Life is full of restrictions—some of them real, some imagined.
But learning how to be free in life is possible for everyone.
You can be free, but you need to understand how to assert your own authority to avoid the common traps in life and live the way you want to.
This guide is for those who have a deep desire to live life on their own terms, with fewer restrictions and more freedom to do what they want, when they want, and with whom they want.
The ideas below should stimulate your thoughts, provide options and strategies to be free that you weren’t aware of, and encourage you to make new choices.
But ultimately, you don’t have to agree with any of the ideas; you have to decide for yourself what makes sense for your life.
Table of Contents
The First Step to Becoming Free in Life
Freedom is being able to live your life as you desire, and that doesn’t require you to persuade others, start a movement, or convince the world of your right to be free.
You can be free without changing the world.
In this guide, I offer only strategies over which you have complete control.
The first step to becoming free in life is recognizing the amount of control you have over your life and relying only on yourself for your freedom.
No person, organization, or government can guarantee your freedom; only you can.
So you need to take full responsibility and rely only on your own actions.
How to be Free Financially
Freedom from the treadmill
Most people work their entire lives without being financially free.
Financial problems are a significant cause of stress, resentment, and restrictions.
And financial freedom eludes many.
There are tons of advice out there for achieving financial freedom, most of them good advice about saving, reducing costs, and investing.
But to truly be free financially in the long term, I’ve found that the two best ways are by becoming a problem solver or a creative person.
Every problem presents an opportunity, and solving problems will make you valuable.
Those who search for unsatisfied needs will always find profitable opportunities.
In your current job, you can ask yourself what the current unmet needs are and think of ways to solve them.
Businesses that solve customers’ unmet needs are always in demand, and individuals with valuable problem-solving skills are richly compensated.
So, whatever your current position in life, you need to ask yourself how you can add value to yourself by becoming a problem solver.
Because problem solvers always find countless opportunities that support their freedom.
The most financially successful people are creators—musicians, writers, entrepreneurs, artists.
Becoming a successful creator is challenging, and few succeed, but the rewards are enormous.
Creators do not have to keep working to make a living; they can live off the profits from their past works.
And this offers them significant freedom to choose the type of work they do and when, where, and how much to work.
To achieve sustainable financial freedom, you must think of creating something valuable—maybe a business or a course or music or art—based on your skills and experience.
Becoming a creator should be a key part of your pursuit of freedom.
How to Achieve Personal Freedom
Freedom from social restrictions
- The Identity Traps are the beliefs that you should live your life by the rules determined by others, and that others would react to situations as you would.
Most of us live our lives according to rules set by other people—society, family, friends.
Society tries to force everyone into one of its boxes, creating serious restrictions.
We feel that others are trying to control us, or we try to control others or expect them to behave the way we would.
But this is fruitless and causes frustration.
We fail to realize that everyone is different and so needs different rules to live by.
To free yourself from social restrictions, you need to accept people for who they are and treat them accordingly.
You also need to recognize that you have immense control over your life but relinquish that control when you try to control others.
As a general rule, you should be open to suggestions from others, but the final decision should always be yours.
- The Intellectual and Emotional Traps are the beliefs that your emotions should adhere to a predetermined standard and that you can make important decisions when feeling strong emotions.
Society can put several restrictions on how you can feel and act. For example, the assumption that a man shouldn’t cry or show vulnerable emotions, or a woman should always smile and be submissive.
To be free, you must cast aside these rigid rules and act according to your nature.
Your emotions are always valid, and you should allow yourself to feel the way you want to feel, not according to some preconceived standard.
But that doesn’t mean you should allow your emotions to control you.
When it comes to making important decisions, you should always strive to separate your emotions and make decisions with a clear head.
You’re in the trap when you’re convinced you can make a rational decision when feeling a strong emotion like anger, love, or jealousy.
Recognize those feelings, accept them, but don’t let them influence your decisions, especially long-term ones.
For example, being deeply in love with someone doesn’t mean you should marry them without carefully thinking about how your life together will look like.
- The Morality Trap is the belief that you must act according to a moral standard set by someone else.
Everyone seeks their own happiness, and one way of living doesn’t work for all.
You can free yourself from the morality trap by creating your own personal morality code.
A personal morality code is only concerned with the relevant consequences of your actions.
