Many of us think of freedom as something each of us has, inherently, within ourselves. That it takes an external force to trap us, to prevent us from being free.
But the thing is: we trap ourselves, all the time, just by thinking of ourselves in ways that hold us back. It’s pretty impressive how well we can create our own limits. Having one past experience can shape our beliefs about the future. And it can be hard to shake those beliefs.
“I don’t think I’ll like it”
”I’m no good at that”
“I can’t fit in with that group”
”I’m not that kind of person”
Consider this metaphor, from a book I read recently:
It might sound extreme to use prison as a metaphor for beliefs, for self-talk, for self-imposed labels. But for many of us, the limits to a lot of our person freedom are self-imposed. And it can be shocking to discover our personal prisons.
When you’re faced with a new and unfamiliar situation, it can be easy to predict your future experience—even if you’ve never done anything like it before. But what if, instead, you just stepped into the new situation with your eyes open, ready for a surprise, for a different outcome than your past outcomes?
The good news is, of course, that once we start to see the ways we've limited ourselves, we can look around and find the door, the window, and the key. And once we’ve found the key, we can leave whenever we're willing.
The greatest challenge, of course, is being willing to do things a new way, to allow for a different future, to become new and better versions of ourselves.
I think it’s worth it.