Why Responsibility is the Key to Work Life Freedom

Why do so many who say they want the freedom of being their own boss remain employed?

According to a recent Intuit survey, 72% of Americans say they would rather work for themselves and 67% say they regularly or constantly think about quitting their jobs.

So why haven’t more actually made the move that they say they want to? In a recent post we looked at the fear of not having enough money. But we know it’s never really the money.

By digging deeper, what would we see lurking beneath the fear that’s stopping all these people from acting on what they say they want? I think it might be two things.

  1. Not having a real appreciation for the value in being your own boss.
  2. Not taking enough responsibility for one’s own happiness and well-being.

The Value of Freedom

If all you’ve ever known is slavery, might there be a comfortable, however twisted, safety in remaining a slave?

Could those of you who have yet to choose their freedom somehow have undervalued it because you simply don’t know how wonderful it feels to be free?

Work life freedom is complete autonomy. It’s the right of self-determination in every aspect of the work that you do. Perhaps it would be easier to value this freedom if those who have chosen to subjugate themselves to the will of an employer could get very clear on exactly what they are choosing to give up.

Within work life freedom are these freedoms:

  1. The freedom of choice, which is the freedom to decide what you will work on and with whom.
  2. The freedom of flexibility, which is enjoying the option of working when you want to and for how long.
  3. The freedom of self-expression, which is the ability to speak up for what you believe in and to freely speak your mind without fear of negative consequences.

The Responsibility of Freedom

How would you answer the question: What’s my greatest responsibility to myself?

How about this? My greatest responsibility for myself is my health, happiness and well-being.

So might it really be a question of responsibility? Has this great a number of unfulfilled employees abdicated their responsibility along with their freedom?

By abdicating responsibility, you get to complain and act as though your happiness is the responsibility of something or someone outside of your own control. When we abdicate our autonomy to an external authority, who is really authoring our lives? Haven’t we then given up our destiny to the random whims of bosses who, they themselves, typically don’t even enjoy their own work?

Renowned psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden stated in his book Taking Responsibility, “The first act of self-responsibility, and the basis for all others, is the act of taking responsibility for being conscious – that is, of bringing an appropriate awareness to our activities.”

I’m saying that the unhappily employed are actually not bringing enough awareness to their choices and activities. If you were, then you would see the futility in subjecting your life to outside authorities.

This blog refers to the same Intuit survey and highlights that 81 percent of Americans think that owning a business is more empowering than a “regular” job.

Might the fear of actually exercising that empowerment really be what’s stopping so many? I think so.
Claiming your work life freedom is primarily an inside job that begins with acting responsibly.

So assuming you are willing to, how can you take more responsibility to claim your own work life freedom?
You can:

  1. Know and act on the basis that you are at choice in the matter.
  2. Consciously direct your attention and focus on what you want.
  3. Consciously cease complaining about what you don’t want.
  4. Imagine what might happen if you took just 10% more responsibility for your work life happiness.
  5. Act on what came up for you when you imagined that greater responsibility.

Who among you in the 72% are willing and ready to do the above?

Those of you who have already claimed your freedom, what would you have these dream seekers do?

What keeps you from making the leap to your work life freedom?

Regular readers of this blog know that I compare employment to slavery. Think that’s too harsh?

Look at this dictionary definition for slavery “…the state of being under the control of another person.” Or look at these synonyms for slavery: drudgery, constraint and subjections, or these antonyms: emancipation, freedom and liberty. If the shoe fits…

LeapI’m not writing this for the few of you who truly love your jobs. And, while I encourage your comments, I’m not writing this for my fellow coaches and bloggers who have already seized their freedom.

I’m writing this for those of you who have yet to make the leap.

(Image by brosha on Flickr, via Creative Commons license)

What’s stops you from going for your work life freedom and fulfillment? Do you know?
What story do you tell yourself about this?

I’ve recently had the privilege of reading the responses of 110 work life freedom surveys.
One survey question asked this.

What is the number one thing stopping you from creating more freedom in your work life?
Here are the top five responses:

5). Procrastination
4). Lack of self-confidence
3). Not being clear on the livelihood I want
2). Fear of failure
1). Money

The number one thing stopping these wonderful, sincere people from going for their work life freedom is a perceived lack of money or concern regarding obligations that require money.

I understand and I can feel your fear. Money is so highly valued in our society that the lack of it can lead to intense self-judgment. Yet I can’t let you continue to hide behind the excuse of not having enough money. We use the lack of money as a reason to keep us from doing and not doing all kinds of things. But that’s not it – and I can prove it to you. Quit reading now and get a piece of paper and a pencil.

In the next five minutes, as quickly as you can, write down all the things you can’t do because you can’t afford it. Just complete this sentence as fast as you can.

I can’t afford to….

(Don’t read on until you’ve taken at least 30 seconds to try this exercise.)

Okay, now go back over your list and read it out loud, but replace “I can’t afford to” with “I don’t want to.”

Can you now see how you have given so much power to money? That’s right, it’s not the money. What if you could accept this as the absolute truth for everything on your list? How would that change what you think you can and cannot do? When we examine how much we really want something, we invite all kinds of fresh insights. It truly does come down to the degree of our desire.

