Freedom — alongside love — is one of the building blocks of happiness.
That’s why we must strive to have more freedom in life.
But how do you do that? Especially with so many competing definitions of freedom around?
Learn why self-responsibility is at the heart of freedom, how freedom requires choice, and what types of freedom you can choose from.
11 Strategies To Have More Freedom in Life
Here are 11 methods to increase your freedom in life.
1. Take Radical Responsibility for Yourself
The basis for more freedom in life is to become self-reliant. Only when you experience yourself as in control of your own life, will you feel free.
If you constantly blame others — your parents, your partner, capitalism, the immigrants — you entrap yourself. You frame yourself as a plaything of evil forces.
To overcome this, you need to change your mindset.
Make this your mantra – whatever situation you find yourself in is a result of your past decisions. They led to this place. If you don’t like it, start making different decisions.
Once you embrace this, freedom follows. You are no longer a victim, but an actor.
I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.Hunter S. Thompson
Here are some ideas to put this mindset into action:
- If you don’t like your job, quit. Improve upon your qualifications and find a better one.
- If you don’t like your current relationship, leave. Work on your own attractiveness. Then find someone more desirable.
- If you don’t like how people treat you, cut ties. Iron out your personality flaws. Then surround yourself with better people.
- If you feel overwhelmed, cancel all current projects. Identify your one thing in life. Learn to say “No” to everything else.
2. Seek Out Direct Alternatives
The key ingredient to becoming self-reliant is to seek out “direct alternatives,” a term coined by libertarian writer Harry Browne.
The idea is to zoom in on actions that solely depend on you (=direct alternatives), versus actions that require the contribution of others (=indirect alternatives).
Let’s imagine you live in a place where they discriminate against left-handed people. Left-handed people are looked down upon, paid less, and don’t have the same civil rights.
Now, the indirect option would be to try to change the system. You could join up with other left-handers, organize protest marches, and aim to improve the legal status of all lefties.
But you will have to confront a ton of negativity in the process. Right-handers will thwart your efforts, insult you, and even threaten violence.
Then there is the movement itself. Whenever people come together, there is power-mongering. What started out as a noble quest will quickly turn into politicking.
And last, your chances of success are slim. Movements don’t succeed because of an individual, but because of timing. If the circumstances aren’t ripe, you will have wasted your energy.
Now contrast this with the direct alternative — move to a country where left-handers are not discriminated against, but welcomed.
As a society, we glorify causes (=indirect alternatives). Solutions must be systemic, or they are worthless. We can’t stand individual initiative. It confronts us with our own passiveness.
Never let them shame you. Seek out direct alternatives, options that only you control, and nobody else. As a result, you will always get what you want.
Here are a few scenarios to change your thinking:
- Due to a company merger, you are being laid off. Instead of filing for unemployment, you start your own business. You provide a superior customer experience, and soon make twice what you used to make.
- After several years of living together, your partner leaves you for a vacation fling. Instead of sulking, you talk to three new attractive people each day, until you are drowning in dates.
- After a visit to your doctor due to excruciating heartburn, you are diagnosed with advanced reflux disease. Instead of getting surgery, you decide to ditch all processed foods. Your reflux problems disappear, and you also lose 30 pounds.
3. Practice Radical Acceptance
I used to be easily bothered by other people (and still sometimes am). On my worst days — usually when I didn’t get enough sleep — I would get set off by every little thing.
This taxi driver trying to pull one over on me.
The loud American tourists at the café.
This marketing client fixated on magic bullets.
It is easy to get carried away by these nuisances. After all, you are not imagining them, they are really there.
But if you are always fussing, you can never have freedom in life. You are a prisoner of your own negativity.
To be mad at anything that happens is to remove yourself from the world as it is.Marcus Aurelius
The solution is radical acceptance.
There is no point in getting upset. All these behaviors that trigger you — they have been happening since the dawn of time, and they continue to happen. People are always going to be people.
Look at these incidents like you look at the weather. You don’t shake your fist at the sky when it starts raining, do you? The weather is simply the weather. It is your job to plan for it, not to get mad at it.
Once you accept the world as it is, all this negativity will fall off you. It will also free up a lot of energy that you can now invest in worthwhile projects. Your productivity will skyrocket.
Here are some more tips:
- Think about your life as a sitcom. Add a laugh track to everything that people say. It helps.
- Journal about upsetting situations. Ask yourself what deeper reason might have been behind it — a childhood trauma, a past relationship, etc.
- Elude known triggers. If you know family gatherings upset you, excuse yourself. If hearing about tragedies pulls you down, stop watching the news.
4. Stop Caring About Other People’s Opinions
When you always worry about what others think of you, you become unfree. You are so afraid to take one misstep, you end up not moving at all.
