I still remember that morning of excitement. It was supposed to an relaxing long drive in my new car, but I had no idea how the day would turn up. As I started the engine and pushed down on the accelerator, I got busy admiring the posh interiors and the sophisticated dashboard of my car. As soon as I got on the highway, I turned on the cruise control mode so that the car can drive itself while I was free to admire the views of the snow-capped mountains ahead.
Over 20 odd kilometers away, I felt something was off. So I decided to take back control from the cruise control and accelerate. But to my surprise, I felt a lack of power. I pushed on the accelerator and didn’t get the speed I expected from my brand new car. I continued to struggle in disbelief to get some power for the next 50 kilometers when I smelled a burning odor.
“Damn”, I said as I started to look for the … yes .. the hand brake. There it was, and as I grabbed and released the brake, I felt that power which had eluded me so far. But by then the smelling odor (from the brake pads) was strong enough that I decided to turn back and head to the mechanic. In the end, my car’s brakes needed replacement and ended up costing me a good amount. My thoughts then moved from my new car’s brilliance to my lack of it.
Are you living your life with your hand-brakes on without realizing it? Are you struggling to get the power in your life which you know you can? Do you wonder why your life looks so constrained and limited in this age of freedom and abundance?
“Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity, and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose upsides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.” ― Tony Schwartz
In this article, I will share how freedom is a state of mind, and the many ways we unconsciously restrict it. Freedom is not something to be given by others. People are as free as they want to be. However, it is very easy to be un-free, and most of the time we do not even realize that we are limiting our own freedom.
As Daniel Kahneman points out in the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” our fast and unconscious thinking brain helps us survive by making quick decisions. It is then a paradox that the same part of our brain limits our freedom in so many ways before we can consciously intervene and make our own choices. Conscious thinking and reasoning is very tiring for our brains, and hence most of our decisions are made unconsciously or in our brain’s autopilot mode.
Our unconscious mind control far more of our decision making than we can imagine. Let’s find out 5 unconscious ways in which we limit our own freedom :
1. We are not clear about what we want, and just continue to go by what we see in the world or what society expects from us. We have never taken the time to define what “freedom” really means and the kind of life we would like to have for ourselves. We never sit down to think consciously of what our “ideal” life would look like. We never set our own boundaries and rules, and unconsciously accept what is the “norm” around us. We let the attachment to a certain way of life, and a desire for money and possessions come in the way of defining our own ideal definition of life and success.
“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.” ― Oscar Wilde
2. We are unaware of our own limiting beliefs. The language that we use and the thoughts that we think has a huge impact on how we show up in life. What do you believe and communicate about your abilities and the kind of life you want? Are those abilities good to create the kind of life you really want?
3. We don’t execute our plans. We get lost in the details or get used to mediocrity. We allow procrastination to come in the way and accept the reasons of our circumstances and obligations. We don’t hold ourselves accountable for what we said we will do. We will always have reasons why we can’t do anything. Our unconscious mind presents us with these reasons to keep us safe and to ensure our survival. But it is up to us to believe these reasons as truth and stop moving ahead, or consciously find ways around these reasons to reach our destination.
4. We don’t aim big enough. We settle for too low. And then we blame ourselves for achieving less than what we know deep inside we are capable of. We play small as everyone around us is doing the same. Playing small is easy as we don’t get unwanted attention and questions. Unless we consciously aim for what really makes us feel alive, we will never know what we are capable of. We deprive the world of our full self-expression and what we can achieve if we were to play the game of life with complete freedom. The psychologist Abraham Maslow called this the Jonah complex – “… the “fear of one’s own greatness” or the “evasion of one’s destiny” or the “running away from one’s own best talents.”
“Our deepest fear is not that we’re inadequate, Our deepest fear is that we’re powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frighten us. But our playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” – Marianne Williamson
5. We don’t ask for help when we need to. We keep our true desires, challenges, and ambitions inside us because we have no idea how to realize them. We are too scared to show the world our brilliance because it might invite unconscious reactions of hate, envy, and humor. So we take our own unconscious decision to fit when what we really ought to do is to stand out. We think that we are all alone and never look for the right mentor or coach who can guide us and help us along the way.
Your unconscious and limiting beliefs stop yourself “to be” in the world. It is not “you” if you are not free. You might be breathing but you are not living. If you allow your unconscious mind to limit your choices in life, you will endlessly worry without finding out if you are on the right path or not. Being scared or feeling anxious about our deep desires is normal (from both the psychological and neuroscience point of view), but the real opportunity and power lie beyond them. And the amount of unconscious resistance you face from within can give you a measure of the real potential you have kept locked inside and which is waiting to be unleashed.
Go ahead and give yourself full permission to acknowledge your own unique gifts. Give yourself the freedom to play, laugh, and fully express yourself without any fear or apprehensions. Act in a way that allows your own unique light to shine upon the world, instead of following the path others have decided for you.