In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved. -Franklin D. Roosevelt
This month we celebrated the independence and freedom we love as Americans. We are honored and proud that our country stands for “liberty and justice for all,” but how does that translate into our personal lives? How can we experience true freedom and personal contentment when life constantly throws us curve balls?
In the past, I participated in many facilitated work sessions during my 20 plus years in the corporate world. At one of those sessions, the facilitator asked us to answer two questions that profoundly changed the dynamic of our group: "Who are you?" and "What do you want?" The facilitator suggested that we answer these questions at a deeper level than just stating our name and a trite answer like, "I want the day to be successful." Although all of us in the session had worked closely together for many years, the answers that we heard that day gave us a new appreciation of each other, as we shared our identities and desires.
How would you answer those two questions? Who are you? What do you want? Over the years as I have pondered the second question, my answer has turned to "freedom."
For me personally, this freedom is evidenced in four specific areas:
- Physical Freedom – I want to have a healthy body without limitations. I want to have energy and strength; the ability to run, swim, play, think and create; and, experience life without physical hindrance. This vision of physical freedom motivates me to stay healthy, especially when I'm challenged to exercise or eat well. While I can't control the possibility of an accident or serious illness, I can control and create a routine that promotes healthful longevity, and physical freedom.
- Financial Freedom - I want to live without debt and with adequate financial resources to support my family in a reasonable lifestyle. I want to be generous and able to give to needs that I see around me. I want appropriate insurance so that I can retain financial stability in the circumstance of a calamitous event. I don't want to have to worry about the ups and downs of the stock market, or have my moods dictated by my portfolio.
- Relational Freedom - I want to be on good terms with people, in accordance with the wisdom of the Apostle Paul: " If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." If I have wronged someone, I want his or her forgiveness and, if someone has wronged me, I want to forgive. Freedom also means being proactive and ensuring those whom you love know it. I make it a habit to tell my family that I love them any time we are separated, even to make a short trip to the store. This gives me the relational freedom knowing that, if one of us were to die, the last words we shared were "I love you." You are relationally free when you live without regrets concerning people.
- Spiritual Freedom - I want to know where I am going after I die and whether I will be reunited with loved ones who died before me. I want to know that I had a purpose for being on the earth. While some may find this spiritual freedom in Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or another belief system, my spiritual freedom comes from being a follower of Jesus Christ. In accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior, I have received peace on this earth and assurance of what comes after death. Knowing how the game ends (and that I win) frees me to meet daily challenges.
Being free in these four ways goes beyond traditional measures of success and reaches the definition of success surpassing beyond measure.
- So what about you? If you were asked, "Who are you?" and "What do you want?", how would you answer?
Excerpted from Chapter 52, Who Are You? What Do You Want?, of The Surpassing Life:52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence, thesurpassinglife.com.