So, for example, you can decide stealing is against your personal morality not because someone or religion says so, but because stealing leads to unwanted consequences that can restrict your freedom, like jail time.
In this way, you’re free to live your life in a way that suits you, making decisions based on their consequences to your life.
- The Unselfish Trap is the belief that you must prioritize the happiness of others above your own.
Everyone is selfish. Even those who donate to charity do it because it makes them feel good about themselves.
In a world where everyone selfishly seeks their own happiness, we’re made to believe that we must be unselfish and prioritize others’ happiness.
But this just leads to unnecessary sacrifices and unhappiness.
In Adam Grant’s book Give and Take, he concludes that those who reach the top of their careers are not those who unselfishly give all their resources without thinking of themselves but those who regulate their giving and sometimes give only when it’s mutually beneficial.
This brings us to an important point: to be free, you must prioritize your own happiness but be open to helping others when it’s mutually beneficial.
It may be easy to fall into the trap of the selfless, self-sacrificing giver, but remember that only leads to unhappiness and burnout.
So give to you. Support your local self.
Freedom from ineffective groups and governments
- The Group Trap is the belief that you can achieve more by sharing efforts, rewards, and responsibilities with others than you can on your own.
It’s alluring to join groups or partnerships with the hope that you can achieve more in a group than you could ever achieve on your own.
But the problem is not that your assumption is wrong; it is that most groups are woefully ineffective because they have conflicting interests.
Every individual joins a group with their own self-interest at heart.
And since everyone’s self-interest may not directly align, this creates conflicts.
Especially when rewards and responsibilities are shared, there are bound to be group members who will shirk and expect others to do the hard work while they share in the rewards.
The point is not to avoid groups (some of the world’s greatest achievements have come from collaboration), but to join groups where you can increase your rewards through your own efforts.
Groups where your contributions directly determine your rewards.
- The Government Traps are the beliefs that the government has your best interests at heart and that the government is so powerful that it can stop you from being free.
So many of us put our dreams and hopes in the hands of the government, expecting it to support and help us when we’re most in need.
But the truth is that the government exists to serve the interests of those in power, and those interests may not always align with yours.
In the end, you’re the only one who can make a real difference in your life, not the government.
Another assumption is the fear that the government can prevent your freedom.
No matter how powerful a government is, it has limited resources and cannot monitor the actions of every one of its citizens.
If your government doesn’t support your interests, the key is to avoid it and work individually to further your goals.
Three helpful rules to keep in mind are:
- Don’t be awed by the government
- Don’t confront it
- Don’t organize groups or causes against it
If you intend to be free in life and further your interests, best do it quietly.
Freedom from insecurity
- The Despair Trap is the belief that other people can prevent your freedom.
You’re in this trap if you feel stuck in life and think there’s no way out.
Or feel you must stay in debt or a bad job or a toxic relationship because you have no other option.
Where there’s determination, a way can be found.
A free person never gives up in life; they look at life as a series of problems to be solved and act to solve them.
You must embrace this mindset if you’re to be free in life: where there’s determination, a way can be found.
- The Utopia Trap is the belief that you must improve the conditions in society before you can be free.
Sometimes, we feel society needs to be better before we can truly go after our goals or live the life we want.
We convince ourselves that for us to be free in life, society needs to reach a certain level or implement a rule that frees us.
But that’s simply not true. We cannot afford to wait for society to be perfect before we achieve our freedom.
If you feel your community or friends prevent you from being your authentic self, then find another community or friend group that accepts you for who you truly are.
If your society does not support your goals, then find another society that does.
The point is, don’t wait for a perfect society or world to truly live; find a society that already supports your lifestyle or start living your life now without waiting for society’s approval.
- The Burning Issue Trap is the belief that there’re compelling social problems that demand your attention and effort.
It’s easy to get caught up in this world’s issues, with seemingly limitless problems needing your participation.
There’s global warming, pollution, consumerism, police brutality, inflation, etc.
The point is not to ignore these issues, which are real and pressing, but to realize that you can’t possibly commit your time and energy to every single issue being promoted by the media as do-or-die, must-be-taken-care-of-right-now.
To be free in life, you must participate only in a few issues that matter to you, and even then, it’s better to take personal action than rely on the actions of a group.
- The Certainty Trap is the desire to act as if you were certain of the outcome.
You’re in the trap if you make decisions without recognizing the inherent risks and uncertainties that come with them.
