Finding Freedom, Part 1
This past summer I read Harry Brown’s book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. I loved it. It’s about being true to yourself and facing up to some of your (perhaps unconscious) assumptions about the world so that you can achieve your own personal freedom.
Brown defines freedom as “Living your life as you want to live it.” I think that’s a pretty damn good definition of freedom. Brown believes (and so do I) that freedom is possible for everyone and that we can achieve our own freedom without having to change anyone else. Brown believes that if we are not free, it’s because of one of two reasons:
- We are not aware of the many alternatives available to us, and/or
- We have accepted without challenge certain assumptions that limit our freedom.
Brown calls these assumptions traps, and has identified 14 of them. But first, a few important tidbits about happiness and freedom.
Happiness is an emotion. It is what we feel inside of us as a result of what happens to us. You can’t just decide to feel happy (no matter what all those self help books say). To switch from an unhappy or indifferent mental state to a happy one you must change your circumstances.
WHAT makes you happy depends on your own unique nature. Your happiness depends on ability to recognize and fully accept your personal nature.
Everything we do is motivated by the desire to feel happiness and to relieve discomfort. To achieve our goals, we make either positive or negative decisions. A positive decision is one in which you choose among alternatives to maximize your happiness. A negative decision is one in which you choose among alternatives to minimize your unhappiness. Free people spend their time making positive decisions.
When making choices, there are also direct and indirect alternatives. A direct alternative is one that requires only direct action by yourself to get a desired result. An indirect alternative requires that you make someone else do what is necessary to achieve your objective. A free person automatically thinks in terms of direct alternatives, asking himself “With things as they are, what can I do to make things better for myself?”
We are all different, and for that exact reason we can make exchanges with each other that are mutually beneficial. Each participant trades something they value less for something they value more, improving their own situation without hurting the other person.
Realize that no one owes you anything. To get what you want from someone else, you must appeal to their self interest.
Everything you want in life has a price. There is a price to pay to make things better, and a price to pay to leave things as they are. Good decision making is based on recognizing that what you are gaining is more valuable to you than what you are giving up. In everything we do, there is always a risk. And for every risk, there is an accompanying liability: the price we must pay if things don’t go as desired.
Freedom is Achievable
The world is actually quite simple:
- Each person seeks their own happiness, and
- Everything that happens is the result of a prior cause.
You are sovereign. You have one life, and you rule it completely. Everything that happens in your life is the result of your choices. You have the choice to be free.