How to get back your freedom. Now.

The secret to happiness

My calendar is blank. Except for my yoga classes. And a coaching session now and then which I love doing. I can choose what to do each day. Maybe explore a new beach. Maybe just stay home by the pool. I am on a Sabbatical in Koh Samui Thailand. Some would say I am free.

That would be accurate except for the fact that I cannot do any activity uninterrupted for more than 1.5 hours. I have not been able to sleep in for years. I have not gone out in the evening for months. I have a baby and a toddler.

We all give up part of our freedom. Some for money. Some for security. Some for love. Unless you are in prison, your invisible cage is self-imposed. The question is: Are you happy in your cage?

Thucydides said that the secret to happiness is freedom. He was proven right by recent research. If you do not feel happy, ask yourself: Have you given away too much of your freedom? If yes, it is time to get it back.

I have created a step by step guide to do exactly that. Mostly for myself but you might find it helpful too.

Thucydides also revealed the secret to unlocking your freedom. It is called courage. Ready to get started?

Let others be

‘Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves’ Abraham Lincoln

Letting others be is the first step. You cannot be free if you are too concerned about what other people think, choose or do. Trying to control others is a losing battle and makes you miserable.

As long as people do no harm, let them live their lives as they wish. Do not be an oppressor. Others will not make the same choices as you. And that is ok. Do not judge. Do not get offended. Just enjoy other people.

Also, you cannot control what other people think of you. Accept the rule of thirds. One third of the people you meet will ignore you. One third will dislike you. The remaining third can be your tribe. Focus on your tribe. Forget the rest.

What about those of you who give up your freedom in the name of love? Remember: You cannot love others more than you love yourself. You are no use to your loved ones if you are unbalanced and miserable. Trust that the ones you love will benefit if you take care of yourself.

Get Financially Free

‘No amount of money will ever make you wealthy. The secret to wealth is gratitude.’ Tony Robbins

There are different definitions for financial freedom. You can find a lot of online calculators to estimate how much money you need to retire early.

I am on a Sabbatical, and I am telling you. Work is in our nature, and it is fun. You do not want not to work. You need to feel useful, creative, and productive. Getting paid is fun also. It reflects the value you add.

Financial freedom is not about making enough money for an early retirement. Do not take me wrong; it is an attractive goal. I just do not want you to wait until you reach it to feel financially free.

Financial freedom is not to worry about money. Simple. Most of you reading this article can achieve it now. With what you have. A lot of millionaires will never achieve it. They keep worrying about money no matter how much they have.

Most of us, worry excessively about money. How long would it take you after you lose your income to go on the streets? How long to use up all your savings? Or find another way to make money? Most of you would never go on the streets because your loved ones would lend you their sofa. Is all that worry necessary?

To eliminate your money worry, you will need three things. Earning potential which you have now. An abundance mindset which you can adopt now. Focus on what you have rather than what you do not have. Finally, savings help to give you peace of mind. Can you start building them now?

  • Abundance mindset: Be grateful. Count your blessings and not your problems. Give because you believe you have more than enough. Do not check your accounts more than once a quarter. In his book Think Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explained that humans are more sensitive to losses than gains. Frequently checking your investments will cause more unhappiness than happiness over time. Losses weigh more than gains.
  • Earning potential: Help people. Get better at what you do. Add more value to more people. Get paid accordingly.
  • Savings: Save. Invest. Do not panic when the market is down. Search for low risk, high reward opportunities. Warren Buffet’s first rule of investing is ‘Never lose money.’ His second rule is ‘Never forget rule number 1.’

Be an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur

‘Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.’ Albert Einstein

Research has linked autonomy at work to high levels of job satisfaction, commitment, involvement, performance, and motivation. Also to low levels of physical symptoms, emotional distress, absenteeism, and turnover.

It is crystal clear. If you want job satisfaction, you either need to either start your own business or get a job with autonomy (be an intrapreneur). Leave micromanagers the earliest you can. They will suck your soul.

Set yourself free from having to always be at a certain place for a certain amount of time. Look for jobs that offer flexible hours and remote-working benefits.

If you are stuck at an oppressing job because you are afraid to take the leap, you need to reconsider.

‘The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.’ Benjamin Franklin

In my article, ‘The cost of playing it safe’ I discussed how often the ‘safest option’ is not safe at all. You have a right to work freely. Go for it. In the meantime, do something you love every single day, even if it is on the side of your day job. This way you can have access to the benefits of free, creative work.

Free yourself from fear of failure or rejection

‘Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.’ Mahatma Gandhi

Babies are born with only two fears. Fear of loud noises and fear of falling. Every other fear is taught. Fear is a survival mechanism. It is meant to keep you alive. It is not meant to keep you free.

Do you think kids are afraid of failure? They will fall and pick themselves up a thousand times. Do you think they are concerned about how their body or hair looks? If their singing is in tune? Whether their dance moves are elegant? They just learn new things and enjoy life. Mistakes are part of the process.

You cannot avoid fear. You should invite him in and give him a seat on your journey. He will be your companion. But as Elisabeth Gilbert beautifully said, you should not give him a vote. Fear should not get to determine where you go next.

Choose your response

‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’ Viktor E. Frankl

Viktor E. Frankl, author of ‘A Man’s Search for Meaning,’ found his freedom while in a concentration camp. You can find it too.

Happiness and freedom lie inside you and not in external circumstances. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. You cannot control what happens to you. But, you are not a victim of your circumstances. You can choose your response. You can choose to destroy or to create. You can choose to treat misfortunes as obstacles to surpass or excuses to surrender. And there, lies your freedom.

Also, you can fight your vices if you do not want them anymore in your life. Break your bad habits. From now on, you can help it. You are in control.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Let others be and look after yourself. Stop worrying about money. Sort out your finances and adopt an abundance mindset. Become an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur. Allow yourself to make mistakes. And take hold of your destiny by choosing your response to whatever life throws at you. Now go and be free.

Caterina Kostoula is an Executive Coach and a Global Business Leader at Google. Follow Caterina Kostoula on Facebook, Medium, Twitter or LinkedIn.