4 Simple Steps to Freedom

Happy woman sitting on the beach

“I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Once upon a time my mind was filled with negative talk and self-doubt. Those thoughts were so loud I could not hear my authentic self shine through. On a deeper level I knew she existed, but I didn’t how to connect with her.

I believed I would have to work at it, change myself, somehow be good enough so I could be free to be myself. I believed the key to happiness was figuring out how to fix everything that was wrong with me (and oh, was there a lot to fix).

If I fixed myself, then I could enjoy life and be that free woman I always envisioned myself to be. Little did I know the key to this freedom wasn’t fixing myself at all, but realizing that the little voice coming up with all those things to fix was a big, fat liar!

The most profound and important realization I’ve ever had came from reading a little book called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It was that I am not my thoughts, but the awareness behind them.

Wow. My true self is the awareness behind my thoughts, and she is always here! I have the power right now to choose from which place I act—what a magical concept!

I then started looking at all of the areas in my life in which I could inject a little space between my thoughts and my awareness. I examined where my thoughts made me feel stuck, trapped, or hopeless.

My outer world, like myself, wasn’t something that needed to be fixed, changed, or controlled so that I could experience peace in the future. This outer reality was a direct reflection of my thoughts, and as they stayed rooted in negativity, so did my world.

True freedom doesn’t come in the future, from a situation, or “from” anything at all, but is within you right now.

The following are four ways you can shift your thoughts so you can feel freer, lighter, and happier in your life instantly.

1. Don’t take anything personally.

Each person’s opinion is solely the product of their own life and reality.

It’s hard to imagine this. It’s way easier to get offended or mad or to internalize and believe what they said. Rather than getting consumed by it, obsessed over it, and letting it affect you, just let it go. Hear what they say, accept that it is a reflection of their world, and poof. See the thought disappear.

This is also true when someone is giving you advice. Have you ever shared your biggest dream? The responses can be all over the place. One person may say, “Good luck with that, maybe you should come back to earth” while another may be all about it, “YES! Go for it!”

Does that mean the first person doesn’t believe in you? Absolutely not. It means (s)he doesn’t believe in himself. In other words, it’s hard for that person to imagine your dream in his own realm of possibility.

When someone says something to you, whether it be an insult, piece of advice, or anything at all, connect back to your awareness. Only you can know what is true or not. By taking another person’s opinion of yourself to heart and choosing to believe it, you are doing yourself a huge injustice.

2. Don’t be a victim.

It’s easy to think that the world is against you. Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong? It happens. There are things in our control and out of our control. You can’t control the world around you, but you can control how you react to things. Don’t fall into the downward spiral of the victim trap.

Embrace each and every thing that happens as an opportunity. When something “bad” happens ask, “What is the universe trying to tell me?”

Often it’s saying stop, slow down, and come back to the present before your life zips past you. And if it’s not saying that, it’s saying something. So listen.

Accept situations as signs or opportunities, and remember that there is a purpose and a greater good to each. Look for the lesson rather than getting stuck in victim mode.

My new favorite mantra when the times are tough is “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Feeling gratitude for all things, at all times is incredibly freeing.

3. Be gentle, kind, and compassionate with yourself.

As the awareness behind your thoughts, acknowledge what you say about yourself. Are your thoughts kind? Or are you your own worst critic? When you look in the mirror, do you see pure beauty, or do you pick yourself apart?

Imagine having a little person on your shoulder telling you horrible things about yourself all day long. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? How do you think that would affect your life? Well, that is what we’re doing to ourselves if we stay in a place of constant negative self-talk.

Work on shifting your thoughts to ones that are more loving and kind. Every time you think something negative about yourself, replace it with a positive. Focus on the good things and give attention to your awesomeness. Eventually, you will start believing them. Doing so allows you to have the freedom to just be you.

4. Practice forgiveness.

The powerful F word. Oprah said it best: “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be changed.” Forgiveness isn’t about saying that whatever happened was okay, right, or just, but about letting it go.

Forgiving is releasing the power that a certain event has on you. By not forgiving you are keeping your mind in the past, thinking and wishing that things could have been different. This traps you and makes you feel powerless.

Forgiveness puts you back into the present—the only time that truly exists—where you have the power to live free and happy.