There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.Attributed to Aristotle
I see this in my marketing clients a lot. Everything has to be vanilla; none of their customers should ever feel offended. But as a result, their content ends up being so generic, it’s boring. Nobody wants to read about trifles.
They would be much better off if they took a stance, even if slightly controversial. It would lead to brand recognition.
The same idea applies to our personal lives. By ignoring outside expectations, we are free to show ourselves as we are. This will repel some people, but it will also attract those that we click with.
To care less, you can play around with different comfort zone challenges:
- Lay down on the ground in public for two minutes. Granted, it’s a bit silly. But it’s even sillier how afraid we are of what some stranger might think about us.
- When someone makes a joke that is not funny, refuse to laugh.
- When someone says something you disagree with, say so. Be frank, don’t sugarcoat it.
- For a week straight, when someone asks you for a favor, tell them “No,” no matter who or what it is.
5. Seek the Truth
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.Richard P. Feynman
We are all prone to lie to ourselves.
We don’t admit to ourselves how little work we put into our most important project. We continue relationships that should not be continued. We delude ourselves about our level of health.
These lies act as invisible barriers. As long as we allow them to exist, we will keep running into them. Only when we overcome our lack of self-awareness and see reality for what it is can we become free.
The truth will set you free.John 8:32
As you might expect, this is hard work. Dismantling the house of cards we have built for ourselves does not happen overnight. Here are a few starting points:
- Try journaling. Reflecting on your life in writing is one of the most powerful tools you have to improve your self-awareness. Where you normally act on autopilot, journaling forces you to analyze your actions.
- Ask friends about your weaknesses. Tell them beforehand that you won’t hold it against them — and then really don’t hold it against them. Also, ask a lot of people. The more people you ask, the more patterns will start to emerge.
- Consider coaching or therapy. Having someone else give you feedback who is not a friend or a family member is extremely valuable. Since they are not invested in you, they are more likely to tell you the truth. Also, coaches and therapists are usually better at picking up on self-deceits, as they do this for a living.
6. Take Care of Your Health
How free would you feel if you were forever bedridden, or bound to a wheelchair?
Not very, I would guess. To have freedom in life, you must be able to maneuver your body through space.
Even if you are an intellectual giant like Stephen Hawking — without your body at your command, there can be no complete happiness. Physical freedom is the basis on which all other types of freedom are built.
Most younger people don’t take this seriously. They constantly borrow against their body and are then outraged when their body eventually turns into their prison.
You must maintain your mobility at all costs. Here are a few suggestions:
- Prioritize sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. Your body needs that regularity to get the most restoring sleep possible.
- Eat a healthy diet. If it grows in your garden, eat it. If it has four legs or fins, eat it. Stay away from processed foods. Burgers don’t grow on trees.
- Work out every day. Do a few bodyweight exercises to muscle failure. A pushing exercise (e.g., push-ups), a pulling exercise (e.g., pull-ups), and a squat variation. Takes 10–20 minutes, done.
7. Develop Portable Skills
To remain free, you must bulletproof your ability to make money. This cannot be done through employment. A company can let you go any time — if there is a recession, if your boss doesn’t like you, if you don’t want to move, etc.
To remedy that, you must develop valuable skills. These skills should also be portable, in case you want to travel, or must leave a location (to escape war, for example).
I wrote a detailed guide about how to develop such skills. Here are some takeaways:
- Pick an in-demand skill, like programming, online marketing, or graphic design. In a digital world, these skills will always be in demand.
- Become an expert. Most service providers are average at best. If you are one of the few excellent providers, customers will hold onto you for dear life.
- Conduct yourself professionally. Always be on time. Never miss a deadline. Do what you said you would do. Communicate clearly and honestly.
8. Save Money
You will never have freedom in life as long as someone can hold a financial threat over you. Therefore, you must build a financial reserve.
For a few years, I was working nonstop for different marketing clients. No weekends, no vacations. I felt burned out.
To compensate for this, I would constantly eat at nice restaurants, or train at expensive gyms.
I had entered into the dreaded cycle of consumption. I was indulging so I could stand work. And I was working, so I could pay for my indulgences.
To break that cycle, I decided to radically cut my costs.
I moved to a tiny apartment in a cheaper city. It was so small, it just fit a bed and a desk. Instead of paying for a car, I got a used bike. I bought my groceries at the local discounter and cooked all of my meals at home. For my workouts, I went to the park.
I was now saving several thousand dollars every month, a cushion that kept expanding over the following two years. I have been sleeping a lot better since then, knowing that when push comes to shove, I can always tap into that reserve.
I can only advise you to do the same. With enough money in the bank, you will become unshakable.
