By Lynne Golodner
Every July, I think about this notion of freedom. It’s a word we throw around a lot, but does its true meaning and depth resonate in our souls?
I live across from a golf course over which an incredible fireworks show explodes every July 4th. We moved into this house five and a half years ago, and every July, we host a big party.
Friends gather early in the evening, bringing food and sampling the food we prepare and display on a long table on the driveway. Music blares from speakers above the patio. Kids jump on the trampoline. We plan to build a bonfire and roast marshmallows, but it’s always too hot for fire.
The road closes around 7, and children do cartwheels in the empty street. American flags wave from the grass. We unfold soccer chairs near the curb, saving the best seats to watch the light display once stars appear and night falls.
We plan and budget, bake and chop, all to prepare for this big party celebrating our nation’s independence. In the morning, we walk as a family through the neighborhood and watch the parade, children scurrying to collect candy thrown by local politicians and teachers from slow-moving vehicles.
We do all this to celebrate freedom, our nation’s independence from Britain’s colonial rule more than two centuries ago.
But what does freedom mean to us today?
Teenagers throw out the line, It’s a free country, in defiance of their parents’ rules. Spirited political debates with no known resolution die out once someone utters the sentence, “It’s a free country,” as if that explains the deep differences of opinion.
What IS a free country?
Free to make and do and live and be.
Free to be unnoticed?
Free to imagine and dream and try?
Free to choose one community that feels like home, then leave it for another?
Free to start a business, to work from home, to earn more, do more, impact more?
If you look up the definition for freedom,this is what you find:
- The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
- Absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.
- The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
The first definition is not quite true. There is a price for every action. In this country, you can say, act or think as you want – but that does not mean you won’t have feedback or repercussions for doing so.
The second definition does ring true – we aren’t overtly dominated by a foreign leader or a tyrant. Maybe. (We could argue this esoterically, especially in these times.)
And the third definition screams metaphor to me – we are all imprisoned or enslaved by habits, desires, and illusions. No, I am not locked behind bars. I am free to move about as I choose. But the expectations and demands of our society imprison and enslave us every day, unless we have the courage to rise above.
Have you ever chased after someone who seems to move further away from you, the more you chase?
Therapists talk about how, in a relationship, there is a careful distance that may be unnoticeable to both partners. You move closer, I move slightly away, and vice versa. We maintain an unspoken space between us that feels right and with which we navigate the world together. When that space is in some way compromised – expanded or contracted – we react.
It is so important to balance freedom and commitment in relationships – be it a romantic relationship, a relationship between parent and child, and yes, business relationships, too.
People do business with people. There is no other way around it. In this era of no boundaries, no barriers, no distance is too far to overcome, we must recognize that what people seek and yearn for is connection. When a business provides it, they win loyalty and perhaps, a lifetime customer.
Which purchase will make me feel whole? Satisfied? Connected? Like I matter?
That’s what business is about today: meaning, purpose, and connection.
I think sometimes we confuse freedom with capitalism. True freedom comes from not needing or desiring anything, but truly appreciating what you have as enough. Freedom comes with contentment.
So when it comes to business, true freedom comes from not needing someone’s business, but simply offering your expertise, your product or service, because it’s the right thing to do and because it makes the world a little bit better.
Freedom in any relationship – even a business one – means both parties bring their best, whole self to the conversation – and are better after they leave.
This summer, think about how you live your freedom – and how your freedom drives your business decisions. We are enslaved by beliefs, habits, and fears. We put up a Facebook page and obsessively check it, post on it, hope to be noticed. We populate a website, schedule photo shoots, order merchandise bearing our company name.
We jump through so many hoops in hopes of achieving goals, earning income, accomplishing something, making dreams come true.
But we are free to accept what is enough. We are free to define growth as continued success without hiring dozens, buying buildings, generating money just for the sake of having more.
Freedom can mean doing good so you can do well, putting one notion clearly before the other. This summer, choose to define what freedom means to you – even if it doesn’t match everyone else’s definition.
Lynne Golodner is Chief Creative Officer/Owner of Your People LLC. She has exercised her freedom by working for herself since 1998.