Are you feeling trapped in a situation that, for the life of you, you cannot see how to get out from?
Does your life lately, maybe for the past few months, years or even decades, feel like a monotonous valley of constant disappointment and disillusion? One with only very rare peaks, vaguely reminiscent of a happiness you once experienced?
Do you perceive your day-to-day work and personal life like a prison made of invisible – yet almost tangible – bars, walls, guards and numerous other inmates just like you?
Listen, if you do feel all the above, adding in the mix a good old, generous dosage of constant background anxiety, fear and stress, rest assured: you are not alone.
Millions, if not billions, of people experience in their daily life one or the other variant of these emotions and sensations. Possibly like you, they feel crippled, numb, paralyzed, hopelessly weak.
Most importantly, all these people strongly believe that there is no escape from this extremely unfortunate “prison sentence” they serve. That there is nothing they can do to break free. Or that, if such opportunity once existed, it’s now rather a “Midsummer’s Night Dream”, to quote William Shakespeare.
Is that so?
And is there really no way out of this apparent “lifetime prison sentence”?
What Recent Surveys Reveal…
… is, sadly, a confirmation of the bleakness of the situation, especially when it comes to how satisfied people actually feel about the quality of their job and their life.
The volume of the related data is overwhelming.
So, let me just mention three very indicative surveys, conducted by widely respected organizations. Two of them concern two of the world’s biggest economies. The third one has a global reach:
- In a comprehensive study, conducted jointly by the Lumina Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network, and Gallup, the findings reveal that less than 50% of U.S. workers feel that they are in good jobs and that they enjoy a good quality of life [source];
- In a Global Workforce Study, performed by professional services firm Tower Watson, three quarters of UK workers report that they feel stuck with ‘dead-end’ jobs [source];
- Finally, a recent Gallup poll, with a sampling coverage of some 200 countries, reveals that around 85% of people worldwide hate their jobs (the scientific term used in the findings is “they feel emotionally disconnected”) [source].
Before I continue, please, take a moment to reflect on these findings; especially the last one.
Can you grasp what it means to live in a world where nearly 9 out of 10 people despise what they do for a living?
A world where the overwhelming majority of people spend (or rather waste) most of their time doing something they consider to be dead-end and / or utterly meaningless?
Do You Currently Find Yourself In Such A Difficult Situation?
I’m about to make a calculated guess here:
Since you are still reading these lines, you probably resonate with such kind of uncomfortableness. You are likely among the multitude of people who experience this sense of being all but restrained.
Of lacking the freedom to steer their life towards the direction of their choice.
Well, that’s not much of a guess, right? If we look at the above surveys, it’s rather a question of statistical probability…
But let me also say this: I was myself in such a state, not so long ago. I believed that my life was outside my control. That there was absolutely nothing I could do to liberate myself from everything I felt kept me so constrained and shrunk.
Heck, if I’m honest with you, even though I’ve realized big changes in my life since those dark days, I’m still to arrive at a place where I could truly shout out loud: “I now have complete freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want it”.
Who knows, perhaps such a place is never to be reached…
But let’s take a step back here, for a moment, and seriously examine…
The True Reasons Why You Don’t Feel Free
I’m sure you’ll agree with me on the fact that you cannot go anywhere, if you don’t first take good stock of where exactly you are in the present moment.
See, before you establish your optimal course from point A to point B, you must know the exact coordinates of this godforsaken point A!
In our case, this means it is essential you truly understand what brought you in this place of “imprisonment”, and keeps you stuck there.
So, let me discuss few potential reasons for you to consider, all of which are drawn from my personal experience and observation:
1. Your Environment’s Continuous And Systematic Conditioning
This refers to conditioning from your family, your school and / or university, your friends, your peers, mass media, and, in general, society. This takes many different forms and nuances. Yet, it’s fair to say that it all boils down to conveying a message like the following to you:
“Look, there are basically so many ways you can go about your life, if you want to be accepted by our society and be happy.