Next time you feel stuck, turn your awareness within. What do your thoughts look like? Allow your mind’s grip to release so the joy can flow in.

Photo by Atilla Kefeli

About Jackie Vecchio

Jackie Vecchio writes about creating happy. If you want to be a more active participant in the creation of your personal brand of happiness (because it’s NOT the same for everyone), then come over to Sign up to receive weekly emails on the how of creating lasting, pervasive happiness – from the practical to the magical.

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  • Claudia

    Loved it. A bit of an eye opener for me. Thank you Jackie. xx

  • great advice. Its so hard to remember to do these, but the benefits are worth all the effort!

  • Peggy

    Thank you! I’ve been struggling with what forgiveness means, and you really articulate what it means.

  • Brilliant article, and easily the most pertinent subject matter of our time. In any and all moments of “time” in which people think problems arise, I’ve found a very simple way to dismiss the thoughts and emotions… Simply ask yourself this, In THIS moment, what is wrong… In this you’ll find the key to living present. Most minds will immediately jump to situations and moments of past or “future” but In This Moment… Everything is just fine… Everything is exactly how it is. Realize this, and you’ve realized everything.

    What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Also, for people who Enjoy Tolle. I’ve found Dr Wayne Dryer / Don Miguel Ruiz / Herman Hesse: Siddhartha and Goldman and Narcissus Very great reads.


  • I love that! “In THIS moment, what is wrong?” That is a great question to ask yourself when you think you are in a “difficult” moment.

    I also love those authors and have learned a lot from them.

  • Danny

    This is a truly wonderful article; thank you.

  • I’m so happy it helped!

  • nectar

    I completely agree with the mind being the power to happiness and I too think Tolle is a genius! However, do you also think that certain external factors can actually make it easier to be happy…for example if you dont like cities then moving to the countryside? This however, would contradict the belief that happiness is purely from within. i wondered what your thoughts were on this? Many thanks for your wonderful words though x

  • Hi Nectar! I agree that there are external factors that can give us more pleasure than others, though I do believe that our true sense of joy and contentment comes from within. To me, this means that although we live somewhere we don’t jive with/someone insults us/we are not as healthy as we’d like/etc. we can still access that Source within us that says “everything is okay.” It’s giving up control in a situation you have no control over. It’s also acknowledging when you DO have the opportunity to change something and trusting in your power to do it. I believe when you find true happiness within, the external can absolutely bring you some fun, happiness and pleasure but it is not the basis of your happiness. I actually moved across the country for the sun and great weather, but until I found my “inner happy place” I couldn’t truly enjoy it in the way I do now!

  • nectar

    thank you so much for your reply jackie…u really sound like you have found the enlightenment I so crave myself! I have recently returned to a big, busy city to be near friends but am missing the beauty and sun of distant lands and finding it tricky to feel the spirituality within and see the beauty here that was so easy abroad. Do you have any tips for feeling more content in my current location which seems so incongruent with who I am, as you sound like you have had a similar experience?

  • Dan

    Incredible – you have summed up the aware self in one article 🙂 It says it all! I think right here is all the knowledge that anyone needs to accept, in order to be happy in this moment (and it’s always this moment!)

  • Bluebuddha1961

    Why do I find all of these things so hard?

  • Healingplacemedfield

    I enjoyed your blog. These are the practices I have incorporated in my life. I am not saying that it is easy. I am aware of my dark ego and my light soul. Some days the dark ego wins, but most days the light shines through the darkness.

  • They can be very hard! I think as humans, we’ve all struggled (and do struggle) with these. When something seems impossible, just start with being that awareness and taking notice of how you’re acting and feeling. It all starts with awareness which is easy…the rest will follow. 🙂

  • Oh how I understand the beauty of distant lands. It’s very easy to feel true freedom and contentment when we’re in a new place (especially if that new place is awesome ;)). I think what excites us about distant lands is the wonderment and exploration. Is this true for you? I would suggest looking at your city with new eyes. What parts of it can you explore that you haven’t already? Pretend to be a visitor for a day! Also, if it’s the city-ness that bothers you, make sure you take lots of time to slow down and balance that busyness – do yoga often, relax in your house, meditate. And, although the city may not feel congruent, it’s probably filled with people that are. Connecting with like-minded people will definitely help make the city more “homey.” I hope that helps!

