Do you remember when you did something really hard on your own for the first time? Maybe it was riding a bike without your training wheels or nailing a complex recipe for a dinner party you were hosting.
Choosing to step out with autonomy challenges and stretches us.
It also creates capacity for the next time we’re faced with something really hard that we decide to take on.
Experiencing this kind of freedom is empowering. We see the sense of pride and excitement in young children as they learn to do things on their own – from picking out their own outfits and tying their shoes to feeding themselves for the first time (despite how messy it can be!).
But what gets in the way and blocks our courage to try something new? Here are three of the most common “autonomy blockers” that we experience at all stages of our lives and what we can do about them!
Fear of Failure: When we choose autonomy and try something on our own, there’s a high likelihood that we might not succeed – at least at first! Some let the fear of failure prevent them from even trying in the first place. Predicting and preparing for failure is a crucial skill in developing new capacities. Before you take the big leap, reflect on how you will choose to respond when things don’t go your way and create a plan for facing failure. Talk to your children about what they can do when the outcome is different than they hope and how they can choose to try again. Approaching failure with a Growth Mindset is a sure way to turn an undesirable outcome into a powerful learning opportunity.
External Judgement: “I can’t believe she thinks she can do that!?!” I overheard one catty woman say to another, her statement laden with jealous judgment. Oftentimes, the external judgment we hear or even feel echoes the internal Saboteurs that have been broadcasting their negative messages. If we knew what people really thought of us, would we still do the hard things? Would we choose to try anyway or in spite of them? In life, you will always have cheerleaders and critics. And we get to choose which side we want to represent in each interaction. Don’t allow others’ small-minded thoughts to shape your reality.
Facing the Unknown: The safety net of what is known is powerful. It makes us feel secure and held. But it also forces us to play small. If we only do what we know we’re good at, we never develop new skills or expand our comfort zone. It takes courage and vulnerability to step out into the unknown and show up. And if you ever need a role model for what this looks like, shadow a five-year-old as they begin Kindergarten. Even if they’re shy at first, the opportunity to connect with their peers in a fun and engaging way quickly wins them over. They are filled with a sense of innocent wonder and desire for discovery. They can be our coaches as they model the way for autonomous action.
“Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires.”
Freedom. A single word that holds so much meaning and power on both individual and international levels. As our nation celebrates Independence Day this week, I invite you to reflect on how free you feel and what’s holding you back now.
Where have you gained personal independence in your life?
How have you used your autonomy to grow, learn, and serve?
What is getting in your way of truly being free to lead and love?
In addition to the national freedoms so many have fought and sacrificed their lives for, take a moment to consider other freedoms that you can celebrate in your life that are worthy to acknowledge. Maybe it is overcoming a significant obstacle like weight loss or illness. Or persevering through a challenge at work or in your family life and gaining perspective on the other side.
Whatever has set you free in the last few months, make time to celebrate how you have experienced transformation in your own life.
As you light up your barbecues and watch the fireworks ignite the skies, consider what independence you are celebrating. What new meaning does freedom have for you this year?