Having The Five Freedoms
It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities
Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)
The list goes on and on…
Work can be a liberating and joyous experience but it is amazing how often it isn’t. At a time when our attention is focused on those in the African continent who stay trapped by poverty and ignorance it’s easy to forget that here in the West, many people also feel trapped - the cages are different but the effect is similar.
It’s probably fair to say that most people regard work as a necessary evil, a sort of compromise that gives them some of what they need (money, social contact) without being truly fulfilling and satisfying.
Listen to the way that those around you talk about work, and you’ll hear the language of obligation, of forced choices, of being without options. It’s common to hear people talk at length about the downside but with a sense that somehow there is nothing they can do about it…
For most of us, most of the time, this is a workable compromise but over time it will begin to grind down self esteem and lead to restlessness, dissatisfaction and a search for meaning, inside and outside our work.
Apart from making sure that you are working on what you really want, and doing what you love, how do you get yourself to the point where you stay free, liberated and exercising the choices you want to make whilst remaining at work?
One route is by choosing to set yourself free, choosing to exercise the Five Freedoms, suggested by Virginia Satir:
What makes it possible to enhance our feelings of self-esteem is our willingness to be open to new possibilities, to try them on for size, and then, if they fit us, to practise using them until they are ours.
To start the process I have developed something I have called "The Five Freedoms" -
- The freedom to see and hear what is here instead of what should be, was or will be.
- The freedom to say what one feels and thinks, instead of what one should.
- The freedom to feel what one feels, instead of what one ought.
- The freedom to ask for what one wants, instead of always waiting for permission.
- The freedom to take risks in one’s own behalf, instead of choosing to be only "secure" and not rocking the boat.
Virginia Satir, Making Contact
The freedom to see and hear what is here instead of what should be, was or will be.
How? - practice being fully present in what is happening right now. This is where children spend most of their time, in NOW. As adults we have developed the bad habits of living in the past, the future or someone else’s version of reality rather than staying in the now. Sometimes we do this to avoid dealing with NOW - freedom comes with noticing what is.
Best example? - the boy in the crowd who called out "The emperor has no clothes". Notice what is and things by their right names.
The freedom to say what one feels and thinks, instead of what one should.
How? - often we engage in a complicated process of adjusting our thoughts and feelings to fall in line with what we feel we ought to think. The more we do this and the bigger the disconnect between what we actually feel and think and the feelings or thoughts we express, then the more incongruent we are.
Best example? - skilled negotiators are very good a flagging or signalling their thoughts and feelings in a way that assists their case.
The freedom to feel what one feels, instead of what one ought.
How? - by feeling what you are feeling and stopping the self correcting mechanism "Oh I shouldn’t feel that." One way to practice this is to become a sort of scientist with yourself and explicitly name your feelings out loud. As you name your feelings their impact weakens - suppressed emotions always find a way out whereas naming emotions will often take the force out of them. Emotions are a call to action - a sign that you should be doing something.
Best example? - discovering that "nerves" are actually "excitement". Understanding that much light "depression" is in fact suppressed "anger".
The freedom to ask for what one wants, instead of always waiting for permission.
How? - by realising that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than wait for someone to give you permission to live.
Best example? - learning to balance this right with others rights - see below.
The freedom to take risks in one’s own behalf, instead of choosing to be only ’secure' and not rocking the boat.
How? - by realising that the right time is often NOW.
Best example? - understanding that becoming truly free at work will inspire some and upset many AND being OK with this…
Of course, with Rights, also come Responsibilities. Here’s a handout from our Communicating With Confidence course that is a handy reminder of how to have your freedom and make sure others get free too.
|My Right||My Responsibility|
|To live free||To take full responsibility for the consequence of my actions|
|To be treated as an intelligent, capable and equal person||To treat others as intelligent, capable and equal|
|To state my own needs and ask for what I want||To allow others to state their needs and ask for what they want|
|To express my needs, feelings or opinions||To allow others to express their needs, feelings or opinions|
|To set my own personal priorities||To allow others to set their own personal priorities|
|To change my mind without always offering excuses||To learn from my mistakes and to allow others to change their minds|
|To choose not to accept responsibility for others, their feelings or problems||To take responsibility for myself and to encourage others to do the same|
|To say 'I don’t know' or 'I don’t understand'||To listen when others say that they don’t understand or don’t have all the answers|
|To ask for more time or for more information||To understand when others ask for more time or information|
|To say 'yes' or 'no' without feeling excessively guilty||To accept that I may not have my needs and wants met all times|
|To choose not to assert myself at times||To recognise how hard others may find it to be assertive with me|