Here are some tips to put this into practice:
- Go frugal. By making do with less for a year or two, you will gain independence for decades to come. If you end up in a job you hate, you can quit. If you break up with your partner, you can move out the next day.
- The big three are accommodation, food, and transportation. Don’t play around with just one or two, go full in. Move to the cheapest apartment you can find. If you have to, move countries. Learn to prepare a few simple meals. Take the bus.
- Closely monitor your finances. Track everything you make and, more importantly, everything you spend. Understand — what gets monitored gets managed.
9. Learn To Talk to People
Social isolation is one of the most grueling prisons there is.
Countless strangers pass us by every day. We see them, they see us. Yet hardly ever is that invisible wall broken down.
Instead, most people take refuge with the people they already know. Their family, their friends, their colleagues. But what if these people went away? Or you suddenly had to move?
You cannot be that reliant on your immediate social circle. You must cultivate the skill to create a new network from scratch.
It is a skill that you can train, just like you would practice an instrument or study a new language. Given enough attempts, your clumsy hellos will eventually turn into confident approaches.
Here are a few tips:
- Every time you go to a bar, ask three attractive people for their number.
- Every time you go to a restaurant, make a point to befriend the staff.
- Every time you go on vacation, get the name of every person on your hotel floor.
- Every day, cold-call three new leads and try to sell them.
- Practice your approaches by talking to yourself in the mirror or recording yourself on your phone. You will instantly spot problems with your posture, your smile, and your tonality.
10. Learn To Be Alone
This might seem like a contradiction of my previous point but hear me out. Yes, I am all for developing the ability to talk to strangers. Yet, at certain times in your life, socializing is not the right use of your time. You must concentrate on one thing.
Maybe you are studying for your Professional Engineering exam. Maybe you are building a YouTube channel to grow an audience. Maybe you are getting ready for your first MMA competition.
Whatever it is, you must cut yourself off from the world to give your chosen project all of your attention; aka go monk mode.
This enables you. Instead of constantly having to get your social fix, you can focus on your work. The result is great progress.
Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.Nikolas Tesla
Here are some pointers:
- Start small. One day a week, cancel all meetings. Also, turn off all messaging and social media apps. Use an app to block distracting websites.
- Now, focus on your chosen project. When you feel tired, take a break. Do something that truly refreshes you, like going for a walk or some light stretching.
- When you feel okay again, return to your work. Keep up this cycle of meaningful work and refreshing breaks until your day is over.
- Do this once a week for a month straight. During month 2, increase to two days. During month three, three days. And so on.
11. Choose, Don’t Accumulate
Freedom is often confused with having more things. More cars, more friends, more hobbies. But it is not the owning, but the potential to own that creates freedom.
The actual addition of things just creates more complexity. If you own 10 sports cars, you have to take all of these to the garage, have them safely parked away, cleaned, etc.
Likewise, if you have dozens of friends, you regularly have to meet up with them, stay up to date, provide emotional support, etc. It will be exhausting.
Instead of amassing many things, we must choose a few high-quality options.
Less but better.
This applies to the people you surround yourself with, the projects you take on for your business, the number of exercises you include in your workout plan, or the clothes in your wardrobe. Every area in your life profits from a minimalist mindset.
Here are some ideas on how to apply this:
- Ask yourself the focusing question by Gary Keller, “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
- Apply the Pareto principle, but take it to the extreme. Instead of asking yourself, “Which are the 20 percent responsible for 80 percent of my output?” ask yourself, “What is the one thing responsible for the majority of my results in a given area?”
- Don’t just reduce complexity in the different areas of your life — drop some altogether. Bill Gates is known for being great at developing software, not for being an outstanding athlete. Likewise, Michael Phelps dedicated his life to swimming, not to writing code. To be outstanding, you must choose one area of expertise to the exclusion of others.
- Paradoxically, once you become an expert at one thing, many new opportunities will arise. If you become ultra-rich like Bill Gates, you can choose to invest your money into philanthropic projects or research pet projects, as he is known to do. When you are a world-class athlete like Michael Phelps, you will have your pick of highly attractive lovers, receive plenty of business offers, and get luxury goods for free. Restricting yourself initially will lead to more choices in the long run.
Types of Freedom
The aforementioned tips will definitely improve your freedom in life. But they are still pretty generic. The problem is that there is not just one type of personal freedom, but many:
- Sexual freedom: The freedom to sleep with any consenting person that you desire. Contracts like monogamy don’t apply to you.
- Geographical freedom: The freedom to roam the planet as you wish. You are not bound to a certain place, neither by job, property, or family.
- Financial freedom: The freedom to purchase the goods you want without having to worry if you can afford them. Your income exceeds your costs.
- Freedom of time: The freedom to spend your time as you see fit. If you want to go surfing all day, you grab a board. If you feel like reading, you grab a book.
