Hoboken, New Jersey - You may assume the answer to the above question is an emphatic yes. After all, you earn your own income. You pay your own bills from your own bank account. You call the shots in your own life. But if you believe you're truly independent, there's a good chance you're wrong, says Greg Miller. That's because independence true independence isn't what you think it is.
"Independence means being completely free from the need to please others or worry about what other people think," says Miller, who along with Jack Skeen and Aaron Hill wrote The Circle Blueprint: Decoding the Conscious and Unconscious Factors that Determine Your Success (Wiley, October 2017, ISBN: 978-1-119-43485-6, $26.00, www.thecircleblueprint.com). "It isn't really about financial freedom. It's about taking 100 percent responsibility for your life and being able to speak candidly in all circumstances. And it's about living with freedom from the self-talk and torment of inner doubts and insecurities."
If you (reluctantly) admit that this doesn't sound like you, you're not alone. Our culture teaches women to be pleasers. Even if we hit our power curve early in life—which women often do, says Miller—we often go backward as our roles evolve.
"Women give away their independence: to fathers, spouses, bosses, even their children," says Miller. "They don't do this consciously, but it happens. Then, they start hiding their feelings to keep up the façade. This is unhealthy and leads to inauthentic behavior. Women, inherently, are deeply powerful—but to realize their full power, they need to master independence."
Miller says Independence is one of four key developmental areas that make up your own personal "Circle" and allow you to thrive. (The other three are Power, Humility, and Purpose.) And it's a big one: Gaining independence is the first and most fundamental step in achieving a rich and balanced life. Without it, you'll never live up to your full potential.
When you lack independence, you also lack self-confidence. You can't act decisively (an especially big problem if you're in a leadership position). You tend to create crises and drama, which distracts you from setting goals and fulfilling them. And you're always doing what others think is right for you rather than what you truly want. As a result, you never cultivate the unique gifts and abilities that should be the basis of your success.
"A life without independence is a life of mediocrity and unhappiness," notes Miller.
So, if you've given away your independence, can you take it back? Absolutely, says Miller. His Circle Blueprint System is designed to do just that. The Circle Blueprint System includes the aforementioned book as well as a confidential scientifically validated psychometric self-assessment and a series of supplemental workbooks. The self-assessment is free with purchase of the book.
Keep reading for a few tips to help you gain independence.
Curb your crisis-prone behavior. If you're crisis-prone, you create situations that either do not exist in reality, or don't have to exist. You tend to look for or make up distractions, a.k.a. manufactured drama. You perpetually cast yourself as a victim and cast others as villains. This is a huge waste of energy. Further, people learn to manipulate and take advantage of those who are constantly in crisis. If this describes you, it's important to stop creating the drama immediately.
"When you feel yourself falling into crisis-prone behavior, take a step back and examine the energy that is flowing through you," suggests Miller. "Ask yourself, What is really moving me to behave this way? If you determine that the crisis is necessary to propel you into action, pause, reflect, and do nothing until the energy subsides. Over time, you'll learn to remove yourself whenever this energy is present to increase your independence from crisis-prone behaviors."
Take steps to increase your autonomy. People with low autonomy see themselves as needy or as victims of their backgrounds or circumstances. They see others as better equipped to deal with life and have an expectation that others should take care of them or help them out. (Consider the oft-repeated fairy tale of the knight or prince riding in on the white horse to save the proverbial distressed damsel...need we say more?)
Women with high autonomy enjoy taking care of themselves, developing new skills, and solving problems, says Miller.
"Increasing your autonomy takes effort, but it can be done," he asserts. "Notice when you feel needy, and resist the urge to ask someone else to alleviate whatever discomfort you may feel. Work on becoming more self-sufficient and remind yourself that you are capable of making intelligent, informed decisions on your own."
Ask yourself: Am I living to please others? People who need to make others happy to feel content adapt to the social demands of those around them. They take cues from whoever appears to have the resources they need. They are often insincere, pretending to be supportive even when they are truly resentful or envious. People reach independence when they stop seeking to please others. They become authentic and sincere. They also likely have the skill of reading others and of fitting in, but they won't compromise themselves to do so.
"Pleasing others is the source of many people's strength and success, but it's actually detrimental in the long run," says Miller. "Notice when you are pleasing others instead of pleasing yourself. Remember that being true to yourself is not selfish—it's healthy and will allow you to make better decisions for your future."
Identify the "crutches" you use to cope. Take a close look at your daily habits and figure out if you are reliant on something that is negatively affecting your life. Maybe you smoke or drink too much to cope with daily stressors, or can't get through the workday without three cups of coffee. Other seemingly benign habits could also be keeping you from gaining independence. Do you zone out in front of the TV to avoid your problems (instead of doing the tough but rewarding work that could improve your life)? Are you letting someone or something control you?
"You become numb to life in small ways when you rely on crutches," says Miller. "Even when you think innocent distractions are harmless, they allow you to zone out and hinder your independence. Examine your tendency to display reliance on anything that holds you back from tapping into your innate greatness."
Set a goal, commit to it, and follow through. If you're constantly taking the path of least resistance, life may be "easier" but you won't accomplish much. Not only that, but others will choose your goals for you, because you're not stepping up to assert what you really want. But if you make a personal commitment to your goals and strive to accomplish them, you will take a giant leap toward achieving independence.
"Develop the discipline to work toward something difficult—even when it is uncomfortable to do so," says Miller. "Start writing down your personal commitments and then intentionally start living to fulfill them through your acts and words."
Work on becoming less pretentious. Miller describes pretentiousness as the need to appear more accomplished and successful than you really are. Those displaying pretentious behavior are preoccupied with how others view them and must always be seen in a favorable light. This kind of behavior stifles your authentic self, both the bad and the good qualities. When you pretend to be smarter, stronger, or better than you are, it also squelches your talents and your ability to connect to others.
"Being pretentious is basically asking others—and sometimes yourself—to meet a distorted expectation of yourself," says Miller. "This makes you dependent on a false expectation versus reality. Stop focusing on how people view your accomplishments or how you look to others. Instead, focus on doing work that matters and growing into your real potential."
Obviously, none of the issues Miller has described apply only to women. Plenty of men struggle with independence issues as well. But regardless of gender, no one can live a rich and meaningful life without independence.
"Even if you have all the makings of a successful life—advanced degrees, career success, a long and happy marriage—you will still feel trapped, powerless, and unhappy without independence," concludes Miller. "But when you become independent, you free yourself from all limitations. This allows you to finally become aware of your power and is a crucial step on the road to finding greatness, joy, and fulfillment."