How Do You Know if You are Free?

Freedom is such a powerful idea. It’s the treasure of those who live in open societies and the yearning of those who don’t. Our precious freedom speaks to the soul of Americans like nothing else. But when you look beyond the lofty idea of freedom to your individual life, freedom is more complicated. How do you know how free you are? How can you tell?

Many people imagine that the ability to detach is evidence of freedom. They feel free if they can get away from forces that restrict them, just pick up and go wherever they want when they feel like it. Who doesn’t associate freedom with open space and moment-to-moment self determination? But that only scratches the surface of real freedom.

Having no responsibility and nobody to answer to is not freedom: it’s isolation. It may feel good temporarily. But those who need social distance are not free in a deeper sense. They are more likely to be operating out of fear.

It could be the fear of not being good enough, or being trapped in the wrong place with the wrong people. How many men and women have left an intimate relationship saying, “I need to be free,” when they were really saying “I don’t want to be with you any more.” Running away is not about freedom; it’s about escape. Real freedom means acting from choice, motivated by your own core values and desires.

That’s why the truest expression of real freedom is commitment. Devoting your life without reservation to what matters most proves you are free. Only a 100% free person is able to make a 100% commitment. In fully committing yourself to something or someone, you share your love in the world. Devoting your heart, soul and being to what you value is the crowning expression of what it means to be free.

We see the example of this all the time in parenting. Especially when children are young, their parents’ commitment to them and their well-being is absolute and total, done out of free choice. Some professionals and business people devote the full measure of commitment to their work out of love and dedication. Do you?

If you find yourself holding back or making excuses, perhaps you are less free than you think. There might be hidden fears, expectations and conflicts holding you back. What are they?

Why haven’t you committed your whole self to what matters to you? Ask yourself the question and take the time to find the answer. If you can’t commit yourself to what matters in your life, you are not completely free. Knowing that gives you a chance to look deeper and make a correction. Freedom is too powerful an idea to merit anything less.