What I Thought Was Freedom Was Really the Opposite

More freedom. This is one of the main things clients tell me they want.

I get it. Me too. It’s one of my top values. 

But what does that mean exactly? More freedom? Freedom from what? Or for what?

It’s different for everyone. 

I used to think freedom meant not being tied to anything or anyone. So I could make my own decisions. Do what I want when I wanted. 

That translated to no commitments. Not committing to plans. What if something better came along? Not committing to trips - not sure I want to do that, you plan and I’ll see if I can join later. To home. Never feeling really settled where I lived. Always wanting to be somewhere else. For a while not really making my home a home.

It also meant not committing to my current work, in that I knew I wanted to be doing something else. I worked hard, but I didn’t put the effort in to become an expert in what I was doing, because it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing. At the same time I couldn’t commit to any other idea of what I wanted to do for work.

This life of noncommittal kept me free from being tied to anything, which meant I was fully ready and available for when something better finally came along. 

But that didn’t happen. 

What I didn’t realize is my life of noncommittal was keeping me from being fully engaged in the present, which I believe is a key component to true fulfillment.

Not embracing my space, my actions, my friendships in the way they deserved meant I was on the periphery. On the outside looking in. 

Wanting to be free meant I was missing out on going deep in on my friendships. On creating a space that felt warm and comfortable. On feeling like more of an expert in my work. 

It meant everything was always unsatisfying. I was missing out on the joys of life.

This wasn’t freedom. This was limbo. The definition of stuck.

When I began working for myself I really started to understand the power and importance of connection. I now know it’s as vital as food and water.

Being connected to people who mean something to you, being committed to your mission, your work, your space, your goals, THIS is what freedom really is. 

It means freedom from indecision, from not participating, from constantly questioning and from always thinking there is something better on the other side. It means living life NOW and taking it all in vs waiting for the thing to happen. You know, THE THING. The thing you think that once you have it will bring you the happiness you desire. 

That’s not how it works. 

What is freedom really? Freedom is making a true commitment. It means giving of yourself to others whom you love and trust and who inspire you. Being vulnerable. Taking risks. Saying HELL YES to the things you really want and getting rid of all the things you’re not quite sure about and/or that are a hell no.

When I think of freedom I feel the desire to taste, see, experience, do it all.

Of course we can’t do IT ALL. So that means making a commitment to the things that are absolutely most important right now. 

There’s a story where Warren Buffett asks his long-time pilot, Mike Flint, what his goals are, so he can help him achieve them. Mike lists out 25 things he wants to achieve. Next, he asks Flint to circle his top 5 most important goals. The things he wants more than anything else in the world. 

If you’ve read this far, I would strongly encourage you to pause here and do this exercise. Make your list. Don’t edit yourself. Go nuts. Once you’ve made an exhaustive list, go back and circle the top 5 most important. Go ahead. This article isn’t going anywhere. 

If you do this, it will help you learn something really special. No peeking.


Buffett then asks Mike, “What are you going to do with the remaining 20 items?” 

Mike says, “Well the top five are my primary focus but the other twenty come in at a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit as I’m getting through my top five.” 

Buffet becomes serious and replies, “No. You’ve got it wrong. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

It’s about focusing on the things that really matter, and eliminating distractions. 

To me, it’s about committing to the things you really want. And this is important because we say we want things, but then allow a million excuses and distractions to get in our way. What that tells the Universe is that we don’t really want the things we say we do. What really is happening there is a fear. If I go all in on these top 5, maybe I’ll miss out on something better. Or what if I fail? Or what if I succeed??

The real commitment needs to be to yourself. Believing that you can achieve the life you want, being willing to be vulnerable to do so, and letting go of the idea there’s always something better just around the corner. 

Making that commitment means releasing the distractions, the doubt, the indecision. 

It means saying YES to life, to relationships, to the things that you most want so you can ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE THEM vs staying waiting on the sidelines. 

That, to me, is true freedom. 

What do you think? What are you willing to let go of in order to achieve your dreams? What are your top 5?



Christine O'Neill