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?


  1. Will Kriski says:

    Great post! It’s all about being proactive rather than reactive and taking control of your career.

  2. I’m not ready, but I’m trying my hardest to be ready. There is a fear of paying the bills with no net to support me. It will take time and making some money on the side before I make the leap. It might be a mistake, but I like to mitigate my risk. I’ve read somewhere that 9 out of every 10 businesses fail in the first five years. I don’t want to be in those statistics, so I build my skills and keep on plugging away on my blog.

  3. My greatest responsibility to myself is to be honest with myself and follow the direction my soul tells me to. In other words, to be aware of my life purpose and live toward it. It is not an easy way of living, but enormously rewarding.

    I read that USA Today article too. Isn’t it interesting to see the gap between what people say they want and what they actually do?

  4. @Karl at least you know that you want to make the leap and that someday soon you will. Jumping without the net is not for everyone. I applaud your honesty and willingness to keep you eye on the ball.

    @Will thanks for the mention in your blog. Yes proactive and conscious is a mighty fine combination.

    @Akemi congratulations on following your purpose. You’re right it’s often not easy but once evolved we really can’t go back to living with our head in the sand. Yes those survey results blow my mind. So many complain about their work and then act as though they can’t make their move. They can of course. They just need to see a way to stick their toe in the water.

  5. Suzanne Bird-Harris says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you suggested it might be a question of responsibility. THAT is the illusion of security in a job – the buck stops somewhere other than with you. Someone else’s head will roll if the company’s goals are not realized – meanwhile you’ll still get paid on Friday. Unless it happens often enough that you have to look for another job, of course.

    As for the disparity in the numbers, I still think it’s about responsibility. Most folks would love work freedom, but don’t want to take responsibility for creating it. They think they can’t, so they don’t.

    Interestingly – having been one of those “think they can’t” people, myself, it’s quite an adventure to realize I can…and have…and will continue. The “think I can’t” part of me is still here, but today I thank her for her input and go on, because as we know – what we resist persists.

  6. Shilpan | successsoul.com says:

    This is thought provoking post. I have worked as an Engineer before and now I am a hotelier for last ten years. I can see two mindsets, one that has false highs over the sense of security and other is determined to take freedom and responsibility to create real opportunities for themselves. I would never wanted to be a paycheck earner again in my life even if I have to sustain so many difficulties as I can see the fruits of the freedom clearly lies in the power of self sufficiency.


  7. Being a year away from an early retirement from “slavery,” I feel both elated at times (most of the time) but also have moments of worry that I won’t be able to bring in the kind of money I am now.

    This year I am learning all I can about internet marketing, blogging, social networking, and affiliate marketing. Whether I am successful doing any of these things remains to be seen, but no matter what I know that I’ll be ok. I just know it. I have to follow my bliss, my heart, whatever you want to call it. Life is now.

  8. Tom,

    I have to wonder how many of the people who say they want to be their own boss really on some level think that means they don’t have to work anymore, or don’t want to work at all.

    You still have to work – in some cases, you have to work more. I’m my most demanding boss ever; I also ultimately answer to my own clients in a way I never had to answer to a boss or company.

    It’s also easier to “lose” a job in which you have less comparable spiritual and emotional investment. You can’t afford to fail, on a greater level, at something that is near and dear to your heart and soul. I written about my theory that procrastination can work unconsciously as a form of dream preservation. (link to that article on my name above)

    There are more unknown factors in working for yourself, so I think for many people the hesitancy may come from an instinctive response to “better the devil you know…”

  9. Great post which has come at a time of hard-thinking for me.

    I’m working in a job which I quite like (bit boring, but by no means unpleasant, and pays well). I took it as a “pays the rent” type job when I graduated from university about a year and a half ago, without intending to stay for more than a couple of years.

    But, my line manager and boss are both keen for me to stay with the (very small) company and progress towards management. Part of me wants to — but I know it’s the “easy” option. What I REALLY want to do is write (non-fiction and fiction) and design websites for a living. I’ve made a start (my blog, http://www.theofficediet.com, paid writer for http://www.diet-blog.com and http://www.dailywritingtips.com and doing a couple of free websites for church groups) — but it’s HARD fitting it in round the full time day job.

    I know I could just take the plunge and quit, but if I fail miserably and have to slope back home to live with my parents, that would ruin my boyfriend’s university chances (he’s currently an undergraduate), as we’re sharing a flat. Also, I’ve got a place on a part-time creative writing MA from this September. So my current thinking is that I should stay in the job full time till September, then try to cut down to 3 days/week (which I could afford, but I’d no longer be putting any money into savings.)

    Sorry, that ended up FAR longer than I intended. Kudos to anyone who read the whole thing. Any advice welcomed…

  10. Suzanne, congratulations on your status as a former “I can’t” person. I love the way you now just thank her for her input and move on. Most of us have voices that occasionally pop up that we no longer choose to listen to. I like giving my fearful Tommy a firm “step back dude, I don’t need you now.” I really wonder how many folks stop because they think they can’t? That excuse is really getting old these days with so many fine examples of folks like you who obviously are living their freedom.

    Shilpan, welcome, I agree with your observation regarding the false hope and false security. These are also lies that folks tell themselves so they won’t have to make their move. I feel the same way about my freedom – once there we just can’t imagine going back.

    Cheryl yes the elation and the concerns are both present but that’s what makes it worth the ride. If the fear wasn’t there we might not buckle down and focus as much as we need to. I like what you say about knowing it. There is a big difference between what we believe and what we know. Knowing is stronger hold onto that and take action from its strength!

    Slade I appreciate the depth in your comment. It is funny how so many think that self-employment is less work. I guess they assume that from looking out at the freedom from their cage of employment.
    I agree I have sometimes worked more being self-employed but the freedom to call ones own shots gives a different feel to the “work.”

    Readers, check out Slade’s blog post on procrastinating and dreams. I did and it was excellent. I love what he said about procrastination being a way for us to preserve our dreams.

    Ali yep it can be hard fitting it all in, especially while working a full time job. Yet I believe that there is an optimum transition path for you and everyone. Of course you’ll put some things at risk. But there is always a way. Stay open to that possibility and begin to look at various scenarios that could work. Just the right way for you exists, keep looking until you find it and then make your move.

  11. Tom, this was really interesting – I hadn’t known that the percentages were so high. I would hazard a guess that similar results would be found in other countries too! I certainly know quite a few people who fit into this group :). Ironically, they’ve often unintentionally inspired me to keep on my path of work-life freedom by reminding me of how disempowering it is when one’s words and actions are not aligned.

  12. Mags absolutely the complainers and the lost victims can inspire us by the example of who we absolutely don’t want to be. On the other hand look at how many folks you are positively inspiring to go for it by your wonderful example.


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