Put security always first, find a good-paying job for a big, reliable employer, find a woman or a man that will make you happy and spend your entire life with them, never take any risks whatsoever, don’t stray off the beaten track, did we mention to place safety always first?”, and so on.
You are constantly being fed these messages, in ways both direct (conscious) and indirect (unconscious), basically since the day you first understood yourself as a separate human being.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong here: many, perhaps most, of these messages have very good intentions attached to them. They come from people who honestly and deeply care about you and your well-being. And, in moderation, they can be helpful in protecting you from a real danger.
However, when society becomes fixated on only promoting messages of that nature, the result is that you may end up feeling trapped in occupations and lifestyles that are very different from your real wishes and preferences. Worse, as time goes by, accepting these messages of fear and limitation can push you even deeper into your “cell”.
2. Relying Only On “What If” Thinking
The human mind is constructed to be based on constantly building and processing hypothetical scenarios: “if X happens, then Y and Z are the possible outcomes”.
Now, this is very useful when you intentionally apply it to specific problems or situations, as it helps you to get a good overview of how things may play out in the future, so you can prepare yourself accordingly.
However, this becomes a big issue if you start obsessively applying it to every aspect of your life.
See, when all your important decisions are based only on the “what if” thinking model, it’s no surprise that paralysis and stagnation will be what you get. This is because each time the “what if” process is applied to an even mildly risky course of action you consider, you will surely derive some very negative possible outcomes out of it.
And if you only rely on such analysis, your inherent inertia and reluctance (two forces which are present in all human beings) will most probably tip the scales towards you staying put in the end.
3. Not Realizing Who You Truly Are
We now enter waters that are a bit deeper.
But we must, if we want to get down to the root cause of this overwhelming misery at the core of many a person’s existence.
In my view it is necessary for each and every human being to go down the way of true self-knowledge and self-awareness at some point in their life – and the earlier you do so, the better.
Because, yes, sure, you feel the strong misalignment between how things are versus how you would like them to be. But… do you really know for sure what you truly want from your life?
And can you ever know what you really want to get out of life – what exactly you want to experience and achieve – if you don’t start by honestly and persistently investigating the true nature of yourself?
Let’s be honest: the answer to both these questions is no.
4. Taking Everything Too Seriously
If you view and deal with every single thing or incident in your day as a “life or death” matter, you’re in for a lot of suffering. Because the truth is that life is tough. Moreover, it has the bad habit of throwing us one challenge after the other.
Thus, if you can never approach the things in your life from their lighter side, it’s certain that you’ll always feel drained.
You’ll be out of energy, enthusiasm and willpower to take up any action that could trigger a truly liberating change for you.
5. Lack Of Meaningful Direction
This is a very important one.
If you have no direction in your life or if the direction your life currently has is completely meaningless to you, it’s no wonder you feel stuck and restrained.
If there’s nowhere for you to go, there’s nowhere for you to be. You feel groundless and at the total mercy of external circumstances.
If you have somewhere to go, but this somewhere doesn’t attract you at all or feels meaningless, then your life becomes a relentless uphill battle you cannot take a break from.
Can I Claim Back My Freedom?
Yes, of course you can!
It’s not easy, that’s for sure; then, again, what’s truly worthy in this life that’s also easy?
And How Can I Do This?
So, here are 8 practical steps that you can take towards claiming back your freedom.
But, before I go ahead, allow me to mention here that these action steps come directly from my own experience (by the way, you can find more about me and my personal story in my website’s “About” page). They’re therefore tested and proven in practice, not just in theory.
Add to this that I’m not the first or only one to have them applied to my life; in fact, I (directly and indirectly) learned most by few wise masters, who I’m blessed and lucky enough to call my teachers.
1. Accept The Current Situation In Your Life As It Is
In doing so, record and acknowledge the full spectrum of your thoughts, beliefs and emotions about it. Be open and honest with yourself.
Understand also that it is what it is. This sounds – and is – very simple, but so many of us fail to get in terms with this elementary truth. And that’s because our minds intervene, hyperventilated as they usually are as a result of their conditioning, and resist it.
