Independence & the Freedom to Chase YOUR American Dream

Independence Day

By Angelina Stephens

What does the American dream represent for you?  One word…close your eyes…what is the first word that comes to mind?

Mine is FREEDOM.  The American dream is the freedom to explore our passions.  Freedom to make something of nothing.  Freedom to break free of limited means and change the world.

The American dream is NOT materialistic…it is NOT about money.

Or is it?

IF YOU CAN’T FLY, RUN.  IF YOU CAN’T RUN, WALK.  IF YOU CAN’T WALK, CRAWL.  BUT BY ALL MEANS KEEP MOVING.

These days, I feel like it’s all I can do to crawl.  Some days, it feels like the only way to move forward at all is to set dreams and passions aside under the weight of responsibility and stability.  The problem is, without ANY forward momentum in the first 20 years of your adult life, dreams are often too distant to dust back off and convert to goals that late in the game.  What terrifies me is the thought of pulling a list of my non-military life dreams out of a pocket to realize that none of them are achievable anymore because I waited too long to start moving.

I would argue that you shouldn’t set ANYTHING aside.  If you look back at your dream sheet, at the things that light a fire inside of you, and it’s there…you HAVE TO do it.  Even if it’s the slowest crawl you’ve ever done.

Here’s why.

Running

Music

Basketball

Horses

Writing

Only one of these things is a regular part of my life right now, and it’s because I was blessed with the opportunity to write this blog.  Not just the opportunity, but the ACCOUNTABILITY to someone else to write this blog.  Because left to my own devices, everything that made my list of life passions, and all of my hobbies, are standing still.

It’s time to start crawling.

I used to grab a basketball and shoot around and do ball drills every morning at the gym.  It was a 10 minute habit that became a ritual.  Throw in an earbud and the world around me disappeared, and some little corner of my mind came to life.

Smallest Step

I used to put on a set of headphones and sit down at the electronic drumset my husband got me for Christmas one year and pretend I was on tour with AC/DC, or BB King.  The sound reverberated through the sticks, into my arms, the world disappeared, and another tiny corner of my mind lit up.

I used to throw on a pair of shoes and run every time my life felt overwhelmed, or scared, or tired, or frustrated, and those feelings were replaced by something calm, and the corners of my mind that had grown dark, grew brighter.

And if I pulled myself up onto the back of a horse and let ‘er rip, there wasn’t a dark corner to be found.

When we let our lives get overwhelmed by the big things, it’s so EASY to tuck the little things away in a dark drawer.  Less should be EASIER.  Less overwhelming.  Less scary.  Less tiring.  Less frustrating.

The problem is, less is not more.  I like to think of my mind as a bunch of tiny compartments.  There is no one thing that lights them all up at once.  But as the glow from one corner creeps into the one next to it, my life feels more fulfilled, more productive…I feel MORE FREE to explore those compartments that I thought were long lost to the darkness.

So how on earth does this translate to business?  Or fitting a basketball, running shoes, a notebook, a drumset, and a horse into my gym bag on the way to the 12-hour job before coming home to the baby and husband, hoping to catch a few hours sleep before starting it all over again the next day?

FINANCIAL FREEDOM IS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS

Whoever says money doesn’t buy happiness is in denial. Money may not buy happiness, but financial freedom does. In a world where money can either set us free or tie our hands behind our backs, financial freedom allows us to pursue our dreams, while financial limitations force us into a life that sustains us instead of a life that inspires us.

Because of money, the older we get the smaller our dreams get. We all start out with grand visions of the future. At some point, we find ourselves looking back on our childhood hopes and dreams like we were just silly kids coming up with crazy stuff to do some day, before the real world came along and grounded us to “responsibility.” That reaction is just a way to justify the fact that at some point, we decided those dreams were either beyond our means, or there just wasn’t room in our lives, and they just faded away.

I still consider myself to be a dreamer, but when I look at myself in the mirror, I see someone who tucked away every little dream that came along and put it away in a “someday” box.  Over the years, each passion in the box collected layers of dust, and deep down, I know that I’m not working towards them anymore. Some of them aren’t physically possible (I am running out of Olympic sports that my knees could handle).  Most of the time, the truth is that we limit ourselves by deciding that they’re not financially possible. They’re too high risk, would take up too much time, or would be too much of a leap of faith without a safety net for our family.  All of these reasons are constraints limited by our responsibility to create financial stability.

SOMETIMES THE SMALLEST STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION IS THE BIGGEST STEP OF YOUR LIFE.  TIP TOE IF YOU MUST, BUT TAKE THE STEP

How many people reach the end of their lives and can say they even attempted to achieve their life dreams?  What would they have done if there were no financial limitations, or if they could find stability that also granted them freedom to manage their time?   I would venture to say that almost everyone settles, and that the main reason they have to is money. We’re willing to work so hard to make ends meet, to keep our family safe, to keep our family fed and clothed and to sustain ourselves. What if we could work just a little bit harder to strip away those limitations?  And then what if we could work a lot smarter and walk away from the hard work that we tie to “responsibility” and “stability,” putting the same level of effort toward living the lives we dream of?  Given the freedom to explore your passions, how would you CHOOSE to spend your time?

Tip Toe

Financial freedom is the key to exploring life’s passions.  Finding a way to achieve that financial freedom may be more work, more overwhelming (for a little while), more scary (at least at first).  It will be HARDER at first.  But achieving that freedom is the key to a life that is filled with MORE passion, MORE excitement, MORE fulfillment.

Money may not buy happiness, but financial freedom could buy the chance to explore our American dreams. I don’t know about you, but I would love to look back someday and at least say I tried, instead of convincing myself that the “someday” dreams I tucked away were just silly kid fantasies, not worth my time as a responsible adult.

What does Freedom mean to you?  Go take the first step and have fun chasing your American Dream!

Written by Angelina Stephens

Instagram.com/angelina.r.stephens.

 

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