The desire for certainty is normal; certainty is more comfortable than uncertainty.
But, unfortunately, feeling certain about anything is not realistic.
You need to accept that your knowledge will never be complete and you won’t always be aware of all the variables of your decisions.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t act; you can make decisions with your current knowledge and accept the risks that come with it.
Security in life doesn’t come from a guarantee by someone else, but from your ability to deal with the world.
Your ability to deal with whatever life throws your way.
Self-reliance, vigilance, and honesty with yourself are vital strategies for maintaining a level of security in life.
Self-reliance means being able to depend on yourself and your actions whenever you need to.
Vigilance means always assessing the results of your actions and making adjustments when required.
Honesty with yourself means recognizing your mistakes and correcting them immediately.
How to be Free from Relationship Problems
Freedom from bad relationships and situations
- The Previous Investment Trap is the belief that you must consider the money, time, and effort spent in the past when making decisions in the present.
You’re in this trap if you think you’ve invested too much into a relationship to get out of it.
For example, an individual decides not to divorce their partner because they’ve already invested 15 years in the marriage.
In this case, it’s as if the individual is assuming that leaving the marriage would mean the 15 years were wasted, but staying would somehow make those years seem good.
But that’s simply not the case.
Fifteen years of a bad marriage is still bad whether you decide to stay or leave. Those years are gone and irretrievable.
So what matters is the present, what you do now.
It’s better to cut your losses now and look forward to a better future than to continue in a bad situation because you’ve invested too much time or money.
- The Box Trap is the belief that the cost of getting out of a bad situation is too high to consider.
A box is any uncomfortable situation that restricts your freedom.
It could be a bad relationship or a low-paying job.
Whatever it is, you cannot truly be free in life if you resign yourself to your position.
To be free, you need to assess your situation and the price you need to pay to get out of it.
If you want to leave an unpleasant relationship, it may mean confronting your partner and dealing with all the emotions that come with a breakup.
Maybe your partner supports you financially, so you need to think of whether you could survive without that support.
More importantly, you need to think of whether getting out of a toxic relationship is worth losing any sort of support you get from your partner.
This applies to all kinds of boxes and bad situations.
To get out of them, you need to consider the price required and be willing to pay it.
And remember that there’s always a way if you’re determined.
Three rules for avoiding most relationship problems
1. Respect the individuality of the other person
In any relationship, you need to understand the other person is always going to be different from you, no matter how much you have in common.
They’ll have their own likes, dislikes, characters, desires, goals.
So, it’s always important to respect the other person’s individuality.
Don’t expect them to react to things the way you would or think as you do.
It’s also vital to respect each other’s differences and see things from the other person’s perspective.
2. Limit the relationship to what you have in common
It’s tempting to want a friend, family member, or partner to like the same things you do, but that’s not possible.
People have different tastes and likes.
So, a key part of a healthy relationship is limiting your activities to what you both enjoy.
If you and your partner both enjoy watching movies or cooking, then it’s totally fine to do those activities together.
But if you enjoy skating and they don’t, there’s no need for them to sacrifice to do something they don’t enjoy.
Limiting any relationship to common enjoyable activities ensures that no person is left feeling resentful for having to sacrifice for the other.
3. Don’t try to keep a relationship going forever after it’s lost its value
Most of us often fall into the trap of trying to maintain a relationship after it’s no longer useful to us.
This is especially true of childhood friends or friends from high school and college.
We sometimes try so hard to maintain those friendships when the things that used to bond us are no longer in our lives.
As a rule, it’s okay to let go of relationships when they aren’t mutually beneficial.
If one of you no longer enjoys a relationship, that’s a signal that the relationship needs to be redefined or let go.
For example, if you find you no longer enjoy spending time with someone but do so only because they’re a family member, then it may be time you reassessed whether you really need to see that person or if you can reduce how much time you spend with them.
You also don’t have to keep one-sided relationships—for example, a friend who only calls when they need financial help.
A key thing to remember is that not all relationships are meant to last forever; do not stay in a relationship if you or the other person no longer enjoys it.
Building a New, Free Life
Becoming free and happy requires accepting who you are and building a life that suits you.
You need to be authentic and true to yourself in everything you do.
And above all, remember that your freedom lies in your hands, and you’re the only one who can guarantee your freedom.
- Most of the ideas for this guide came from Harry Browne’s How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World