  • Jax

    It’s a slow process. Just by constantly trying you will eventually see tiny changes in the way you view and react to things. It’s like when you keep getting up on that bike. Eventually you can do it.

  • SueVo

    Great advice. Well said. Thank you!

  • Maybe this difficulty is the suffering that the Buddha speaks of?

  • Lisacurrancork

    Thank you …for sharing x

  • vee

    My motto of late, which many of my friends have decided to adopt as well: It is what it is. This easily covers points 1 and 2. When I need to take it further I add: It becomes what it needs to be.
    This little pearl of wisdom has helped me out a lot in the last year.

    I loved this article and will keep it in mind daily. 🙂

  • RachelAV

    Thank you for posting this. I am a believer of God so I replace a few words with His name and it still possesses all true meaning. If everyone was more aware of themselves then this world would be a better, positive place to live in. But just having that peace within yourself is an awesome feeling.

    Great post!

  • Tea Queen

    I can relate to this article in every single way. Everything mentioned in this article was practical advice I could use now. I just ordered A new Earth. Anything that could inspire a article like this is worth reading.

  • =)

    Jackie, I tried to email you but your website contact link isn’t functioning correctly. I would love to hear a list of your fav books/authors on related subject matter, also perhaps your fav books of all times list. (I’m getting super into reading this year)
    Thanks much.

  • Don’t know why it didn’t work! My email is 🙂 I plan on making a book list for my site very soon!

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  • Ali

    I have been coming to tiny buddha for a while now and I think all of the posts are great and all have helped me in some way. This one is by far one of my favorites now! Thank you for posting this, it has been such a help to me and is exactly what I needed to read at this point in my life. : )

  • Smartapants

    Something I have learned along the way: forgiveness is not for the forgiven. Helps me.

  • Ali, your comment warms my heart! So so happy this helped you and came when you needed it!

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  • Jackie,

    Working with our own mind is without question the key to true freedom. Thanks for showing us these essential tips for getting in touch with the freedom that exists within each and everyone of us. They are real gems.

    I’m having to munch on your first tip though – not to take anything personally – to see if it really resonates for me or not. You see, sometimes, I think we should definitely take something personally. Sometimes a person is mirroring or saying exactly what we need to see or hear. It seems to me that wisdom lies in being able to differentiate between what is relevant and what is not. On top of that, we are all interconnected and we do effect one another.

    But in any case, I definitely agree that we shouldn’t what others say about us and use it to harm ourselves.

  • Jackie.

    Wow, what a wonderful post with nuggets for life. Thank you so much!

    Somehow in Western culture, we are so self-evaluative and miss our pure essence and basic goodness as beings. By practicing self-compassion (not indulgence!) as we would with a beloved friend, we can heal ourselves from ingrained thinking and behaviors. Your Nugget #3 is one I like to carry around in my pocket.

    Jack Kornfield put the Oprah quote in a different way with a similar meaning and it’s truly one of my favorites. “The past is over: Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past.”

    I appreciate you sharing about The New Earth. I read it several years ago and recognize that I need to dig it out.

    Blessings to you.

  • caro1001

    Thank you thank you thank you at this present moment in my life I needed this

  • Kstaronthegoldy

    Enlightening reading, thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Nancy

    powerful – thank you! I often need to be reminded of these things…

  • Randy

    I’ll go with three out of the four. The first three seem right on target. I think forgiveness is the right topic for the fourth, but it needs to be something other than just letting go. It seems to me that forgiveness is more about transforming the situation and ourselves, not by letting go, but by seeing how that situation can get us to where we really need to be – even if we very much don’t like it. What needs to be forgiven hurts a lot and can’t just be let go. It can, however, present us not only with the opportunity to heal that situation, but to heal the condition in our life that brought us that situation. I think…

  • Lynn

    I really needed to read this at this point in my life. It’s exactly how I have been feeling but unable to put into words. Reading these helped me put things back into perspective thank you so much.

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  • Jackie, I loved this post! It’s something I’ll come back to again and again – lots of great pointers and reminders about life in general. Thanks so much.

  • