Have you read the U.S. Declaration of Independence? You might be familiar with some of the opening lines, including the iconic passage: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
U.S. Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. Not because of the pool parties, BBQs, and fireworks (although I enjoy those, too!), but because July 4th is the perfect mid-year date to take stock of the progress I’ve made toward the goals I set in January, and make adjustments so I can end the year even better than expected.
Years ago, I started an Independence Day tradition of declaring my freedom from thoughts, feelings, habits, and beliefs that are no longer serving me. I imagine I’m carrying a backpack, and on Independence Day, I sit down on a log, take everything out, and examine each item closely. I ask — is this habit still useful? Must I continue to carry this feeling, or that belief? If the answer is no, I set it down by the side of the trail. It’s not my weight to bear anymore.
It’s easy to accumulate habits and beliefs that drag us down. The “rocks in your backpack” might include a strained relationship, an endless to-do list, a cluttered home or office, or a few extra pounds on the scale. You might find that fear of failure is holding you back, or that your need to always be right is slowing you down.
Whatever you find in your backpack, try addressing it head-on this Independence Day. Have a crucial conversation, prioritize and delegate, cook a healthy meal, or clean out a closet. Take some time to play the “What if” game, or to get curious about a topic you thought you’d mastered. Call a trusted friend, and ask for their honest criticism of your habits and ideas.
Once you’ve set aside the things that are no longer serving you, your backpack will feel lighter, and you’ll be free to set out in pursuit of your goals.
But there’s more. Do you know how the Declaration of Independence concludes? If you’ve read all the way to the end, you might recognize this line: And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
The framers knew that to support the Declaration, they needed to support one another. More than two centuries later, that truth still holds — we accomplish big things together, and helping someone else is often an essential step in the journey toward a better life and career. So, after you’ve lightened your own load, take a few minutes to think about how you could remove some rocks from the packs of your colleagues, family, and friends. Could you set a better example, share more of your gifts (intellectual, financial, and spiritual), or simply show more empathy and respect for those around you?
Try spending this Independence Day declaring your own freedom from unnecessary burdens, and helping someone else do the same. If you can accomplish that, I’d say you’ll have earned some fireworks at sunset!