But no matter how much you resist the present situation, it cannot change: again, it is what it is.
(Neither can you, of course, go back in time and change the events that led up to it).
So, one more time: accept it and embrace it. Once you honestly do so, you’re very likely to reach a state of immediate calmness that will pleasantly surprise you.
If you then allow it, this calmness can transform into clarity on your way forward.
2. Start Knowing Your True Self
Moses gave to the ancient Jewish people ten commandments. Ancient Greeks, on the other hand, had only one: “Know Yourself”.
I touched upon this previously in this post.
Let me just repeat that the value of deep and true self-introspection is immense. It’s an arduous and, in most cases, lifelong process. Yet, its benefits are tremendous.
Understanding who you truly are, grasping and consciously recognizing all aspects of your being, is the foundation for you to get direction and pursue liberation and fulfilment in everything you do.
The space here is not enough for me to go into too many details, but I can briefly say that there are two main paths to self-awareness. For the sake of simplicity, I will name them as “Path of Psychoanalysis” and “Path of Spirituality”. Approaches from the two paths can also be combined.
If the words “Psychoanalysis” and “Spirituality” sound scary or foreign to you, it’s OK. What’s important for you to know is that there are many approaches falling under these two general categories which can work miracles for you, even if you don’t accept their basic premises.
As a final word on this, I suggest that if you are interested in the “Psychoanalysis” path, you start by investigating the work of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
If, on the other hand, the “Spirituality” path entices you more, the options are limitless. If you asked me, I would personally propose as a starting point that you look into the work of Srikumar Rao and Eckhart Tolle. This is because both, and especially the former, elegantly bridge today’s concerns and issues with tested practices that are thousands of years old.
3. Set A Goal And Take One Step Towards It
Pick any area of your life. Ideally it should be the area where you feel most under pressure, restricted and unhappy. As we saw, for most people these days, this area happens to be their work.
Set a goal related to it. Preferably, it should be something that you truly want to achieve for yourself and is really meaningful to you. Something that may not be easy, yet you also don’t see as completely impossible to attain.
Now take – today, ideally right now – one step, no matter how little, towards this goal.
For example, let’s say your goal is to become your own boss. A simple first step, then, would be to think about your business’s or personal brand’s name. Or what its logo would look like.
Good! Please, write your inspiration down!
Then, commit to yourself that you’ll take at least one such small step every day, for the next 90 days.
If you truly stick with this practice, you’re sure to be amazed by how much you’ll have progressed, when you look back after these 90 days have gone by.
This being said, please make sure that you…
4. Focus On The Next Step And Forget The Big Picture
Now that you have set your big, ambitious goal, proceed by always concentrating your efforts only on the very next step towards it, and… forgetting all about your goal!
“How can I possibly do this”, I hear you say, and I don’t blame you.
But, let me explain.
The point here is: when you have a big mountain (that’s your goal) ahead of you to climb, never think about how much way is left until you reach the top. Because this is the surest way for you to become overwhelmed by the effort and time still required for you to make it, and give up.
However, if you focus only on the very next little step, and then the one after that, and then the one after that and so on, you constantly build up your motivation, your morale and your effectiveness. And you do so in a very organic and sustainable way.
And before you know it… there you shall be, at your very own mountaintop!
5. Trust Your Intuition
As years go by, intuition finally seems to be acknowledged by anyone who matters for the incredibly powerful decision-making tool it is. Both in everyday life and in business.
Intuition is not “hocus-pocus”, “mumbo-jumbo” stuff. Far from it!
Intuition is untapped, unconscious knowledge, beyond your mind’s current comprehension abilities.
It can point, quickly and with zero error margin, to the correct course of action in any given situation. In this case, “correct course of action” is translated as “the surest and fastest – if not always intuitive (pun intended!) – way to your freedom”.
To simplify it: intuition is an inner, inexplicable urge for you to act in a way in which you wouldn’t, if you were to rely on your mental faculties alone.
