The Wrong Freedom Can Be A Burden


I believe that the graph below reflects what most people consider the relationship between freedom and suffering:

– Source:


As your freedom increases, you suffer less. In his blog, “Is There Such a Thing as “Too Much Freedom”?, Idahosa Ness observes that if you work a 9–5 job and feel suffocated by the hours, you’d probably suffer less if you had more scheduling freedom. If you don’t make enough money to live comfortably, you’d probably suffer less if you had more financial freedom.

However, Ness also argues that in some cases, there is such a thing as too much freedom where the freedom from any constraints leads to suffering.

Ness uses his experience as an example of how too much freedom or a life without constraints can lead to peril and suffering. These are his own words:

“That’s why I committed to starting my own location-independent business as soon as I graduated from university. More than anything, I wanted the freedom to travel anywhere I wanted, experience anything I wanted, and do anything.

After years of striving, I finally realized my dream, but it turned out to be a nightmare because I had the freedom to wake up whenever I slept in until the late afternoon most days. Because I had the freedom to work whenever, I wasted countless hours on Youtube and Facebook.

I wanted to be as free as a fish in the ocean. It wasn’t until I reached open waters that I realized I couldn’t swim. But by then, it was already too late; I was drowning.”

Ness believes the graph of freedom vs. suffering looks more like this:

There is such a thing as too much freedom, and that’s the wrong kind of freedom. Unrestrained freedom can only lead to suffering – as any addict will tell you.

The wrong kind of freedom is when you mindlessly accept the confines of modern life – thinking there are no consequences to your actions and that you’re free from immediate dangers.

The ideal kind of freedom is not free of constraints or challenges but offers the opportunity to overcome and grow from these constraints and challenges. A fair amount of suffering, constraints, trials, and challenges can lead to freedom, as illustrated in the chart below:

History is full of examples of famous individuals who faced incredible challenges but were able to overcome them and thrive.

Here are some examples, and I bet that you have never heard of at least a few of them: (Source:

  1. Walt Disney overcame poverty.
  2. Winston Churchill overcame learning challenges.
  3. Hellen Keller overcame the loss of sight and hearing.
  4. Louis Zamperini overcame PTSD.
  5. Stephen Hawking overcame ALS.
  6. Oprah Winfrey overcame childhood abuse.
  7. Abraham Lincoln overcame chronic depression.
  8. Franklin D. Roosevelt overcame polio and paralysis.
  9. Benjamin Franklin overcame poverty.

There is no doubt that these famous individuals would never have achieved the heights they reached had it not been for the adversity they faced and learned to overcome and become stronger.

The right kind of freedom is not unrestrained freedom. It’s the kind of freedom that comes with challenges and constraints but offers you a path for improvement. Remember that “There’s No Struggle without Constraints.” How else do you learn to struggle and fight without constraints or obstacles? Have you ever backed a dog or other animal into a corner?

They don’t like it and seek an immediate escape. We are no different. Only when we have our backs to the wall do we learn to fight and struggle to overcome our constraints and grow and learn.

What ways can you think of that make you feel backed into a corner? Are you stuck in a joyless career? Are you burdened by debt? Are you racked with guilt for missing your daughter’s volleyball game because you can’t leave work early? Are you tied to your work? Are your eyes glued to your phone or computer screen – even on the weekends – because you have to get a big quote or proposal out? Does this sound like you? Do these same constraints burden you?

You can keep letting these constraints and obstacles keep you down, or you can fight. Do everything you can to fight for freedom from the time clock, freedom from debt and financial worries, and freedom from guilt for missing out on your family.

Everyone has obstacles. The ones who rail against these constraints and obstacles ultimately change their fortunes.