We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
–Thomas Jefferson author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence
On July 4th in the U.S. we celebrate our country’s independence. While I personally believe we have lost much of that spirit of independence with the explosive growth of government encroachment in our lives, we retain at least in theory a basic level of political freedom.
On the other hand, I believe the vast majority of us have voluntarily, if unknowingly, enslaved ourselves in other ways that are just as harmful to the stated values of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”.
In no particular order what follows is some of the ways in which we enslave ourselves.
Independence From Stuff
I think Peter Walsh the clutter expert says it very well:
“We buy all that stuff because we think it will make us happy. We thank that if we collect all the right things – the right home, the right clothes, the right electronics, the right cars, the right appliances – we will eventually accumulate the life we imagine for ourselves. In buying what we want, we hope to acquire the life we desire. … Stuff can be a real bitch! It’s very demanding. It fills space. It costs money. it doesn’t respond to your changing needs. It promises everything, delivers nothing, and eventually just stresses you out. Chasing the life you want by accumulating more stuff is a dead-end street.”
— Peter Walsh
I turned 50 this year and I realize in those 50 years that no thing I have ever bought has brought me anything but temporary happiness and very temporary at that. It’s a lesson that is hard to communicate well to others; they seem to have to learn it themselves – the hard way. Forget stuff or you will never be pursuing genuine happiness. I don’t care much about any of it anymore. Eliminating your dependence on stuff is also the best way to prevent your enslavement to money and debt. They are all basically caused by the same thing – our desire for stuff.
Independence From Others
This is a tough one because often we accept enslavement to others as just part of what we believe are necessary compromises in life. I don’t buy it. Whether it is family, friends, or a life partner, enslaving your life even in small ways to the wishes of others is a losing proposition. The accumulation of a lot of “small” compromises can add up to a big loss of independence. People complain about not having time to do things they want to do in life. Most of the time it is because they gave away their precious life minutes in “small” chunks. In my article about manipulative relationships. I said this:
“Time does not run backwards. You do not get a do-over. Please do not waste another minute with toxic or manipulative people. When you are lying on your deathbed, it is highly unlikely you will say “Boy I’m so glad I wasted my precious life putting up with all the drama and crap in my relationships.”
If you can’t have relationships with others that respect the fact that you are independent souls, then I don’t think it is a relationship worth having at all.
Independence From Commitments
“If there is one change you could make today that would have the biggest impact on your life in terms of productivity, effectiveness, and being able to do the things you most want to do, it would be to reduce the commitments in your life.”
Your job commitments, your church commitments, your civic commitments, your coaching commitments, your chauffeuring commitments, your children’s activity commitments, your hobby commitments, your shopping commitments, your household commitments, your PTA commitments, your neighborhood commitments, your friend commitments, your family commitments, your online commitments, and on and on the list goes.
With those commitments you have enslaved yourself and are no longer truly independent. Refusing to commit does not in any way entail a refusal to help or volunteer or doing whatever else you feel like doing. It means simply that you don’t commit to it ahead of time. Commitments are enslaving. Helping is liberating. Big difference if you can get your head around it.
Independence From Wage Slavery
I’m taking license here with the term “slavery” because obviously we do it voluntarily in a technical sense. However, the current common practice of going to a “job” and putting in a set amount of hours for a set wage is a legacy from a past that no longer exists. The factory jobs from which that model arose are no longer the kind of work most of us do. We need to abandon the outdated model.
Becoming independent of “stuff” and debt is one of the best ways to avoid wage slavery. Whatever your situation and especially if you are young I encourage you to find way to get paid for what you produce and not for the time or place in which you do it. I spent my life in wage slavery and if I had it to do all over again I would do whatever it takes to avoid it.
Independence From Expectations
“It is our mistaken belief that we must push life in the direction we choose that keeps us in a strained and unhappy relationship with it. Reality has its own effortless course, and we can either embrace its way or struggle endlessly with our own.”
— Guy Finley
You pooh pooh this point at your own peril. It’s easy to do because it is not something very many of us are taught to understand. However, I believe it is a major cause of our own psychological enslavement. We enslave ourselves to our own expectations of how things should be rather than accepting them as they are. The vast majority of your stress and frustration are caused because the the way things don’t match your expectation of how they should be.
I expected Justice in the death of Caylee Anthony and today what I saw happen was a frustration of that expectation and a miscarriage of justice. It doesn’t matter what I expected, I have to accept what is and being upset about it isn’t going to help anyone – most especially myself.
Read more here about Choosing Real Freedom.
Independence From Unhealthy Habits
We become slaves to our bad habits and addictions. We know they are bad for us but we heavily discount the long-term and succumb to the short-term as part of our human nature. Anyone who has broken those bad habits and chosen healthier options knows the sense of freedom that necessarily results. Breaking free is not easy but is is worth the pain and effort. I simply refuse to be enslaved to my own bad habits any longer and have decided to choose long-term well being over short-term satisfaction.
There are many other ways we voluntarily and bit by bit enslave ourselves. While political freedom is indeed very important, it make little difference towards Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness if we give it away in other forms. Take this time in our national celebration of independence and consider in what ways you can take back your personal independence.
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