The Power of Freedom

This is a “deleted scene” from Elastic Habits. My editor and I felt that it was too much of a tangent from the flow of the book. Such is the cost of writing—many of our words are sacrificed in the process. In fact, if I put all of the deleted content of Elastic Habits into its own book, it would be longer than Mini Habits (36k words vs 33k words)!

This particular excerpt may have been a tangent from the flow of the book, but it’s worth reading by itself. It’s about freedom, one of humanity’s most treasured things. I want to share these stories with you to show you what freedom means to us at a very core level.

Elastic Habits is a freedom-based system—it lets us choose what and how much we do each day. Other systems restrict freedom, attempting to trade it for (short-term) results. But there’s a problem with that, and it’s the reason why we quit our goals and habits early—nothing is more important to humans than our freedom.

First is the series of events that led to the famous “liberty or death” quote by Patrick Henry.

Liberty or Death

Now available on Amazon.

In 1773, British Parliament passed The Tea Act, which let the struggling East India Company export massive amounts of tea to American colonies. That tea, which disrupted the colonist merchant smuggled tea market, would also be taxed due to a preexisting law passed in 1967 called The Townshend Act.

American colonists were technically British citizens at the time, but they had no representation in British Parliament. They felt taxation was unfair, if not predatory, and the Tea Act was the catalyst to bring the issue to light.

The Boston Tea Party

The tax implications of the Tea Act resulted in a few colonies rejecting foreign tea shipments. A group called the Sons of Liberty took it a step further in the Port of Boston one evening. Disguising themselves as Native Americans, they boarded ships in Boston and threw more than 92,000 pounds of tea overboard! While that sounds more interesting than most parties I’ve been to, British Parliament did not like it.

British Parliament passed four “Intolerable Acts” as punishment for the Boston Tea Party. The Intolerable Acts took away several key freedoms of the colonists. Perhaps most notably, the Massachusetts Government Act took away Massachusetts’ charter, or their right and ability to self-govern.

American colonies hadn’t necessarily been happy before with British Parliament, but after the Intolerable Acts, they felt that their basic natural liberties and rights were really being threatened. It’s one thing to punish someone. It’s another thing to threaten or take away their freedom. Those are fightin’ words.

For lawyer and delegate Patrick Henry, The Intolerable Acts went too far. In a gathering of major colonial leaders, Henry stood up and delivered a passionate speech. He wanted Americans to unite against Great Britain and defend their most precious asset—their freedom. The speech ended with a powerful quantification of what freedom meant to him.

“Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God — I know not what course others may take; but as for me — give me liberty or give me death!”

~ Patrick Henry

This is one example of many throughout history of people fighting for their freedom. When our freedom is threatened, we will fight for it. Whenever and wherever there has been slavery in the world, it has always resulted in significant conflict because people demand freedom, for themselves and for others. There is nothing more important to human beings than freedom, not even life itself according to Patrick Henry.

On the flip side, when people regain their freedom, it’s one of the most powerful and moving moments one could imagine. When freedom is taken, we fight. When freedom is (re)gained, we’re overcome with joy.

The Emancipation Proclamation

On January 1, 1863, United States President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery in the states that were in rebellion during the civil war. In Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery, he recalls this day, the one in which he and his family gained freedom from slavery.

“As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom. True, they had sung those same verses before, but they had been careful to explain that the “freedom” in these songs referred to the next world, and had no connection with life in this world. Now they gradually threw off the mask, and were not afraid to let it be known that the “freedom” in their songs meant freedom of the body in this world.

The night before the eventful day, word was sent to the slave quarters to the effect that something unusual was going to take place at the “big house” the next morning. There was little, if any, sleep that night. All as excitement and expectancy. Early the next morning word was sent to all the slaves, old and young, to gather at the house. In company with my mother, brother, and sister, and a large number of other slaves, I went to the master’s house. […]

The most distinct thing that I now recall in connection with the scene was that some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper—the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reader we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.”

