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The Paradox of Freedom II: A Cage in Which To Be Free

Since we’re talking about freedom, I wanted to share another paradox of freedom – a cage in which to be free. It’s a concept I’ve been sharing as part of my Success Strategies for years. And it’s directly connected to how our minds work, and how we simply cannot behave to a story that is inconsistent with our driving truths. Great leaders understand the paradox of the cage in which to be free not only for their own success, but for the success of those they lead.

Each of us lives according to our own specific myths (stories), contexts, and definitions. We choose these myths, contexts and definitions for ourselves. Some we choose consciously and some subconsciously. This is why I continually remind the leaders I work with that our perception is our reality. Not only do our perceptions determine how we live, but they also determine the limitations we place upon ourselves.

You Determine the Context of Your Boundaries

This means that the concepts by which we choose to live become the boundaries of our potential—the bars of the cage in which we live our life. Our insecurities might lead us to believe that we are naturally driven to perpetuating pain and anxiety, but that’s only because we’re allowing ourselves to be controlled by our fears. By picking good myths, contexts, and definitions—the ones that serve us best—as our boundaries, we can ensure that the cage we’ve built for ourselves will provide us with whatever we need in order to grow and enhance the meaning of our lives.

A Leader Determines the Context of the Organization’s Narrative

A leader cannot control another person’s perception – each of us creates our own – but they can certainly provide an environment where the cage is one of positive tenets, rather than fear-based ones. That’s why it is imperative that leaders fully understand their organization’s story or narrative, and set the context by which people understand that story.

Leadership Freedom Cage

Boundaries Give Us the Freedom to Act

Paradoxically, we all need the rules and boundaries that define our reality in order to feel free. The times we’re most likely to panic and become paralyzed by fear are when we can’t see any boundaries at all, when we’re floating at sea or lost in the woods or stranded in the desert. We need to see where we are in the world in order to function. As individuals, we have the ability to fix our own boundaries; we choose whether they are created out of fear, or love, or some other driver.

Leaders Fix the Boundaries That Determine Success

This feeling of panic and paralysis applies to organizations as well. Think about a company that might be feeling lost in their changing market, perhaps they are going through major changes internally in an attempt to respond to market forces. When the rules and boundaries change and they aren’t effectively communicated, accepted, and embraced, it creates fear, uncertainty and doubt among the employees.

Leaders of organizations also have the ability to fix the boundaries, to create roomier, more positive contexts that allow employees to grow rather than choose contexts that limit and confine them. Given that choice, leaders need to commit to a vision that is bound by a positive context, rather than one that is driven by fear.

Successful leaders and individuals who reflect on this, understand it well, and consciously create a cage that serves them are generally the more successful people you will encounter. They push out the bars of the cage so they can soar. These are the kinds of leaders I would like to follow. How about you?


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