We want to be free.

But what is freedom? Are we on the right path?

There are many ways to think about this, but one indicator is particularly useful – our ability to say NO.

Observing our own ability or inability to say NO throws up interesting insights about how truly free we are.

Are we able to say NO to our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, bosses, acquaintances…to our own thoughts, passions, desires, needs, urges…sometimes, occasionally, more often or less often, firmly or shyly, confidently….??

We should be able to say NO when we really want to. When we think of it, we possibly should be saying NO many more times than saying YES. But many are the barriers – social, cultural, mental, emotional… We fear the backlash. We worry about how others will react. We don’t want to lose out. We are uncertain how we will feel about ourselves after we say NO. But we also fret about our inability to say no. We regret the many times we have said YES. Over time, many forget or lose their ability to say NO. We forget we have the choice. We may rationalize things have worked out well. But the possibility of a better alternate life where we had the ability to say NO more often looks interesting.

Saying NO has become more critical now because the world is more complex and we now face a bewildering range of stimuli and choices. Life is not as simple as it was before. We have more choices and are forced to make more decisions. Saying NO to many things simplifies our lives. It makes life more enjoyable.

How to say NO? Where do we start? A good starting point is by developing and living by our own personal inner scorecard. Not worrying or bothering about external benchmarks, expectations, & attachments. It’s good to have our own personal measures of success, failure, achievement, ambition, goals, etc. The inner scorecard develops over time. Study and learn from others, past masters. Fine tune it. Keep it handy. A ready reckoner. The first point of reference for any decision we take. Its our life. While there are broad contours defined by our circumstances, society, lifestyles etc., we still have lots of space to practice living by our inner scorecard. We should have a set of filters, models & ideas in our scorecard which will help us quickly say YES or NO.

Freedom is of many kinds – physical, spacial, mental, emotional, financial, etc. Are we able to think & act the way we want to? What or who is stopping us? Why? Should we rework our inner scorecard? Ok, we have the freedom to act & do certain things. What next? Will that prod us to want more freedom? Is there a limit or do we go on an endless pursuit? Are we thinking more or doing more…what is the balance?

We can contemplate on freedom for a long time and in many ways.

Our ability to say NO is a pragmatic indicator of our personal freedom.