“Happy and free.” I hear those words often as a coach — usually as a goal, a feeling my clients want to find in their lives but aren’t sure how to pursue.
But what does that really mean?
It’s not as easy a question to answer as it may sound. You can’t take actionable steps toward something if you aren’t clear enough about what that something is. In fact, lack of clarity around what success or happiness actually looks like on a unique, individual level is one of the biggest roadblocks to results I frequently help clients navigate.
Everybody is looking for that elusive happiness, freedom, or fulfillment which comes from within. Some seek it in their careers, others may find it through hobbies, or community service. For others still, the answer may lie in a romantic relationship.
For entrepreneurs and professionals, happiness and freedom may come in the form of professional development or the launch of a successful high-growth company with fast-expanding revenue.
Regardless of the external trappings of your own personal definition of happiness and success, the route to get there will inevitably lie through working on yourself — understanding what makes you feel your happiest and most free, making an actionable plan to pursue your goals, and handling those moments when you aren’t sure of the next step.
Here are some strategies to get you headed in the right direction.
Ask Yourself Better Questions
We are all unique, and if you asked ten different people what it means to feel happy and free, you’d undoubtedly receive ten very different answers.
So, where do you even begin when it comes to understanding this question for yourself?
Simple: Start by asking yourself better questions.
Being honest with ourselves is one of the most challenging aspects of any form of self-work for all of us (even me).
It’s not easy to separate our innate feelings and instincts from the version of ourselves we present to the world. However, we need to understand the raw ingredients we are working with if we are going to successfully create a fully baked external version of ourselves.
Speaking of baking, let’s illustrate the point with an example: Imagine that you enjoy baking cakes. In fact, when you are baking cakes, you feel your happiest and most free.
That’s great! But before you rush off to the bank to get a loan and open a bakery, take a moment to ask yourself some follow-up questions, like: What is your favorite thing about baking? Why do you prefer certain ingredients? Why are you drawn to certain recipes, but not others? Is your love of baking the product of your present circumstances, or something you have always enjoyed?
These are all better questions than “Why do I like baking cakes?”
Understand What Freedom Means to You
Remember, your personal definition of freedom is just that: yours. It should grow from your own unique wants and needs, and not from anyone else’s expectations.
Of course, that’s not to say your own personal freedom can never align with those popular dreams society has reinforced in all of us since birth. The nice house, the dream job, the perfect family; if that’s what you want, go for it…as long as that’s what will truly make you happy.
Sometimes admitting what we want is hard. It can feel vulnerable, especially if it’s a desire we’ve kept locked away. Yet, we feel most free when we are following the path that’s most right for us. And we can better understand that path when we take the time to understand ourselves — our values, our authentic desires, and the things that feed and restore our souls. These are the foundational building blocks of a thoughtful definition of freedom.
Take Control…Again and Again
Once you understand where you’re headed, it’s time to start planning your steps to get there.
First, take a long look in the mirror and try to identify what’s holding you back. Are there emotional roadblocks, insecurities, fears?
It’s easy to blame the world or other people when we aren’t living the life we feel we deserve. Again, try to ask yourself better questions, for example: What am I going to do about it?
Taking control of your journey isn’t something you’ll do one time, like a movie hero donning a suit of armor and marching off to battle. In real life, growth is an ongoing process, and progress is seldom linear.
Instead, you may find yourself having to rededicate yourself to your path every single day, and there may be times when you go backward or lose the path entirely.
That’s perfectly natural, but it’s up to you to keep making the decision to continue pushing forward, even when it’s frustrating. Keep asking yourself the right questions to keep you on your path, and engage with your fear to harness its power and turn it into action.
I Can Help
If you need help defining your own personal idea of happiness and freedom, or if you want guidance as you navigate your pursuit, reach out to me. I’d be happy to help you create an action plan for finding a way to do what makes you feel truly free.