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I recently ran into a friend who had taken the plunge about a year ago to start his own business.  Having worked in the corporate world for most of his 15-year career, he had grown weary of corporate bureaucracy, what he perceived to be management incompetence, and waning opportunity for advancement. What had been a dream of his to one day run the business had turned into a prison cell sparsely furnished with a job title and limited authority.

So he left.

But now one year later, he was second guessing the whole move.  As he shared the details of where he was, I could relate to where he had been.  His fledgling business was floundering, cash reserves were depleted, and he was experiencing the same kinds of thoughts and emotions he had right before his corporate exodus.

The Myth About Freedom

It happens more times than not.  A year ago my friend in essence made a personal ‘declaration of independence’ and left his job.  But now one year later he was far from being free.

It’s probably the biggest myth about freedom of any kind: a mere declaration of independence provides freedom.  But that is not true.

There is no life hack for true freedom.

After the summer of 1776 it took great effort and sacrifice to embrace and live out our newly declared independence as a nation.  Historians tell stories of a very fragile newborn nation.  New systems of governing were difficult to create, political dissent was the norm, the shared vision for the republic was fickle, and there was still opposition from the outside.

It didn’t take long to realize that the Declaration of Independence as an event was insufficient to create freedom as a life. The fledgeling nation quickly learned that once freedom is won it must be maintained.

Dedication Must Follow Declaration

Freedom taken for granted eventually becomes freedom forgotten, and then freedom lost.  Freedom must be lived, not just won – day by day and week by week.  It must be a way of life and not just an event.  Building a free nation was a leadership challenge that touched many lives in every way, and every life in some way.

The same holds true for most every aspect of our  personal, spiritual, social, vocational and relational lives.  If we want to be free, we first have to get free. And then once we get free, it still takes effort to remain free.  That is the only way to live free.  With great freedom comes great responsibility.  They are two sides of the same coin.

Making Freedom Meaningful

Effective leaders learn the likes of the five things suggested below that give personal declarations of independence the best chance of establishing the freedom desired.  I deliberately arranged them under the acrostic July 4.  I hope this will help you create an effective July 4 for your life, business, marriage or anything else that is important to you in which you yearn to experience freedom.

J – Journey – This must be your mindset.  The declaration is a beginning but true freedom is a journey.  While we would all prefer a red pill or blue pill, no such thing exists.  A journey mindset will allow you to muddle through the ambiguity of change, and weather the setbacks that inevitably come with independence.

U – Unpack – Unpack the passions, fears and dreams that motivate you.  This is really important but very difficult.  But when you get to the root of the things that are closest to your heart, you’ll then be in a position to take them up more purposefully. You have to figure out what entangles you and restrains you.  What motivates you and gives you joy.  And I’ll give you a heads up here, they are rarely ever what you start out thinking them to be!  You’ll be surprised when you unpack what is really inside.

L – Linger – As you gain insight from the unpacking, you’ll need to linger long enough at various times and places in your journey to do two things.  Learn and grow.  This takes time and effort – don’t confuse lingering with lounging.  You may have to go to school, or find investors, or lose weight, or find a part time job.  In order to create and maintain a freedom you’ve not yet experienced, you are going to have to do some things you’ve not yet done.

Y – Yield – to the wisdom of others.  There were 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence for a reason.  Don’t base your plans for freedom only upon your own thoughts and dreams.  Bring others into the conversation.

4 – 4 periods (years, quarters, months, weeks) give yourself time to put all of these things together.   Work through the seasons of your situation.  Things change.  Make sure you have enough perspective over time to understand and plan your declaration of independence.  It is not uncommon for our coaching work with clients to extend upwards of four years and longer.  Freedom must be allowed to play out over time.

July 4, 1776 was a long time in the making.  It has been an even longer time in the maintaining.   With each passing year it becomes more obvious why before we could become the land of the free, we first had to be the home of the brave.

Make Life Count