Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free. -- Jim Morrison
Are you freer if you are single? Or is there more freedom in marriage? It may seem to be obvious - you're freer if you are single. After a long day, you can have cereal for dinner in your bathrobe while reading a book if you want, instead of wondering what your partner and/or children need. Or you can take off on the spur of the moment trip to visit friends for the weekend without worrying about other people.
I've done both, and enjoyed other benefits of being single for about 20 years. Isn't that freedom? To able to do whatever you please whenever you like? I loved that freedom. And yet now after all these years I'm choosing the freedom available in marriage. Freedom, is in fact, in how we choose to think.
With July 4, the USA's Independence Day around the corner and freedom is more top of consciousness. In the USA, the things that bind us are more internal -- the mental restrictions and "shoulds" that shape our thinking and our decisions subconsciously. These subconscious constraints confine us to a fixed set of expectations and view of the world. It locks us from truly being able to soar to our highest potential of inner peace and happiness.
What I previously thought of as restrictions, coordinating schedules and balancing diverse interests, have actually expanded the possibilities and range of my experiences. I've learned more about topics, activities and sports that I may not have had the interest, expertise or allocated the time to try before -- and I am genuinely happy to have experienced now. My life is richer, more interesting and fun than it was before. Freedom? I have even more since I now have a partner to help in the planning and to share in the joy, tasks and responsibilities. And yes, most importantly, I relish the shared love.
How can one break free of what we thought were absolutes? Freedom is truly in how we think -- to shift our mindset is a three-step process:
1. First by recognizing that we are prisoners of our beliefs. Whatever we believe about ourselves and the world is what we are going to notice. From what we think is true in something as big as our concept of being single vs. being married to more minor things, you will observe what you hold as true. If you have negative thoughts like, "I'm not good enough" or "Bad things happen to me," then that is what you are going to create in at least some aspects of your life.
No one consciously chooses to hang onto limiting beliefs, and yet we all do to some extent. Our childhood conditioning, whether from family, school, other influential figures in our lives, or the mass media, often contain negative programming. People's intentions may have been good, but fear and limitation are commonly used to keep young, rambunctious and questioning children, and indeed all people, in line. We often carry the constraints set for us as a children, which keep us from achieving our full potential later on in our lives.
2. Second is to examine your beliefs. Is it really true that you are only good at math, and/or that you can't sing? Or that being single is the only way to be free? Oftentimes we gather evidence to support these old convictions. You have adopted these negative thought patterns and hang on to the indications that "prove" them.
3. Three is to change those self-perpetuating thoughts now that we are aware of them. Good news! It took years of subconscious repetition to ingrain the old patterns in your brain, but now with awakened consciousness, it will take much less time to instill new positive perspectives. Choose the ideas you want to instill in your mind, find evidence to support them however small, and the positivity will grow as you continue to work on them. Ask others, and read material for support if you need (and we all need to some extent), and reaffirm your new beliefs several times a day for at least 21 days.
Our minds need to develop new thought pathways different from the old belief system. To make the shift more solid, research has shown it takes 21 - 30 days of practice; a mere fraction of the time it took you to acquire the initial negative pattern. What a relief!
The key to keeping the resolve during the frequently challenging transition process is to remind yourself of why you chose to change. You were born with innate potential, as a child you had dreams; over the years limitations crept into your mind and now you have the opportunity to reclaim all of you. It is a choice that you are free to make. And you can start now.
Celebrate your small successes of positive thoughts, acknowledge your setbacks and learn from them. Each moment is fresh and you can start again. Freedom from old constraints is so worth it. To honor my newfound greater freedom, we are going to be celebrating our marriage on July 4th, Independence Day. Freedom indeed.
Marilyn Tam wrote her new book, "The Happiness Choice - The Five Decisions that Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be" so that others may benefit from what she learned, often through painful experience on how to be happy, healthy and have a dynamically balanced life. Happiness has been proven to lead to greater productivity at work too. Many experts in the five key aspects of life: Body, Relationships, Money, Spirit, and Community contributed to the book. They include Joan Borysenko PhD, Jack Canfield, Arielle Ford, MJ Ryan, Harville Hendrix PhD, Michael Galizter MD and many more leaders in their fields. All share personal stories, insights and expertise on the key factors that influence our lives. You can get more free insights and find out about Marilyn on her website http://www.marilyntam.com/books.html and connect with her on facebook
Marilyn Tam is an international selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, humanitarian and former CEO of Aveda, President of Reebok Apparel Products & Retail Group and VP of Nike and the Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation.