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Choose to be free

Have you ever felt dissatisfied with your life? Who hasn’t, right? Well what if someone told you that you didn’t have to be. What would your response be?

You could probably write a long list of all the reasons that you can’t be satisfied. “I hate my job, but I can’t quit cause I need the money” “ I wish I could get in shape, but I can’t because I don’t have the time” “ I want to travel but I can’t because…and so on and so forth. The list goes on and on. We have a thousand excuses why we can’t do what we want to do. In other words we are imprisoned by our boundaries. Well here is a radical idea…you don’t have to be!

What are our boundaries?
When we were young, boundaries were things that our parents set up to keep us safe. “Stay here, don’t leave the yard, be home before dark, etc” At an early age, we became aware of the role of boundaries, they kept us safe and they were necessary. As we became adults we appreciated those boundaries and based on our experiences we began to set more to keep ourselves safe. Again there are some that are necessary. For instance, one shouldn’t drink and drive, but not all boundaries keep us safe; some keep us bound. Perceived boundaries come from unwritten rules that we create for ourselves as a result of past experiences. For example, the first time you express affection to someone publicly and they rebuff your affections…that’s when you establish an unwritten rule that says thou shalt not be allow thyself to be overly affectionate, or say you decide to start a business venture and it fails, then the rule is thou must remember that thou are not bill gates, thus thou should stick to what thou knows, or the first time you sing in public and are unlucky enough to had a Simon Cowell type in the audience, it then becomes thou shall not express thyself lest thou embarrass thyself. A thousand examples could be cited to illustrate the fact that when we find ourselves humiliated, hurt, or disappointed, we often make boundaries that exclude those experiences even though we recognize that those experiences will not threaten our lives.

Sometimes we don’t create the boundaries, others create them for us. Nkiru* likes to call such people negas. “People who just bring negative energy into every situation” she tells of how when she was applying to schools she lived with an aunt who discouraged from applying to top tier universities they’d never accept her {in spite of her good grades and recommendations}. “I believed the hype for a while and even started thinking of just going to a community college, but thankfully, I realized that if I didn’t try, I would never know and can you imagine, I got a free ride to a top ranked school!” Mary*, who recently emigrated from Liberia, found herself in a similar predicament, when she came to the US, she had dreams of becoming a doctor, but everyone around her pressured her to focus on something more sensible. Today she is a 2nd year nursing student and in spite of her determination to finish the program; she looks at the future with a heavy heart, always wondering what could have been. In her family’s push for security, they have seemingly doomed her to a life of mediocrity.

Fear
The last reason we keep ourselves bound is fear. Fear is probably the biggest reason a lot of us don’t step out of our boundaries. What are we afraid of? Some of us are afraid of failure. What if I fail is the recurrent phrase that plays in our head whenever a new opportunity presents itself. Fear can be a crippling emotion. It works by not allowing the person feeling it to see past the risk involved to see the possible rewards. Every challenge is made larger by fear. If you decided to start a restaurant for instance, fear wouldn’t allow you to see past the possibility of losing money to the possibility of having a very successful eatery. The way to silence that voice of fear is to say, so what! Failure is not an end to life; in fact in many cases it is a beginning to success.
What kind of life can we lead if we step outside our boundaries?
Think about how life would be if you could everything you wanted to do but couldn’t because of one thing or another. Some of us dream of becoming writers, some filmmakers, some dream of being chefs, others dream of being doctors, lawyers or nurses, anything at all, the world is wide open with possibilities.
Imagine if you could greet each new day knowing that you were going to take full advantage of your possibilities.
You might be saying, well that sounds all well and good but how can I be free?

Here are 6 basic steps to being free

1. Choose to be free: In the past freedom has not always been available to all of us but today we have no reasons not to be free. Choosing to be free means taking a real look at your life, identifying areas in which you have been previously been bound and making a decision to change your life and push past your boundaries.

2. Reach out to opportunity: The old adage goes opportunity knocks but once. That is only half true. Opportunity doesn’t always knock. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities. Many of the most successful people today didn’t wait for an opportunity to fall in their lap.

3. Be confident in spite of uncertainty: Whenever you attempt to do something outside your scope of expertise, you will have moments of uncertainty. In order to be successful you must be confident that regardless of the outcome of one project you will ultimately succeed as long as you continue to pursue your passion.

4. Expand your circle of influence: Once you’ve decided to step out of your boundary and pursue your passion. Get out there and network. Talk to people who are out there doing things. Get inspired, get information and get help! People are more willing to help you than you think.

5. Don’t be afraid of the word, risk: Risk is just a necessary rung on the ladder that leads to success. If you don’t take risks then you are never going to achieve your fullest potential. It’s like you are on the shore of a river and your best life is on the other side, but the canoe available seems shaky at best. What do you do, make your life on the banks on the river or do you take the plunge and get in the canoe. Remember, even if you fall out of the canoe, you can always get back in the canoe, or if you are a strong swimmer, swim to shore!

6. Just do it! Stop making excuses, just do it! Get out of bed, get your pen and paper, write down what your dreams are, and figure out what it would take to achieve them, make a to do list, and get to it. You don’t have to wait till you get that degree, or win the lottery or get married, your kids grow up; you can start moving towards your goals today!

Never give up
An American war hero is quoted as saying “give me liberty, or give me death”. We should have that attitude of continually trying to get to that place of freedom. Historically the path to freedom has been a difficult one. One often rife with bloodshed and struggle. People around you may react negatively, some will call you crazy, you may feel crazy, but persist. Know that the concept of overnight success is often a myth. Look at every closed door as a challenge and be prepared to try and try again. Bear in mind that even the most successful among us, stumble a couple of times before finally breaking through to success.
The choice to be free is often a difficult one for many of us to make. It requires living by faith and often making radical changes. Rhian Benson, an R&B singer, made a radical change in her life by deciding to leave the practical world of finance for the improbable world of music. Did people call her crazy? Most probably, but barely a couple of years on the scene and she can already be heard on the radio and seen on BET.

Sometimes it requires breaking the rules
The most notable example is probably one of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates, who dropped out of school to start a business. Now he is the Microsoft guy and his personal worth is valued at billions.
It can require you to let go of everything you once defined as the trappings of success. Monica Haislip of little black pearl workshops in Chicago left a lucrative and glamorous position in marketing and decided to pursue her passion for helping the community and producing art. When she bought the building for her workshop on the south side, many called her crazy, when she ran out of money and had to borrow from everyone she knew, some people probably called her hopeless, but now where is she? Still standing, little black pearl workshops serves the community, inspires young African Americans to produce works of art and understand the business of it and it has an operating budget that is anywhere from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
The choice to be free is going to be difficult, it’s going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to require breaking every binding rule you’ve ever made, you may lose “everything”, but will it be worth it? Absolutely!
At the end of the day, it is a choice, and you can choose to live vibrantly, passionately, freely, or you can choose not to. It’s like Morpheus says in the Matrix…Do you want the red pill or the blue pill?

About Ekene Onu

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