As Benjamin Franklin once famously said:
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
The debate between security and freedom is certainly rampant in politics, but these values also influence our everyday decisions. For me, it’s been a recurring battle in my mind over different stages of my life, and was one reason I put off decisions like moving across the world, starting my own business, or talking to the pretty girl I liked.
The following is an exploration on these two personal values, their interplay, and how you might choose which takes precedence in your life.
The Meaning of Security and Freedom: A Philosophical Exploration
Since we’re going to do a deep dive, I thought it might be helpful to at least lay out the groundwork. We throw these concepts around a lot, but let’s agree on some standard definitions just to ensure we’re all on the same page.
In the context of personal values and life decisions, security and freedom are often two opposing forces that guide our choices and shape our paths. Both are essential human needs, sure. But they pull us in different directions.
Which do you resonate with more?
What is Security?
Security is the state of feeling free from danger or threat. It’s about having stability, safety, and predictability in your life — and knowing that your essential needs like shelter, food, financial stability, and emotional well-being are taken care of.
If you value security, you’ll choose a stable job over a risky business venture, living in a familiar environment over exploring unknown territories, or keeping current relationships rather than seeking new ones. You’ll tend to stay in your comfort zone and minimize risk.
What is Freedom?
Freedom is the ability to act, choose, and think without constraints. It’s about taking risks, embracing change, and pursuing what truly makes you happy, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.
If you value freedom over security, you might quit a secure job to follow your passion, move to a new city to start life over, or embrace an unconventional lifestyle. Freedom is the pursuit of authenticity, creativity, and self-expression without being held back by fear or the expectations of others.
But if you value freedom, it’s a double-edged sword. You have the responsibility to respect the rights and choices of others. It’s the absence of coercion or constraint in choices and actions, allowing everyone to pursue happiness, fulfill their potential, and express their individuality.
My Personal Views on the Security vs Freedom Dilemma
Security or freedom? My whole life these two values have battled it out.
I still have the notebook from a number of years ago when I went through Tony Robbins’ program Personal Power 2. One of the psychology exercises had you list out your values and then arrange them.
Ten lines, ten values in order of importance.
In my scribbled handwriting, the word FREEDOM is written on line 1, and SECURITY on line 2. Connecting them to the right is a double-headed arrow with a question mark in the center.
I honestly couldn’t answer with conviction.
But flash forward 10 years and I’ve seen how these values influence your decisions on a grand scale.
Present me thinks about how security can often be an illusion (in work, in marriage, in life) and how life is a series of experiments. After taking enough risks, I believe you eventually find security within freedom. As your life experiences multiply, a balance is achieved.
But getting clear on your priority will help you make better decisions — ones that can alter the course of your life. Let’s do a deep dive on each value. My aim here is to give you more information so that you become much clearer on your priorities than I was so you can start gaining momentum faster.
The Importance of Security
On a deeper level, the need for security is rooted in psychology. It’s about having a consistent sense of self, confidence in your abilities, and belief in a predictable and orderly world. This psychological security acts as an anchor, allowing you to explore, take risks, and embrace changes without being paralyzed by fear.
Below are the different facets that underline the importance of security in your life:
Physical Security: Shelter, Food, Health
Physical security is the foundation of your well-being. It’s about having access to safe shelter, nutritious food, and proper healthcare. Without these basic needs met, it’s challenging to pursue higher goals or enjoy the freedoms life offers. Physical security provides us with the comfort that our essential needs are taken care of, allowing us to focus on growth and exploration.
Emotional Security: Relationships, Stability
Emotional security is rooted in the relationships and social bonds we form. It includes having stable connections with family, friends, and loved ones that provide support, love, and understanding. A robust emotional foundation allows us to take risks, knowing that we have a safety net to fall back on. It’s about feeling at home in our own skin and in our relationships.
Financial Security: Employment, Savings, Investments
Financial security encompasses having stable income sources, savings for emergencies, and wise investments for the future. It represents the freedom from financial stress and the ability to enjoy life without constant worry about money. Financial security provides the means to pursue hobbies, education, travel, and other enriching experiences that require financial resources.
The Importance of Freedom
Freedom, like security, is a complex and vital aspect of life. It’s the ability to think, act, and live as you choose without undue restraint or coercion. It’s both a personal ideal and a societal value.
From a psychological standpoint, freedom is connected to self-determination, self-efficacy, and the ability to make choices that are congruent with your true self. It’s about breaking free from societal conditioning, internal limitations, and embracing a life that resonates with our deepest beliefs and values.
Let’s delve into the different facets of freedom and why they’re so significant:
Personal Freedom: Autonomy, Choice, Creativity
Personal freedom encompasses the right to make choices about your own life, the autonomy to pursue your passions, and the liberty to express creativity. This level of freedom allows you to be your authentic self, explore your interests, and grow in directions that are aligned with your unique desires and values.
Financial Freedom: Entrepreneurship, Passive Income
Financial freedom extends beyond merely having enough money to meet your needs. It includes the freedom to engage in entrepreneurial ventures, build passive income streams, and have control over your financial destiny. Financial freedom can offer the flexibility to work less, travel more, and invest in experiences or causes that are meaningful to you.
Freedom in Relationships: Healthy Boundaries, Support
Freedom within relationships refers to the ability to choose who you connect with and how you interact with them. It’s about having relationships that are free from manipulation, control, or undue influence. In this context, freedom fosters relationships that are nurturing, respectful, and supportive, enhancing your overall well-being.
