Freedom is one of our most treasured values and quite rightly. There are many kinds of freedom of course; political freedom, physical freedom, mental freedom, freedom of speech etc. Without freedom we are seriously diminished as human beings.
Although we in the Western world are relatively free, at least in a political sense, there are many people who do not act as if they were free. What would you to choose to do or say if you had no constraints on you at all? Probably not what you’re doing now. Not many people would choose to give up most of their life in work that’s not fulfilling or stay in a relationship that’s not working etc. Many of the constraints we put on ourselves are due to fear of the consequences of course – no money or nowhere to live perhaps.
Too many people, though, have put so many constraints and limitations on themselves that true freedom has become a pipe dream. This is what they think they will have when they retire at 65 or 70 or whatever it will be by then. Maybe they think they will be free when their children have left home or when they land that dream job or they win the lottery. In the meantime they compromise that freedom for an ‘easy’ life.
The truth is that we can all be free now because freedom is actually a state of mind, not something that comes about because you win the lottery or ditch your partner. It is about releasing the extraordinary power of the human imagination. Thus, you have prisoners locked inside for years who can be more free than their prison guards because in their minds it is so. Many people are locked into old, outdated beliefs or are slaves to a political doctrine or religious viewpoint. They have voluntarily given up their freedom to think for an easier life.
We are all creatures of habit. Almost everything we do each day from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep is automatic. This is probably for evolutionary reasons. Habits can be incredibly good or really bad, but they stop you from having to think – they simplify life to make it more easily manageable. Habits can be the enemy of freedom if you allow them. But when you realise that every bad habit can be broken and replaced by a good one and consolidated within around a couple of months on average, habits can be a force for good too. The point is that you think your habits control you but actually it has been shown that you can overwrite the old habits with new ones in your brain.
So you really can recreate yourself from day to day, minute to minute, if you choose to make the effort, if you choose to be free. As you can see, this is a mental process and has nothing to do with your environment. You can do this in a prison cell – you can see your captivity as an unmitigated disaster or an opportunity to go deep inside yourself and discover more in the depths of your imagination. It is all a state of mind that you choose.
All of this has enormous implications for health and fitness. You are in control not your environment or your ‘uncontrollable’ habits. You can choose to be free or you can choose to be a slave – it’s entirely up to you. Choosing freedom requires more mental effort but it’s worth it – choosing freedom is deciding to live now, in the present, taking full control over who you are and what you do and not blaming circumstances.
This freedom to change means that you can overwrite bad habits with good. So poor food choices can be rectified, new training regimes can be introduced, new ways of thinking about yourself and life can be formulated. Just determine to make something a habit, stick with it for a while and you automatically change yourself. Spot the triggers for bad habits, change to a better habit and give yourself some kind of reward for doing so. Once you have changed one or two habits this way it becomes easier and easier and spills over into different areas of your life. Now you realise that you are in control, not circumstances, and you can plan to be whatever you want from day to day. This is freedom. You are still a creature made up of 95% habit, but you control the input.
Now you can control all aspects of your well-being. You can introduce a new routine for physical exercise, a new routine for your mind, such as meditation and a new routine for your nutrition etc. It is just about progressively overwriting the old habits that left you at the mercy of circumstance. You can also control what goes on in your mind while carrying out these routines; you can gain mastery over pain and discomfort while exercising, for example, by your self-talk. If you tell yourself you’re tired and your legs are aching, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell yourself that you feel great and full of energy and how lucky you are to be in charge of this incredibly complex machine that is your body, then, guess what, it gets much easier. Visualising your goal being achieved is also a massive help.
So fitness is about much much more than working through a series of exercises. It involves the mind much more than the body. The body will do what you tell it to do. The mind is the key to everything – if you can gain mastery over this you can achieve anything which you can conceive of as possible. If you choose to place limits on yourself, those will indeed be your limits. If you tell yourself to go out and discover new limits, then you will – it’s as simple as that.
Once you grasp this concept of what freedom really is in your mind, the sky really is the limit. You can live life to the full – be truly fit and well in body and mind and achieve whatever you want in your chosen field.
My new fitness concept ‘Roads to Freedom’ is based on this idea of life’s limitless possibilities, of being the greatest you can possibly be and more, of having endless energy and enjoying every day to the full, in optimum health. It could equally be called ‘Roads from Freedom’ because it all springs from the idea that understanding that you are free lets you choose which direction you want to go. Not everyone likes running marathons or lifting heavy weights or swimming the Channel. Others prefer rock climbing or meditation or walking in the countryside. At ‘Roads to Freedom’ there is something for every taste.
This concept will be delivered through physical fitness training, joint venture workshops, social media, nutrition support groups and, finally, a total fitness and well-being retreat in the Seychelles. There will always be a large emphasis on the psychological aspects of change in all of these areas, since this is the key to freedom.
Note: if you are a health and fitness professional I would love to talk to you about joining my steadily growing team on a collaborative basis.