Freedom, in any case, is only possible by constantly struggling for it. Albert Einstein
We are free. But do we act freely? Or do we freely conform to what is expected of us?
If so, is that true freedom or is it merely subservience to the to the expectations of the crowd? It takes a truly bold person to act genuinely according to his or her own heart. Because when you act freely you will most certainly take the risk of being ostracized, criticized or scoffed at.
It seems to me that we are at a time in history where group think and group behavior have become an expected norm. The beauty of teamwork—where individuals come together to coordinate something good—has turned into group dogma. We are socially expected to behave in certain ways, believe certain truths, and above all, offend no one in the process.
My fear is that freedom is gradually dissipating in the midst of a strict social context where we are expected to live out our lives according to a predetermined set of rules. These rules impact our paths in education, our careers, the way we dress, our political or religious beliefs—all of which have been set for us by our particular social group and the American Dream at large.
On the other hand, none of these predetermined “rules” are bad or wrong. In fact, I think most of them can indeed contribute to a good and meaningful life. So, what’s my point then? My point is the about the reason you choose to participate. Do you choose what you do because you genuinely want to satisfy your own set of beliefs, or do you do it to be accepted or to please others or to avoid being chastised?
Two ideas come to mind in your attempt to be a free individualist. (That is, if you even desire to be one.)
Thoughtfulness: Thoughtfulness is really best defined by the age-old adage: “Think before you act.” When making life choices it is essential to do the hard work of thinking about your choice. Is it consistent with what you believe and with the way you are hard wired? I just heard the story of highly successful Wall Street attorney who, after a decade of practicing law, quit her job to become a full time writer. She always wanted to be a writer, but early in her career-choosing years she decided that becoming a lawyer was a more appreciated career than that of an unemployed writer.
Two considerations come to mind when making your choice: (1) What are you passionate about? (2) What are you really good at? If your life choice fits into both categories you stand a great chance for personal satisfaction and even success. And… you will always know you made that choice freely without the constraints of group expectations.
Courage: Going against the crowd or acting in defiance of group think is dangerous because you will always face some sort of rejection. Genuine freedom requires the courage to do as you want to do, and not what others expect you to do. You must be bold.
In spite of all our social constraints we live in the freest country in the world. So why not take full advantage and make use of the remarkable attribute that comes with living in the USA?
A Precious Conscious Choice
Photo courtesy of manopjk at istockphoto