Societal and Political Freedom: Rights and Liberties
On a broader scale, societal and political freedom includes the rights and liberties given by our governments and communities. These freedoms ensure that you have a voice in the decisions that affect you, the right to assemble, speak your mind, and live without fear of persecution. Societal and political freedom forms the backbone of democratic societies and influences your daily life in profound ways.
If you’re living a location independent lifestyle, you have the freedom to go where you have the most freedom. You vote with your passport.
Finding a Balance: Can You Have Both Freedom and Security?
Freedom doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s intertwined with security, and finding the equilibrium between the two is crucial. Balancing the need for safety with the desire for exploration and self-expression allows you to live a life that’s both rich and grounded.
Here are some thoughts on creating a fulfilling and well-rounded life.
Thoughts on Balancing Security and Freedom
- Identify Your Core Values and Priorities: Understanding what matters most to you will guide your decisions and help you find the right blend of security and freedom.
- Create a Flexible Plan: A well-thought-out plan that allows for spontaneity can lead to both stability and exploration.
- Build a Safety Net: Investing in physical, emotional, and financial security can provide the foundation that enables you to take risks and embrace freedom.
- Embrace Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Being willing to learn and adapt to changing circumstances ensures that you can navigate both the stable and unpredictable aspects of life.
The Risks and Rewards of Choosing One Over the Other
- Leaning Too Far Towards Security: While a focus on security can provide comfort and stability, it may also lead to stagnation, missed opportunities, and a lack of fulfillment.
- Leaning Too Far Towards Freedom: Embracing freedom without considering security can lead to instability, stress, and potential failure.
Balancing these two aspects involves understanding the benefits of both and recognizing the potential downsides of neglecting one over the other.
Finding Security Within Freedom
For me, I found a balance of stability within freedom. A home base with frequenty travels. A healthy relationship where we respect each other’s freedoms. I’ve learned I benefit from these constants.
Security does not necessarily mean constriction, and freedom doesn’t mean chaos. You can find security within freedom by:
- Embracing Mindful Risk-taking: Calculated risks can lead to growth and excitement without jeopardizing your well-being.
- Building Strong and Supportive Relationships: A network of supportive friends and family can provide a secure base from which you can explore and innovate.
- Developing Resilience and Emotional Intelligence: Cultivating the ability to bounce back from failures and understand yourself deeply adds a layer of security to your ventures into freedom.
By understanding your unique needs and desires, you can craft a life that offers both stability and the courage to explore, innovate, and grow.
In this interplay between the known and the unknown, you find richness, meaning, and fulfillment — and a path that truly resonates with who you are.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Finding the right balance between security and freedom can be a complex and highly individualized process. To aid you in your journey, consider reflecting on these psychological and thought-provoking questions. They will help you uncover your preferences, fears, and desires, guiding you towards a path that resonates with your unique personality and values:
- What does security mean to you? Is it financial stability, a steady job, emotional connections, or something else?
- What does freedom mean to you? Is it the ability to travel, the flexibility to choose your path, creative expression, or something else?
- Do you naturally lean towards freedom or security? Do you find comfort in stability, or do you thrive on change and uncertainty?
- What are you willing to sacrifice for the other? Would you give up some freedoms for more security, or vice versa?
- What is your long-term vision, and how does it align with security and freedom?
- How have your past experiences shaped your views on security and freedom? Have there been moments when you felt trapped by security or overwhelmed by freedom?
- How does your current lifestyle reflect your preferences for security or freedom? Are you living in alignment with your true desires and values?
Imagine you’re faced with a life-altering decision between two different paths. On one side, a well-established corporation offers you a position with a great salary, solid career track, and high quality benefits. The office has a stunning view, colleagues with impressive credentials, and the assurance of a stable career. However, this job demands 10 hour days and leaves you with limited personal time and creative freedom. Your days would be structured, with little room for exploration or spontaneity.
On the other side, a start-up company has spotted your potential and offers you a role that promises autonomy, flexibility, and the freedom to innovate. The atmosphere is vibrant, filled with passionate individuals who are unafraid to take risks. The financial rewards are less certain, and the path is filled with unknowns, but you have the space to grow, learn, and shape your destiny.
Would you choose the corporate job? Or the start-up?
Frequently Asked Questions About Security and Freedom
Which is more important security or freedom?
The importance of security vs. freedom varies from person to person. Security prioritizes stability, protection, and predictability, which can foster a sense of safety and well-being. Freedom emphasizes autonomy, self-expression, and individual choice, potentially promoting personal growth and creativity. The preference for one over the other is often influenced by individual experiences, beliefs, and cultural background, and there is no universally correct answer.
Why is freedom better than safety?
The preference for freedom over safety in personal values may stem from an emphasis on autonomy, self-expression, and the pursuit of personal goals. Freedom allows for creativity, individual growth, and the right to make personal choices, even at the risk of potential danger. Conversely, prioritizing safety may limit personal liberties, creating restrictions that some might find stifling or inhibiting to personal development. The balance between these two values varies greatly among individuals and societies.
What is the difference between liberty and freedom?
Liberty and freedom are often used interchangeably, but they can have nuanced differences. Freedom generally refers to the power to act without restraint or interference, encompassing personal choices and desires. Liberty is often associated with the social and political context, referring to the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions by authority. In essence, freedom is more individualistic, while liberty often considers societal rules and governance.
I don’t have the answer, but I do know that the most successful people I’ve met all took a series of calculated risks to get where they’re at. Their freedom was ratcheted up as they took more risks.
As Mark Zuckerberg said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
Have any thoughts on this? What calculated risks are you taking (or could you take) right now? Or do you value security more?
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