Freedom concept. Escaping from the cage

Have you ever wished that you were totally free?

Free from endless meetings and tight budgets. Free from a controlling boss, parent, or spouse. Free from an exhausting schedule and one miserable day after another. Free from an enormous mortgage or sky-high student loans. Free from diseases, health problems, and diets.

Maybe you’ve even dreamed of escaping. Leaving your old life behind. Starting a new one with a clean slate.

I did more than dream.

At 21, after a decade of intense structure and scrutiny, I bitterly swung the pendulum as far as possible the other direction. I refused to balance my checkbook.  I ate whatever I desired. I avoided scheduling recurring events, preferring to keep each day “open.” I struck out on my own to avoid corporate structure.

For a time, I escaped it all.

Soon enough, I was back in the cage. Along the way, I learned some lessons that I believe I’m supposed to share with you.

I learned that escaping whatever you feel has you trapped won’t make you happy.

Making more money, leaving your spouse, quitting your job, or moving to a different city won’t turn your life around. In fact, it will probably make it worse.

It’s the same reason most lottery winners and pro athletes are bankrupt after a few years. It’s the same reason divorced people are more likely to get divorced over and over again. It’s the same reason your last few jobs have been miserable and your last several diets have failed.

Instead of changing what’s going on around us, we’ve got to get to work changing what’s going on inside us.

I learned that our lives are lived within our habits. 

Think about it. From the moment you wake, you probably follow the exact same routine every morning. You listen to the same music or watch the same tv program. You take the same route to work, and you do the same things when you first sit down at your desk. Unless there’s an interruption like a traffic accident or urgent meeting, I’ll bet you follow this pattern without exception every day. We all do.

If you change your life without changing your habits, your habits will eventually change your life back.

I learned that the only way to change your life is to first change your habits.

The bad news is that most of us have no idea where our habits came from. We subconsciously picked them up from our parents, our teachers, our friends, our televisions, and our workplaces. We’re living on autopilot without knowing how to fly the plane or where it’s going.

There’s plenty of good news, too. Through their biographies and interviews, we’ve learned that successful people often share stunningly similar habit patterns. Researchers have also discovered exactly how our brains develop habits and why they’re so powerful.

I learned that each of us can intentionally mold our habits to achieve our dreams.

Right now, your only dream may be to escape. That’s okay. I still remember when I couldn’t see beyond the cage.

While I shed layer after layer of routines and boundaries in my quest for freedom and happiness, I eventually realized that I was no closer to either. What I needed most was not happiness, but purpose. Freedom without it felt like being stranded in the middle of the ocean – beautiful in principle, miserable in reality.

Like purpose, there are a few universal habit “ingredients” that you can focus on to get started. Using proven methods to improve your health, productivity, and mindset will help you build momentum, restore your strength, and rediscover your life’s mission.

I learned that a personal habit recipe is the key to real freedom.

Freedom isn’t the absence of discipline. It’s having complete trust in your own self-discipline.

Unless you can confidently manage yourself, you’ll always look for a boss to tell you what to do. Unless you can trust your financial habits, you’ll never have enough money. Unless you can win the daily battles with procrastination and fear, you’ll always look for ways to escape the regret that plagues you. Unless you can select healthy foods that nourish your body, you’ll always be burdened with fatigue and disease.

To find the precious freedom you’re seeking, you don’t need to be an escape artist or treasure hunter. Instead, you’ll need to become a Master Chef, designing your ideal recipe and carefully selecting each ingredient.