~ Booker T. Washington

What a beautiful moment, captured and preserved by Booker T. Washington so that we may never forget it. The immediate, raw emotion of Washington’s mother reveals the innate power and importance of freedom to us. Before being freed, they even sang about freedom in the afterlife because it didn’t seem like a possibility in their lives. It’s that important. Freedom means everything to all human beings—it’s just something we might forget about or take for granted when so many of us are so generously given it.

Some of my (and others’) favorite movies are all about freedom, and that’s no coincidence.

  • Gladiator, my favorite movie, is about a man betrayed and enslaved, who must literally fight for his freedom (and his life) in the Roman Colosseum.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, a movie based on the excellent novel by Alexandre Dumas, is about a man betrayed and sent to prison, and his subsequent fight to regain his freedom and life back. (He also wants revenge against the man who betrayed him, but hey, nobody’s perfect.)
  • The Shawshank Redemption is about two inmates seeking freedom from prison. Some people say this is the greatest movie of all time; it’s a story about false imprisonment and the subsequent journey to redemption (freedom).

Freedom in Goal and Habit Pursuit

Freedom is powerful because of our innate desire for it. So you could think of it as a high quality fuel source. But the more applicable way of viewing freedom when it comes to goals is how powerful it is in stopping them.

When a person begins a new goal or habit, they intend to improve their life with it. Their freedom to quit generally causes them to quit. Something will happen to make them want to stop (usually that the program is too difficult or obtrusive in their life). 

Sometimes, people artificially suppress their freedom, and try to force themselves to stick to a goal or habit no matter what. This ultimately ends in burnout or quitting (usually both), because our need for freedom surpasses all other desires in the long term.

Mini Habits was so powerful for me and others because while we still had a daily commitment, that commitment became so small that our sense of freedom was never threatened. We could pursue good things while remaining free.

But even that great experience wasn’t perfect. In time, I began to feel restricted in a different way. What if I wanted bigger wins? What if I wanted to commit to a bigger goal just today? I had no way to quantify and celebrate that in the Mini Habits system. Anything over the minimum was just labeled “bonus reps.” 

Elastic Habits have finally given me the freedom I’ve always wanted. My goal can move up, down, and sideways. I can get small wins or big wins. I have complete and dynamic control over my habits.

For most of my life, I felt like a slave to my goals, because they threatened my sense of freedom but I felt like I still needed them in my life. I am the master now.

The Math Power of Freedom

If you have three elastic habits with three levels of vertical success each, you have 27 possible unique ways to win each day. If you add in lateral flexibility, that number goes up exponentially, but let’s keep it simple with 27 winning combinations.

Over the course of a month, there are 8.7279636e+42 possible winning combinations (that’s a huge number). That means that no two people in the world will ever have the same path with elastic habits, even if all 7.7 billion of us pursued the same three habits. This is what freedom looks like! Free people never have the same lives, problems, interests, and ambitions.

We’re all as unique as our lives, and finally, there’s a flexible framework that recognizes that fact. They say to create the change you wish to see in the world. I did that with Elastic Habits. I was tired of cookie cutter programs telling me (or me telling myself) that I had to adhere to some arbitrary standard every day.

I love this system because it works for all levels. Elite athletes can use elastic habits for their training just as a regular Joe who wants to lose 50 pounds can. Their accomplishments and paths will be different because they are very different people.

In conclusion, freedom is our most valuable asset whether we realize it or not. The freedom to live how you want to live is the greatest gift, and I’m so excited to finally feel that way while pursuing my most important habits and goals. The results have been life-changing for me. I do more of all of the things that matter to me than I ever had, all while feeling freer than I ever have before.

Thanks for reading,

Stephen Guise

———

Elastic Habits (Click here to buy or see below) 

For the price of a sandwich without guacamole, you can absorb this life-changing concept.

Some early reviews from Amazon:

“What an amazing book. Simply the best habit formation book I have ever read — and I’ve read a lot of them!”
~ B. Thomas (verified purchase)

“Read it if you want to change your life in a positive way with little chance of failing.”
~ Amazon Customer (verified purchase)

“With more ways to win, habit creation is once again exciting. I highly recommend this book.”
~ M. Gonzalez (verified purchase)

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