History is filled with many examples of individuals fighting for freedom. This battle is as old as time.
But why do we care so much about being free?
Freedom is the right to choose or act according to one’s own desires – as long as those acts do not hurt or take the freedom of another.
When we think of freedom it is usually in the political sense. What we seldom consider is that there are choices we individually make which can also take away our personal freedoms.
This desire for freedom is something that is built into each of us, and it comes from or desire to learn and progress.
Why We Need Restrictions and Rules
Despite the growth that comes from making our own decisions, we also need restrictions.
If a young child was left uninhibited to make whatever decisions they wanted, the result would be chaos – and unfortunately, we see this all too often.
The choices they are allowed to make must start small and grow as their maturity increases. During this process of growth, failure is an important factor.
It is the pain that comes from wrong choices that helps us to make better choices in the future. If a parent tries to prevent these failures, a child will not understand the impacts of their decisions.
This will ultimately result in delayed pain for these children in the years ahead.
And the world is much harsher when teaching these lessons than a loving parent is – so they are better off learning it at home, and from a young age.
It is the rules that parents, society – and ultimately God – gives that help us develop the necessary framework for life.
What Happens When We Violate These Rules
At its most extreme level, if we break the law we may end up in prison. At its more simplistic level, breaking rules can derail our progress.
Years ago, I was working for a young entrepreneur. He had started a business when he was 15 years-old.
He had grown his company for many years and was very successful. For many in his industry he was the gold standard of performance.
When I worked for him, he seemingly had everything you could ever hope for. He had a nice home, expensive cars, businesses, and a family.
He had recently sold one of his businesses for 15 million dollars – he had very strong financial momentum.
Below the surface however, things were not so rosy. His marriage was in turmoil and his relationship with his kids was increasingly strained.
After I worked with him, I kept in touch with others who knew him well.
What I didn’t know is that during the time I was working for him he had started using pain killers. This is what was causing much of the contention inside his home.
Last I heard, this individual had lost his family, home, cars, and business. He was now bankrupt and close to living on the streets.
What a devastating fall from business success to complete rock-bottom.
What started as an innocent experiment with pain-killers, turned into an addiction that rendered him a slave – his freedom was gone.
He no longer had the ability to choose for himself because of the choices he had made.
I am not sure what it was that caused him to start using pain killers – nor is it my place to judge – but what I do know is that the choices we make will either give us more freedom or less.
In this example he went from freedom to slavery. He no longer has financial freedom, freedom of time, or freedom to see his kids. I can’t think of anything more enslaving than this.
How Freedom Applies to Money
The correlation to freedom and money is one that is often overlooked in our society.
We often think about the abundance of money and the freedom it would provide – which is definitely true.
How about the lack of money and the absence of freedom?
So, what brings about the slavery associated with money? The two main culprits: overspending and debt.
When we take on debt, we are committing to pay someone a certain sum of money in the future – regardless of if we know where that money is going to come from.
We have essentially given up our freedom to spend that money in a way we choose as it is now owed to another individual.
We give up our freedom with car loans, expensive mortgages, credit cards, student loans, recreational vehicles – and the list goes on.
Because of our need for consumption we are willing to give up a piece of our freedom.
What I find most troubling about this is the impact it truly has on our overall well-being.
We buy these things because we are acting like we have financial freedom before we actually do.
What we don’t realize is that doing it before our finances are in order will actually bring the opposite of freedom – which is the chains of debt.
But the questions we must ask ourselves: are these purchases really making life more enjoyable?
It is well documented that debt has a negative impact on families. It is estimated that approximately 50% of marriages end because of money struggles.
We also know that money issues can be detrimental to our health – both physically and mentally.
Debt also stops our progress, as it backs us into a corner and makes it hard to improve our situation.
There are many people I have spoken to that want to switch jobs but are unable to do so because of the financial uncertainty it would cause.
They are in such deep debt that having even a slight reduction in income would be harmful.
