In America, July 4th commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 by the Continental Congress, which was in favor of independence from Great Britain. Canada’s national day, July 1st, is a celebration of the anniversary of the 1867 enactment of the Constitution Act, a document allowing Canada to become independent in its own right, separate from the British Parliament.
These few historical examples reveal that freedom is a key ingredient for citizens of a country to feel valued. So, you may be surprised when I ask you if we really know what freedom is, if we can handle it, and do we really want it?
We are a society that is abundant with obesity, alcohol and drug addiction, economic downfalls, and failed marriages and strained relationships. If we are such a free society, why are we crippled with a vast amount of societal problems? The irony is that freedom isn’t really “free;” it is not “cheap.” It requires leadership and responsibility. Think about what we have to do if we want to lose 20 pounds, if we want to run 10 miles in a race, or if we want to stop smoking. We have to work hard by developing an intervention strategy and then actually implementing and following through with it until achieving the end result. We have to make sacrifices to experience long-term gains. These sacrifices may involve waking up two hours earlier, not eating a piece of cake, or staying away from friends who smoke or social events where drugs or alcohol are accessible.
One of my inspirational personal training clients, Jodi Miller, has seen tremendous benefits since she initiated training sessions in January 2010. Her six-month journey thus far has not been easy. In the first few months of training, she frequently asked, “I don’t understand why the workouts are so hard … and do they ever get easier?” I patiently and consistently informed her that body-changing workouts are always hard and that these workouts will become more familiar to her over time but will never be easy. She has been limiting her diet, maintaining a daily caloric intake of between 1200 and 1400 calories, and changing her weekly schedule to accommodate her multiple workout sessions. She (along with her friends and family) is now beginning to truly appreciate the benefits of her hard work as she has been changing the shape of her physique and enhancing her cardiovascular functioning and energy level.
All people have the freedom to choose how they look, how they structure their days, and how they develop their lifestyles. But it appears that this sense of freedom has been a disservice to many as they lose their sense of independence by making excuses and judgments and by procrastinating to change. It is easy to follow your parents’ orders to eat the food on your plate before being excused, to listen to a significant other that you can never be skinny again, and to stay in an unsatisfying work environment because you’ve been told you will never find another—or better—job. Independence and freedom mean breaking free from these negative voices that stand in the way of finding your own path, which can be an arduous and even frightening endeavor. Technically, freedom is defined as “exemption from external control or interference; the power to determine action without restraint.” Surprisingly and sadly, people tend to find comfort in taking orders—even if they are unhealthy for them. Many individuals complain about feeling controlled, yet they feel lost without such control. These people, I would say, are not defined as being free.
We are halfway through the calendar year. Take the time to re-evaluate New Year’s resolutions you may have lost along the way. Think of change as declaring your independence—in addition to identifying the responsibility to better your life. Investing in yourself by applying the hard work to make change pays huge dividends, leading to perhaps an extended lifespan, more satisfying relationships, and an overall sense of satisfaction and happiness in your life.