Sunday, December 31, 2006

12 Ways to be More Free in 2007

Pamela Slim has 12 ways here or on her site

If there is any defining value in my life, it has to be freedom.

I define living a life with freedom as acting with joy, not obligation, honest expression, responsibility for choices and not taking direction from any external oppressive force.

I learned to truly appreciate freedom after having some life experiences where I gave up my freedom and allowed myself to feel trapped, oppressed, resentful, afraid and smothered. What I learned from that experience is that I was the only one who could grant myself freedom. No one can oppress you without your permission.

Here are some areas in which you can feel more free this year:

1. Freedom from comparing yourself to others.
Most of us have probably glanced longingly at the woman in the supermarket aisle with the perfectly coiffed hair and well-tones glutes and said "She looks so much better than me!" Or envied the business competitor who tends to get all the right clients or press, or has the best-looking website. Evaluation is healthy; comparison will always make you feel you are lacking. Instead of pointing out 10 ways you don't measure up to others, point out 10 ways you are gloriously, perfectly, uniquely and deliciously special.

2. Freedom from unhealthy relationships.
Truly, life is too short to spend bickering with a significant other or spouse that is demeaning, cruel or abusive. If there is a true chance to work things out in a healthy way, go forth by all means necessary. If there is no hope, find the nearest exit door and get on with your life.

3. Freedom from regret.
All of us have done things in our life that we regret. Maybe we were lousy teenagers or parents or spouses. Maybe we screwed up our credit score. Maybe we took two decades to get out of an unhealthy relationship. Maybe we drowned our sorrows in a bottle. Whatever you did, or didn't do in your past, make peace with it and let it go. There is not one thing you can do today to change it except to make up for lost time and live the very best life you can live. If you continually beat yourself up for what you did in the past, it will poison your motivation and frankly make you kind of a bummer to be around. As Cher's character said to Nicholas Cage's character in the movie "Moonstruck" (after slapping him hard across the face) "Snap out of it!"

4. Freedom from clutter.
Piles and stacks of junk everywhere in your home, garage, office and car can make you feel, well, junky! Clear out your spaces and feel a surge of energy, clarity and peace. If the task is overwhelming, hire a professional organizer. That way, in addition to clearing your current mess, you can put systems in place to ensure new messes won't occur in the future.

5. Freedom from financial chaos and dread.
If your finances are in disarray, chances are you feel stressed, inferior, ashamed or out of control. Nothing will change by burying your head in the sand. Get help. Find a financial adviser or counselor who will walk you step by step through a process of organizing, planning and stabilization. I guarantee that no matter how dire your situation seems, you can recover and flourish.

6. Freedom from drama.
I don't know if we learn it from soap operas or over the top reality shows, but some of us choose to live in a perpetual state of drama. We choose bad boy men who break our hearts. We get involved in the daily struggles of friends and family members who are always in crisis. We gossip about co-workers. If you have a need for drama, channel it productively. Make a movie. Write a provocative blog. See a Broadway show. Stop letting all your time and energy be sucked up by petty crises. When you do, you will find all kinds of energy to devote to real growth and development.

7. Freedom from couch or computer butt.
You have one body. You may cajole it into sitting for 18 hours a day in front of a computer by feeding it coffee, Mountain Dew, Frito's and chocolate, but sooner or later it will rebel. You will feel uncomfortable bulges rolling over your pants. You may be plagued by tension headaches or sore shoulders or back pain. Be kind to your body and do your best to eat well and exercise. You don't need to run a marathon, just start with baby steps. Walk around your block. Go outside for lunch. Do a sit up or two while watching television. Just make exercise part of your daily routine.

8. Freedom from a manic pace.
There is a reason why many people start out their vacations sick. We schedule our lives so much we don't have time to stop and breathe. Our poor kids get dragged along, with back to back tutoring sessions, sports activities and music lessons. Cut back your schedule by 25%. Only choose activities that give you and your family energy and happiness. Hire others to help out in the office or around the house. The free time will allow you to think more clearly, be more creative and be healthier.

9. Freedom from perpetual dissatisfaction.
Related to the manic pace, we often think that life will get better next week, next month or next year. If you find yourself saying "I will be happy when... (I find the perfect man or woman), (I pay off all my debts), (I move to a bigger house), (whatever your favorite is), I have news for you: Wherever you go, there you are. The key is to cultivate gratitude and happiness right now, in this moment. This state will then accompany you to whichever goals or milestones you set out for yourself. When you stop and think about it, it is a profound miracle that you are alive. All that stands between life and death is breath. When it is gone, you are. So savor the feeling of the air going in and out of your lungs. Thank your eyes and hands for everything they do each day. Pretty soon, you will be so enthralled by the daily miracles of life that you can't help but smile.

10. Freedom from the elusive dream.
You may have a deep longing for something that seems unattainable. Maybe you have been pining for the perfect man for 12 long years, meanwhile dating a string of lukewarm romeos. Maybe you have been trying to have a child for many years and feel deep sadness and angst that it isn't working. Maybe you have invested tons of time and tens of thousands of dollars in an endeavor that never seems to take off. There is nothing wrong with having big dreams. But if your obsession about them becomes too great, you will drive all the joy out of your life. Take the opposite tact for awhile. Let the idea go. Say clearly and directly "I am a happy and healthy person all by myself. I don't need Joe Perfect or a baby to make me complete. I am perfect and whole just the way I am." As the irony of life works, often at the moment when you surrender and let go, just the thing that you wanted saunters into your life.

11. Freedom from playing small.
It can be comfortable to be the behind-the-scenes person making things happen for movers and shakers. It is easy to say things like "I only need to make this much per year to be comfortable." It can feel safe to make your dream of becoming an author, or a speaker or an entrepreneur a pleasant daydream, that you savor and imagine as you are walking through your staid and boring life in a cubicle. But as Marianne Williamson said so well, "Playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around us." Now is the time to step from behind the curtain and show your true self to the world. Although it may be a bit scary, there is nothing that will make you feel more free and powerful. Play big this year.

12. Freedom from work you detest.
This last area of freedom is where I have chosen to put all my effort and attention this year. Although work is certainly not our entire life, it is an activity that takes up most of our time, mental energy and effort. No one is forcing you to do work you hate. Why don't you decide to do something about it this year? Take a career development class, join an interesting job or career forum, make a concrete business plan or hire a coach. Commit to making progress on your work life every week, and every month. The more you get clear about what kind of work would make you happy, the more likely you are to find and attain it. Don't let your valuable talents and skills stew in a toxic soup again this year. Change your work, change your life.

When my husband was a little boy, his grandpa would wake him up before the sun came up and lead him outside. Facing east, he would take out a bag of corn pollen and say his traditional Navajo morning prayers.

When he was done, he would say "Grandson, this is a brand new day. It has never been used, never been touched. Enjoy it. Ya at eeh. (It is good.)"

I invite you to greet the new year that way tomorrow. It is a brand new day, has never been touched, never been used. You can choose to make it a year of joy, growth, pleasure and freedom.

Ya at eeh. It is good.

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