So, what do they do? They put their heads down and keep doing the same job. Over time this decision zaps more of their freedom as it takes its emotion toll.
They start to become complacent in what they are doing and slowly forget the ambitions they once had.
This is especially true for entrepreneurialism. For those who have motivations for owning their own business, it is next to impossible to do it – at least intelligently – if your personal finances are not in order.
When you start a business there are likely going to be months when your income is lean – especially in the beginning stages.
Knowing they have so much debt, many individuals realize this is not a possibility.
The freedom of owning their own business takes the back seat to a job because of their debt or lack of savings.
Another aspect of freedom is time. Time is our most valuable asset.
When we give our time to an employer from 9-5, we give up our freedom during those hours.
Because freedom of time is so important for many individuals, the amount of time off during the year is a key decision point when looking at a new job offer.
It is not uncommon for employees to accept a job that pays less but has more time off. We like our time off – it makes us feel free.
What we often don’t realize is that our need to work stems from the debt obligations we impose upon ourselves.
This is especially true for cars. We get in our car each morning – that we have financed – to drive to work because we have to pay for the car that we financed to help us get to work.
What we should be doing is buying a less expensive car that would allow us to work less.
When we eliminate our debt we are freeing up our time, emotion, energy, etc. This helps us focus on the things that really matter.
When we escape from the chains of debt, we are putting ourselves in a position to take advantage of opportunities that come our way.
We have more freedom.
This Leaves Us With a Decision
Are we willing to forego some of the things we think we want for the things we really want?
Having a true understanding of what our goals are helps us evaluate if the ways we are spending our money is helping or hurting our progress.
What do we really want?
For me, freedom of time is most important. I want to be able to take time off during the year to spend with my family. I don’t want to miss the important events in my kids’ lives.
I also really value peace of mind. The absence of debt has been a real benefit to my life.
This has not always been the case for me. I remember right before I got married, I was extremely worried about money.
I had just started a job that was 100% commission – which was stressful. I was also a student at the University of Utah, and had put a few months of tuition on a credit card – dumb idea to say the least.
I remember waking up during the middle of the night thinking and stressing about my job and if I was going to earn the commissions I was working so hard on.
As time went by, I became more established in my career and paid off all of my debt – excluding my home.
As my finances improved so did my peace of mind. It wasn’t easy, but the benefits of not having this debt cannot be overstated.
Had I not made a change, these money stresses would have definitely continued.
Being a commission employee comes with its slow times – but also the upside of limitless income.
Had my finances not been in order I probably would have had to leave this commissioned job and settle for a 9-5 – as the slow times would have caused a financial pinch.
That would have impacted my freedom of time as I had a schedule I could set myself as a commissioned employee.
It would have also impacted my financial freedom because my income would have likely been much lower at a salaried job.
Both of these freedoms are very important to me. I was happy to forego certain things – like an expensive car, or too big of a house – to maintain these freedoms.
As a result, I have also seen progress to my overall net worth – seeing that progress is rewarding.
Evaluating What is Restricting Our Freedom
There are many aspects of life that keep us from our goals – and many of them are not avoidable.
We want to focus on the things that are under our control. It is often the choices we knowingly make that cause us to lose our momentum.
The key is learning what areas we need to improve upon that will give us freedom and the ability to pursue our goals.
Whether it is something major like the addiction that ruined my former employer, or the way we handle our money.
Whatever the cause, anything that takes away our freedom to choose will limit our ability to progress.
Even how we handle our families can have a large impact on our growth. If our homelife is a wreck it will be hard to excel in areas outside of the home.
The more we can do to simplify, structure and balance our lives; the more freedom we will have to pursue our goals.
We have to look inward to see what choices we have made – or are making – that are limiting our freedom and ability to choose our path forward.
If we are broke – because of poor financial decisions – there is little chance we will start making progress until we have corrected those underlying issues.
As your debt is paid down, with savings in place; you will feel less stress and have more freedom to pursue or create opportunities for yourself.
As those chains are released you will feel a renewed optimism and hope for your future.
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