How Over-committing Drains Your Sense of Personal Freedom (& How to Change That)

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Create more personal freedom

I’ve been contemplating the concept of personal freedom lately – a lot. There are a multitude of ways in which one can experience a sense of personal freedom, like in doing work you enjoy, taking time off from work, traveling, having no money worries, being able to jump in the car and going to where you want to go, speaking your truth, having a clean home, or even downsizing your belongings! As you can see, personal freedom can apply to all sorts of areas of life.

It seems like I’m hearing more and more from people who feel completely overwhelmed by, well, everything. Many feel buried by meetings and projects at work, committee meetings, and social events, not to mention managing a household and getting their kids to all of their activities. In one conversation recently, a woman was questioning the future of her career based on some destructive feedback received. Others have shared how burdened they have been feeling by all of the clutter in their homes.

The common theme here is that they’re lacking a sense of freedom.

To make matters worse, when the overwhelm becomes the dominant force, that’s when taking time to honor themselves tends to go. Gradually, things like eating healthy, exercising, sleeping, self-care – and speaking their truth and pursuing their goals and dreams – are moved to the back burner. It’s often replaced with an attitude of why bother, it’s not going to make a difference anyways, and overall happiness levels dip.

Consider these scenarios:

Scenario 1: Your workdays are filled with back-to-back meetings, leaving little time to actually do your work. Your boss seems to think you’re super-human and continues to delegate new projects to you, including some that don’t actually fall under your job description or skill set. Your one-on-ones always seem to run short on time so you don’t have a chance to ask for guidance or express your concern, and so – yet again – you decide to take work home, skip working out and any social plans you had, and stay up late so you can try to get it all done. After all, it’s only temporary, right?

Scenario 2: Your closets and cabinets are crammed with so much stuff that you’re not even sure what’s in them anymore. To make matters worse, you have yet to go through the things you acquired when your aunt passed and you have at least six loads of laundry to do. You need toilet paper, so you decide to buy the wholesale pack. Then you decide to stop to buy a fresh new outfit to wear to that event because you don’t have any clean clothes. At home, you grab a few rolls of TP to restock the bathroom, but there’s no place to put the remaining 57 rolls so you leave them in the hallway. So, now you have TP, a new outfit, an obstructed hallway, and you STILL have six loads of laundry to do.

Scenario 3: Your evenings are filled with committee meetings and kid events, so you grab whatever food you can in between. You jokingly consider “always being on the go” as your exercise, but the truth is that you aren’t getting any real movement. More often than not, you would describe yourself as exhausted, and more and more clothing no longer fits because your weight keeps inching up. So you buy some new pants and agree to be on another committee because they couldn’t find anyone else to do it (so they said).

Scenario 4: You were set to find a place to rent in another state with a friend of yours because you were looking forward to experiencing a new environment. In the meantime, a couple different things have presented themselves to you where you live now that support the passions and goals that you’ve been working on for a while. You begin to have serious reservations about moving now, but are afraid to say anything to your friend because you already said you would do this. Rather than speaking your truth - that you have changed your mind - you wait until your friend calls you and shares that he found a place on his own and no longer needs a roommate.

What resonates the most for you? Was there one scenario in particular that you could relate to? Or was it bits of each scenario? Let me tell you, either way, you’re not alone.

You’ll notice that in each scenario, there was so much overwhelm created that any sense of true personal freedom was buried. In some cases, more of what was causing the overwhelm was being brought in. In other cases, their individual truths and dreams were lost.

I think we can all agree how easy it is to get caught up in the routine of daily life and not even realize how much time has passed. And let’s face it, speaking our truth can sometimes feel scary because we often create crazy worst-case scenarios in our minds. Factor in the survival-mode mentality (you know, that I just need to do this this time mode) and that can make things even worse. Regardless, these are all variations of things that chip away at our sense of freedom.

So, what on earth are you supposed to do?

Take a moment to reconnect with how you’re feeling about your life right now. Are you feeling happy or unhappy? Fulfilled or unfulfilled? In flow or overwhelmed? Expansive or contracted? What exactly is feeling right or off-track right now?

And then dig deeper by asking...

  • Why am I in this situation? How did I get here?
  • What am I doing to keep myself in this place? What am I not doing?
  • What can I do - or stop doing - to correct course?
  • Where is it exactly that I want to go?

If you want to change something, you must ask the tough questions and be completely honest about your role. You must name it and look it in the eye before you can move past it and figure out the next right step. You must gain clarity around your truth, and you must take action.

The good news is that it’s YOUR life and YOU get to make the decisions.

Yes, I realize that you’re probably thinking about your significant other, parents, co-workers, your friend’s sister-in-law’s cousin, your neighbor’s dog and everyone beyond yourself. And, of course, you have bills to pay and work that really does need to be done. But, seriously. What’s the worst thing that would happen if you started saying no or I won’t be able to or maybe another time, at least once in a while?!

What would happen if you put your participation on any committees or volunteer efforts on hold until you settle into an exercise routine? Just imagine how good it will feel to get back into your clothes.

How would it be to have an open dialogue with your manager about everything on your plate and your concern about your ability to take on anything else right now? After all, if you’ve always said “sure, no problem”, even when you knew that you’d most certainly have to bring even more work home, sacrifice your personal time, and stay up late again to get everything done, how would your manager ever know what’s really going on?

How about taking a month off from buying anything unless you absolutely need it? Think about all of that time you’ll save by not shopping. You could get through the piles of laundry and start to declutter your house, and begin to realize what exactly you do have already.

And what if you chose to not receive feedback that’s unproductive or simply not true rather than internalizing it and allowing it to lead to you questioning yourself, your worthiness, your abilities and your dreams? Sometimes feedback is about the other person and their own challenges, and has nothing to do with you. Part of your own personal freedom is the choice to process the feedback or simply move on without it.

I could go on and on with big and small actions that you can take, but you get the picture. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of everything, but we all have a choice. If you’re lacking a sense of personal freedom in any area of your life, what choices and actions will help you turn that around?

No action is too small as long as it’s in the direction that you want to be going!

One small action that you can take right now is to register for my upcoming Time to THRIVE! 4 Steps to Shed the Shoulds and Live a Life that Feels Ever More Like You workshop. It’ll be packed with valuable information to help guide you in your journey. Get all of the details and register now!

Enjoy the journey!

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