- Freedom of interest: The freedom to follow your passion. If inventing board games excites you more than anything else, that’s how you will spend your time.
- Emotional freedom: The freedom to emotionally detach yourself from negative influences. Your spouse, your boss, world news — nothing can upset you.
- Intellectual freedom: The freedom to explore new ideas, however controversial. You are not weighed down by any kind of ideology.
- Spiritual freedom: The freedom to exit your beehive-like mind. When you desire, you can enter a state of pure being.
When people talk about personal freedom, they usually have one of those in mind but tend to ignore all others.
You ask a Buddhist, and they will tell you freedom is reaching nirvana. You ask an entrepreneur, and they will tell you freedom is owning a Malibu beach house. You ask a digital nomad, and they will say nothing compares to traveling the world.
None of these responses are wrong. They all just focus on different aspects of personal freedom.
Some of these areas are mutually exclusive. For example, if you want to achieve financial freedom, you probably won’t be able to indulge in your passion for teaching yoga (=freedom of interest). To get rich, you better go with something like finance or IT.
On the other hand, some of these freedoms support each other. For example, if you want to travel the world (geographical freedom), emotional freedom will help with that. You won’t depend on anybody’s approval.
All of this is to say — you need to decide which type of freedom you want most and be aware of the consequences.
This means choosing. Don’t try to have a little bit of everything. By choosing nothing, you will get nothing. Pick your type of freedom, then run with it.
“Freedom From” vs. “Freedom To”
Freedom comes in two flavors — “freedom from” and “freedom to.”
“Freedom from” means shaking off the yoke. It is quitting the 9-to-5 job you hate. It is getting out of a bad relationship. It is leaving your Christian upbringing behind.
In essence, “freedom from” is about escaping past oppression.
In contrast, “freedom to” refers to your ability to make choices. For example, a rich person can choose to buy an expensive car. A poor person can’t.
In essence, “freedom to” is about future potentiality.
The first flavor — freedom from — is the more straightforward of the two. We are usually aware of what we suffer from and are keen to get rid of it. Once you do, you experience immediate relief.
But this high does not last. You soon forget what that oppressive state felt like.
The second flavor — freedom to — is the more challenging of the two. You need to build yourself up first to have more options. This is hard work.
Also, you need to choose what type of freedom you most desire, as you cannot have it all. It’s a decision that most people refuse to make.
But of the two, it’s also the more rewarding. Whatever freedom you decide to invest in will pay you dividends for decades to come. The joy will stay with you.
The Paradox of Freedom
Paradoxically, freedom requires discipline.
Let’s say your goal is financial freedom. To get there, you’ll have to work harder than anyone else. You’ll get up earlier, you’ll stay longer, and your breaks will be shorter. On top of that, as a business owner, you’ll carry all the risk.
That is not most people’s idea of freedom, hence the popularity of get-rich-quick schemes. We want to skip the hard work and right away get to the fun part. Of course, that never works.
By all accounts, attaining a high level of spiritual freedom is just as demanding. Zen monks spend years following a strict routine of meditation, communal work, and abstinence in order to reach satori.
Again, quick fixes abound. Breathwork, guided mushroom trips, or shamanistic retreats all promise instant enlightenment. Here, too, nobody wants to do the hard work.
That should act as your guidepost. If whatever course you chose to increase your freedom in life seems hard and boring, you are probably on the right track. But when your chosen path seems exciting and fun, in all likelihood, you are falling for a marketing trick.
Everyone must choose one of two pains — the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.Unknown
Why You Should Strive for Personal Freedom
Personal freedom is one of the two building blocks of happiness.
When you ask people what they want out of life, most people will answer “happiness.” What they really mean by that is that they want to experience a combination of freedom and love.
“Happiness” = Freedom + Love
Let’s untangle the freedom part of the equation.
The appeal of freedom is emotional. Think back to when you last went on a vacation — the sense of excitement and adventure. It was a high like cocaine.
But unlike man-made drugs, it’s a sustainable high, without the side effects. You can cultivate it, provided you are willing to put the work in.
For example, if sexual freedom is what you desire, you pursue an ENM lifestyle. If you want to travel the world, you build an online business. If you fancy emotional freedom, you practice how to not let things bother you.
None of these things are easy to pull off. But if you do, you will benefit from them for the rest of your life. You will exist in a state of almost constant elation.
Compare this to the reality of most people, who are trapped in mind-numbing jobs and relationships, and who, in order to deal with that misery, resort to booze, junk food, sitcoms, and daydreaming.
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.Henry David Thoreau
That is why you must choose freedom, to save yourself from this fate. Embrace the fact that you are in charge of your life, then put in the hard work. The result will be beautiful.