Doesn’t Freedom Mean I Can Do What I Want?

Self-Government refers to our own action to control, restrain or subdue ourselves.  Where is the freedom in that?  Aren’t we free to choose our own path?  Don’t we want to find our passions?  If your definition of passion is something we want to happen so much that we’re willing to die for it, then yes, we want to find our passion and live it!  Having a passion for something can make the world a better place.  That’s why we feel so strongly about them.  Our passion could be defined as our mission.  Some examples of a passion, or mission, from the book Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens by Oliver DeMille and Shannon Brooks:

  • Feed the Hungry 
  • Clothe the Naked 
  • Empower the Poor 
  • Educate the Ignorant 
  • Promote Freedom 
  • Heal the Sick 
  • Comfort the Lonely 
  • Liberate the Captive 
  • Preach the Truth 
  • Produce Wealth 
  • Heal Families 
  • Increase Beauty

If something on that list just lights you up inside, it is your passion!  Those are causes that are worth fighting for, worth putting your whole heart and soul into, and, yes sometimes, worth dying for.

On the other hand, if bodily passions and appetites are things we just want real badly, like material possessions, rich food, entertainment, thrills, and so on, then these can be a real detriment to finding our true passion, our own mission in life.

So What Does This Have to Do With Freedom?

So what does mission have to do with freedom and self-government?  Can you imagine having a talent or skill to do something really well?  Something that is important to you, even bigger than you?  Say you connect really well with people, they like to listen to you because you are engaging.  You have the potential to become a great mentor to others, to lead them where you have gone, to help them see greatness in the world and to even find their own greatness.  If, instead of reaching for greatness, you reach for the remote, you instead become King of the Couch Potatoes.  If instead of pursuing your passion, you pursue pleasure, you find you are never satisfied because instant gratification never leads to true satisfaction and happiness.  The pursuit of pleasure takes away our freedom in that we lose true pleasure and joy trying to make it happen.  And by trading mission for pleasure, we leave a hole in the world that could only be filled by us.  We let go of our opportunity to influence others for good.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have joy when we are self-governing.  The opposite is actually true.  When we govern ourselves, when we control our bodily appetites and passions, our minds and spirits have the opportunity to stretch and grow, and our whole being fully develops the capacity to do great things.  I think fulfilling our potential, our capacity, to do great things is one of the most satisfying and joyful experiences there is!  And doing so can’t help but make the world a better place.

We often look at great people and wonder what makes them great...

We often look at great people and wonder what makes them great.  What talents were they born with?  What advantages did they have?  How did they really excel?  Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, found that people who really go beyond and excel, from the Beatles to Bill Gates to sports stars and musicians, follow the 10,000 hour rule.  This means that they spent 10,000 hours becoming great.  A child prodigy at the piano, a slam-dunking sports hero, a great author, a computer whiz kid, a group of kids playing in a band together all said “no” to self-indulgent pleasure and spent ten thousand hours honing their skills, developing their passion.

What does that look like?  For a 3-4 year old child exposed to the piano and fascinated with it, that’s 20 hours/week or 4 hours a day of playing, learning, practicing.  In one year alone, that is of 1,000 hours.  By the time the child is 13 or 14, they have reached their ten-thousand-hour mark and truly are a prodigy.  Say you are a youth with a passion for ballet or basketball.  At 12 years of age, you spend 40 hours/week on your sport, with studying squeezed in around that.  In 5 years, age 17, you are a star with ten thousand hours under your belt.

But One of Your Responsibilities is to Yourself

Now if you are reading this, you are probably an adult and thinking, “Yeah, but what can I do?  I don’t have 20-40 hours a week to pursue my passion.  I have a day job.  I have responsibilities.”  True.  But one of your responsibilities is to yourself.  You practice self-government.  You have the freedom to choose.  You have a responsibility to look inside and find your passion.  Are you living it?  You have a responsibility to the world to use your passion, your mission, to make the world a better place.  Have you ever even thought about what your passion is?

Think about this:

Think about this: if you gave yourself two hours each day, five days a week, you would have over 500 hours at the end of one year!  What could you do if you dedicated 500 hours to something each year?  In two years, that’s one thousand hours.  That’s significant!  Continuing to dedicate just 2 hours a day, day after day adds up.  Yes, 20 years is a long time away, but over the span of an adult life, you will have lived that 20 years three times over.  You have the potential to dedicate yourself to your passion in such a way that you become an outstanding, amazing, outlier!  Don’t you deserve that?  Doesn’t your passion deserve that?

This dedication is what self-government is about.  Self-government isn’t about saying no or denying yourself.  It’s about saying no to and denying those things that would take away your freedom.  Saying no to those things that would deny you your ability and time to develop your greatness.  We all have greatness in us.  I challenge you to find your greatness and dedicate your time to developing it.

Take the Challenge:

Take the Challenge:  What do you feel called to do to help others?  Review the list in this article and see if anything in that strikes a chord in your heart.  How can you make that happen?  How can you contribute to help others?  It may be what you do for your career or it may be how you volunteer, but can you see a way to start small and consistently learn and contribute to others?  Over time, you can and will accomplish amazing things.  All it takes is self-government!