(I don’t know if I simplified it… but I trust you get the picture)!
Please allow me a word of caution, though: when intuition arises, it’s always accompanied by an aura of calm certainty. This makes you feel untouchable by any form of doubt or second-guessing. If you don’t sense the presence of this mysterious but reassuring aura, then you’re probably dealing with a reflexive, conditioned urge.
You obviously don’t want to mistake such urges for intuition.
6. Learn Or Develop Your Marketing Skills
“What has marketing got to do with me and my situation?”, I hear you asking.
The short answer is that marketing is definitely key in helping you to gain more freedom at whichever stage you are in your work life.
Many people nowadays – and maybe you are amongst them – still confuse marketing with “carpet-selling” or, worse, flat-out scamming. Sadly, there’ve been, and there still are, numerous online and offline “marketing campaigns” out there justifying such impression.
Regardless of that, marketing is undoubtedly an essential skill for you. Not so much in the sense of turning yourself into a “sellable commodity” (which, of course, cannot hurt you). But rather in the sense of you understanding how you can monetize your key skills and competencies in the most optimal way by converting them into your own unique selling proposition (to use a popular marketing term).
A proposition that you could then use to either boost your current career or launch your very own business journey.
7. Learn Or Develop Your Digital Skills
When it comes to achieving financial, geographical and time freedom or independence, the opportunities available in today’s digital world are truly remarkable and limitless.
Here, a common misperception, which you may share, is that to really get involved and establish an impactful presence on the Internet, one is required to be highly “techie”. For instance, being able to program. But nothing could be further from the truth, especially nowadays.
There are fantastic digital skills’ learning courses out there, that you could easily enroll to and follow. These are structured, flexible and straightforward programs that help you start, even from scratch, and lead you, step by step, into building a powerful presence online.
It goes without saying that should you seriously pursue this path, a lot of commitment, devotion and discipline would be required from your side. But the rewards, especially in terms of attaining all kinds of freedom you could think of, are real and accessible.
Here, again, I speak from personal experience.
And if you’re truly interested in learning more useful and practical information on how to go about improving your digital and marketing skills, I invite you to check this out.
8. Enjoy the Doing, And… Let It Be
Right now, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, please take a deep breath.
Count 1-2-3-4 for your inhale…
Count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 for your exhale…
Focus on your breath.
One more time…
How did that feel?
The reason I’m asking you is that I have yet to meet a person that doesn’t find such a simple exercise enjoyable and relaxing. And the point I want to make is that this is how doing whatever you do in life should feel: natural, effortless, enjoyable.
You must start from where you currently are, there’s no other choice. If you judge this to be a place of misery and discontent, fine. First, accept that this is how things are (we covered this earlier) and then consider the whole situation from another point of view.
Even If What You Currently Experience Is Something That You Find Entirely Unlikeable, Could You Experiment With The Idea Of Turning It Into A Game?
For instance: “let’s see, I bet I’ll receive at least one sarcastic e-mail from my difficult colleague today”. Or: “can I succeed in having no arguments with my partner next week?”. Or: “can I manage to read three books during the next month?”.
If you win, great! If you lose, fantastic! It’s playing the game that counts more than anything, right?
See, then, if you can gradually extend such spirit and approach to everything you do in life. When you start with any task, enjoy the process of delivering it. When you begin to move towards a goal, enjoy every step you take, every action you engage with.
And let go of any expectations whatsoever you may have on the outcome.
Besides, if you really enjoy the journey, does it matter how the destination will look or even if you’ll arrive at it?
Because, I assure you, it’s true what so many important spiritual figures and leaders have said: the ultimate freedom is the freedom from your own expectations and desires.
… read this article one more time!
Wow, I’m really proud of you!
And if you didn’t, I still am!
Because if you did, it means you really found it enticing and value-adding; and there’s no bigger joy for me than to be of true service to someone like you.
And because if you didn’t, it seems you’ve proven to yourself that its title holds true for you:
You really hold the keys to your freedom!