“Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.” – Frank Tyger, Editorial Cartoonist, Columnist, and Humorist

On retreat I do an exercise where execs introduce themselves to each other by telling stories about the best summer of their youth. It’s truly wonderful to hear these “Captains of industry” speak of the play, creativity, minor trouble-making and most of all, the freedom that everyone felt. For some, they are immediately struck by the contrast of this period of their life with their current life. They often realize that, though they have abundance, money, toys, large homes, and large companies, they have little freedom.

Too many executives feel trapped by their success; the demands on their time and energy creating a sense that their choices are either limited or predetermined, along with a distinct lack of freedom to do what makes them happy. While the solution is certainly not about reverting to the mindset of a child, making changes in your life and work that allow you to feel that same type of joy you experienced as a youngster is absolutely possible.

Here are 3 steps to finding more joy, happiness – and freedom – in your life:

  1. Be Careful about What You Pray for – Be careful how you set your life up. Too many lead with accomplishing and accumulating trappings of success and forget to factor in freedom: the freedom to walk away from a deal; to walk away from a job; to walk away from accumulating MORE. You can easily begin to feel trapped, or even powerless, in spite of having a big job and moving lots of people and money around.
  2. Start from the Inside – More is not better. Freedom is not gained by making more money and consolidating more power. Freedom is an inside job and it’s gained when you don’t have as much riding on your success. If success and power is how you keep yourself from being vulnerable – it won’t work. Freedom is something you chose, over and over, every moment.
  3. Practice Self-Acceptance – I realize I will never be free as long as I seek approval and validation from others.

An 80 year old friend of mine has this uninhibited energy about him which has led him to make millions leading workshops and writing books. His mantra: “I have nothing to prove. I have nothing to lose. I’m dangerous!” Now that’s what I call freedom.

We are all trying to get back to those joyful, free days of our youth. What prisons have you built around yourself in the process?

For more on self-acceptance, inner-work and visioning, check out my Amazon Bestseller, The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don’t.