I spent the last few days up in Taos in the mountains on vacation, desperately trying to keep up with my energetic husband on the high mountain trails.  As I was huffing and puffing up the slopes of Wheeler Peak at 13,200 feet, one has some time to think deep thoughts, the alternative is to be consumed with fear about sliding off the mountain.  And as the 4th of July holiday passed, it inspired me to think about freedom, and what is means to be truly free.

There are things like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the types of rights contained within our constitution.  And then there are the more subtle elements that lie within the recesses of our minds.  Because when you really start to think about what it means to be free, quite often, the inhibitor of our freedom lies within.

Fixation on the Future

To what extent do I really have control over my thoughts?  Or am I a slave to anxiety, negativity, burnout?  Often each day we’re locked in unconscious patterns of thought.  Our focus and attention are hijacked.  We forget our innate self-worth and often fixate on accomplishments and accolades as proof that we are worth something.  Am I good enough?  Am I smart enough?  Have I accomplished enough?  Will I ever have enough time to get everything done?

We worry unnecessarily rather than focus on the moment we are in.  We float through our day, half present, consumed by the thoughts in our head, not really connecting with others, not really enjoying the moment, or appreciating where we are at, because we’re so consumed by where we need to be.  Once we get to where we think we need to be, we’re consumed by a new need, a new want.  A new client, a new project, a new job, a new career.  Because unfortunately when we’re fixated on the future, there’s no end in sight.  Our needs and wants are unlimited.

No wonder we’re so exhausted.

Fixation on the Past

Or maybe we’re ruminating on the past.  Which can often be a recipe for depression.  I should have done that differently.  I shouldn’t have had that conversation that way.  I messed up.  I made a bad decision.  If I knew then what I knew now…

But the point is you didn’t.  What are you holding onto from the past?  How is holding onto this limiting your capacity to feel fully free?  One of the principles of my coaching philosophy is “It’s impossible to make a mistake.”  This is often difficult for many folks to grasp.  We think about people we’ve wronged, bad decisions we’ve made, tests we’ve screwed up on.  The list is long.  But when you really get down to brass tacks and you think about those moments, you didn’t set out to “make” a mistake.  Typically, you did the best you could in that moment with the level of consciousness you had.

Or maybe instead of shame it’s anger and resentment in relation to others or something that happened to you.  You were wronged.  How dare they!  The less qualified person got the promotion again.  Your boss is a jerk and never seems to learn.  It’s another reorg where you work and just like all the others, nothing good will come of it.

We hold onto these things, and we drag them behind us, our little red wagon is filled with angers and resentments that shouldn’t have happened.  They cloud the way we look at things, situations, people.  We find ourselves becoming increasingly reactive and judgmental, we walk through life pissed off and bitter, not conscious of how we appear to others, we inadvertently push away opportunities because we’re so fixated in our own point of view.

No wonder we’re so exhausted.

Fixation on Material Things

Are your credit cards maxed out?  Is your mortgage more than you can bear?  Where in your life are you posturing or holding onto appearances?  How is that getting in the way of your capacity to feel fully free?

Maybe you were just ticking the boxes and racking up all the things you thought you were supposed to have.  And now the things that you own own you.  The pool that you put in during covid that was supposed to bring endless summer fun is now a money pit.  The second house.

Think about the material processions you have.  To what extent are they filling your cup or draining your energy?

This holiday period, take some time to reflect on your true freedom and the questions I pose above.  Where does your freedom really lie?  And what might need to change?

Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!