Perhaps you’ll find that you really don’t want your work life freedom that badly. Perhaps you want to continue being safely miserable in your job. If that’s the case, then at least come to acceptance with your choice. Truth be told, some would have to admit that they enjoy the twisted payoff that comes from being a complaining victim.

What about those of you who truly do want your work life freedom?

Are you willing to go deep within your self-exploration to do the work to find it? Are you willing to commit to the active pursuit of your work life freedom?

What remains when you remove money as the reason why you haven’t made the leap?

Is there really anything stopping you now? I’ve dedicated my life to this work. This is the coaching that I do. There is a way that works and I want to guide you there. How can I help you? What would you have me write about?

For my fellow bloggers, coaches and self-employed professionals, what can you share about that time just before you made the leap? How can you encourage these folks to go for it?


Screw Going Back to School

How many times have you heard this from confused folks who have yet to find their true calling?

“I’m thinking about going back to school.”

Screw that! Why? Because the odds are excellent that more education and/or additional credentialing isn’t necessary to get to the level of success, freedom and work fulfillment that you desire.

I’m not anti-education. In many cases I’m for it. I certainly don’t want anybody that hasn’t been to medical school removing my appendix. I’m especially pro education for younger folks and for those who clearly know exactly what they want to do. College is a great place to grow up. I almost did there. But I didn’t find out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Did you? Perhaps that’s because at that tender age we’re still in the process of growing up.

But that’s not who’s going back to school. More often than not it’s the confused and uncertain folks who are returning to the classroom. If they told themselves the truth, they may have to admit this: “I’m going back to school because it’s a socially acceptable way for me to avoid making this big decision for another 2-4 years.”

They are prime suckers to fall into this trap – perpetuated by the world’s biggest lie: someone else knows better than you do, what’s really good for you.

Of course it’s safer to believe in this illusion because it’s a convenient way of escaping personal responsibility. If things don’t work out, you can always blame the school, or the government or heck, blame the economy.

We frequently fall into this trap because we are experts at belittling ourselves. We doubt ourselves, undervalue our talents and judge our performance so harshly that it seems like we’d be nuts to trust ourselves. Somebody else must know better. Bull! They really don’t.

This return to school could be nothing more than a hidden urge within you that’s looking for approval. You’ll never get the approval you need from others, so stop looking for it. Every one of us is the product of a collection of beliefs and assumptions that were laid on us by family and society. It’s time to examine those beliefs and to toss out those that no longer serve us well.

Instead of wondering, “Should I go back to school?” why not ask, “What exactly do I think this education or further credentialing will bring me?” Then, “What will that bring me?” Keep asking and drilling a few rounds deeper and you’ll eventually get to what you really want. Then you can ask this beautiful question:

Is there a more direct way to get what I want?

Often, self-employment (with the talent and resources you have right now) is an easier, more direct way. But, self-employment is so bold, you say. Yeah, it is. So what?

Has being cautious paid off big for you so far? Going back to school does not put you in play in a big way. It’s benching you. It’s like putting yourself on the sidelines of life and delaying your real contribution. Then at the end of 3 or 4 more years and thousands of dollars, “they” may still tell you that you can’t get what you want. Going back to school is not a sure thing.

Neither is self-employment. But I can fail a lot faster and a lot less expensively by walking my own path and adjusting in the moment to what I’ve learned. So can you. Going into business, leading with your own strengths and expressing yourself authentically is a much better bet at success than following the herd.

Delay is much more expensive then failure.

Any delay. It doesn’t matter whether it’s hiding in school or hiding in shitty employment. If you’re putting off the active pursuit of your true calling and work life freedom, then you’re not fully in the game. And it’s costing you big time.

Is it Your Time for Work Life Freedom?

Okay, it’s time to put up or shut up about this business of making your dreams come true. I’m directly speaking to those of you who have believed your own excuses for far too long, or who are biding your time, waiting for your ship to come in. (Update: There are no ships headed for your port, right now. And none are scheduled.)

Today, in this powerful present moment, you’re either in active pursuit of your work life freedom or you’re not.

We work 40+ hours in this society and that’s far too much to be at the whim of someone else’s wishes and desires. It’s time for you to declare total self-determination as one of your dearest values.

Work life freedom is simply this. A declaration that you have engaged your natural ability to work on exactly what you want, when you want to, and with whom you want.

Let’s cut through the bull. When you look deep within, you know that you’re destined for something far more enjoyable than you’ve settled for. Embrace this truth. Savor its promise and then you’ll be ready for authentic action. You might ask this. If this is all true, why is it so challenging to find work that I love that also makes me financially prosperous?

I’ll tell you the secret.

You never get started. You never get started because you allow your own fears to keep you from getting started and from consistently following through.

It’s the active pursuit of work life freedom that puts you in position to see your next step.

When you follow your bliss….doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else. Joseph Campbell

The first step to the active pursuit of work life freedom is to admit that you want this freedom. The second step is to declare that now you are actively engaged in the pursuit of this freedom. What’s next? Take these two first. I dare you. Then write – by commenting on this post – and tell me how wonderful (or fearful, or whatever) you feel. Stay tuned. I’ll help you take step three, but it can’t even be seen, let alone reached, until you take the first two. Dare you?