Today we celebrate the fourth of July, the anniversary of the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress. July 4th represents independence and freedom. As we celebrate with a day off work, barbecues, picnics, and fireworks, I ask you to consider are we really free and independent?
The dictionary defines “independent” as follows:
1. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.
2. not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free: an independent businessman.
3. not influenced by the thought or action of others: independent research.
4. not dependent; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc.
5. not relying on another or others for aid or support.
As I consider this definition, I realize we are not truly independent.
We are regulated by our government. We’re influenced by the news media, other people, and television. My book, Breaking the Spell, provides ample examples of all the factors influencing us in our daily lives.
And while we always have freedom of choice, are we really exercising it on a daily basis?
I would argue that most people tend to follow more than lead. We’ve been taught to model others–that’s the fastest path to success—instead of being truly independent, finding our own voice, sharing it, and following our own path.
If you’re a business owner, you’re business is influenced by the economy, the marketplace, and the whims and bank accounts of your clients and prospects. You rely on technology, banks, credit card processors, and website hosting companies to keep your business running smoothly. You may work for yourself but you need other people and services to make your business work.
No, the reality is we are not independent in the most literal sense of the word.
But I’m not sure we would want to be independent in that way.
We need each other to live happy, fulfilling lives.
We need technology to communicate and operate our businesses and to get along in the 21st century.
We rely on others… because most things are easier, or we can do better, with help.
The independence we CAN have.
I believe the independence we can have, and should strive for, is more mental than physical. To think freely and independently and live our lives as we choose. And, to exercise our freedom of choice…
- To choose NOT to follow the masses but instead follow our own path.
- To choose to be happy today instead of buying into all the marketing messages telling us we need more stuff or more money to be happy.
- To choose to be grateful for all that we do have, instead of focusing on what we don’t.
- To choose to stop comparing ourselves to others and celebrate our lives, exactly as they are.
Yes, freedom and independence are an inside game.
When we embrace our internal independent self we can mentally free ourselves from the things in this world that make us feel not good enough, or keep us striving for more in order to be happy.
Yes, the Declaration of Independence promised us “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But I disagree that happiness is a pursuit. Rather, we all have the choice to be happy right now, exactly where we are. And I believe when you make that choice, you are truly free.