is a river of wellbeing that we navigate with our feelings. If you feel good, you’re in tune with yourself and you know you’re in flow, if you feel bad then you know you’re swimming against the tide. Yet most of us have learned somewhere along the way to ignore our inner guidance and instead take the hard road. After all, nothing is worth having if it wasn’t hard won… and we’ve really trained ourselves to believe that.
Worse, we perpetuate it with our children. Instead of understanding that our children come with their own compass, we treat them instead like an empty vessel. We rush to educate them about all the pitfalls of life and all the terrible things that might befall them if they don’t listen to us, the wise parents.
Marveling again at the incredible amount of time it’s taking me to stop repeating these unhelpful behaviours, the lesson this week was my 5-year-old daughter’s bedtime. Every night was becoming a battle, a long drawn out affair that was not serving any of us. Suddenly it dawned on me that my daughter has an innate knowing about the amount of sleep she needs, just as I do.
Everyone, including children, knows when they are tired. Kids only rally against it and want to stay up later if they don’t feel empowered to make that choice for themselves. Dictating bedtime, for us, was more about creating space to have time to ourselves in the evening (if we are truly honest). That is something no person, and no parent, should feel guilty about. Your wellbeing has to be a priority if you are to be the best parent, mate, sibling, coworker, leader, anything, that you can be.
Consequently we have now been very deliberate about giving her the power to choose when she goes to bed. The stipulations being that she must rely on herself for entertainment, given that we all need some time to ourselves (including her), and that it must be quiet time (no devices) to help her body wind down for sleep.
When a freedom is withheld, and then suddenly given, you should expect a transition. It occurred to me that she wouldn’t likely have needed any stipulations if we’d let her make this decision for herself from the outset, now it’s a transition. Things will be a bit bumpy for a while as she attempts to stay up later, then discovers that – as she has to be up early for school – she’ll get overtired and it won’t be pretty. Short term pain for long term gain though.
The same applies in the workplace. Employees would perform far better if they were empowered and entrusted to do their job. Chaos would not reign as some fear, yes there would be a transition and it could get bumpy for while, but the paths to the evolved workplace are already being trodden by companies as discussed in Is the Role for Managers Redundant in Today's World?
So what freedom are you holding back from yourself or others?
Every day you will be thinking or doing things that simply don’t feel good to you. What deep seated beliefs, regular routines or learned behaviours are making you miserable? Remember that a belief is only a thought that has become ingrained because it’s been reinforced. Reexamine even the last half hour, what did you do that did not feel good?
Conversely, what was the last thing that felt great? Dwell on it, let it sink in, commit to doing more of what feels that good.
There’s an easy way to go through your life and a hard way. No doubt some of the things that you are committed to are laudable, even if they are making you feel miserable. At this time of the year many will be committed to new exercise regimes and diets, many may already have ‘failed’ in their commitment because it seems too hard. Do you know that less than one percent of those who diet maintain their weight loss?
It’s not because the diet doesn’t work or that you are particularly lacking in willpower, it’s just because we are generally going about things back to front. If, first and foremost, you commit to feeling good you will soon feel naturally attracted towards the best foods for your body, ways to exercise and to enhance your wellbeing.
Instead many of us are looking towards those things to make us feel good. Look instead out of your window, get out into nature and start appreciating this magnificent planet we have. If you are a parent, spent time every day dwelling on the brilliance of your children, the specifics that you remark upon to each other, the moments that make you proud.
Look in the mirror and appreciate the magnificence of the miracle that is your body. It might not look the way you want it to look but my goodness, the amazing feats that the trillions of cells that are you accomplish every day are phenomenal. If you start to really appreciate all that you are and all that you have in your life right now, you will be amazed at how much better your life will flow, how much easier it is to do the things that make you feel good.
Let feeling good be the torch that helps you navigate the river of your life, commit to that and freedom will feel less of a responsibility and more a natural part of your world.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/58518488@N08/14755365306">Wings_Print-112</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
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