Freedom in Captivity

Freedom in Captivity

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There are two books that have had a lasting impact on me, redefining my relationship to tough circumstances. They are Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela.

Frankl miraculously survived years in a German concentration camp, when many simply gave up, hopelessly, and died. His book details his experiences there, and also his explanation that a strong sense of purpose in life gave him the will to live and was key to his survival. He had something to live for: seeing his wife again, and he focused on her image throughout. His outlook was positive, and as a psychiatrist, he later used this awareness to develop new psychotherapeutic techniques.

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography describes his early life, his politics and his own period of incarceration for 27 years for ‘terrorism’ – i.e. opposing apartheid – and how he maintained his dignity and belief that he would one day be free, and so would his country. He practised walking with his head held high, even in his cell, because when he was free – he wanted to comport himself like a leader. He refused to allow prison to beat him down. And indeed, he walked free – a leader.

Each of these books tells the story of an inner freedom that can develop within people in the toughest of circumstances.

Elements of my own life are much more challenging than they used to be. They include the lack of choices arising from the much tougher financial circumstances I face, to the time-challenges created by having 3 young children.

But no matter how hard things are for me, someone has always overcome a worse struggle. Their stories are always out there, and knowing that brings me peace.

I reflect on both of these books, whenever I struggle with my self-perceived prisons. I always look to find some deep meaning and purpose in those experiences. I remind myself to understand that transcending our perception of day-to-day struggle is the path to more powerful leadership.

Understanding this can be a liberating experience. I use it as a mechanism to create my own freedom in captivity. Try it out for yourself. It isn’t always easy to find that inner sense of liberation, but my experience is – it is always there. Search for it. Persist. Think carefully. Look closely.

  • What is your own sense of purpose, in the struggle?
  • What points of growth can you find, in your most challenging situations? What have you learned?
  • How can you use the tough times to develop your skills and create a better future?

To freedom in captivity.


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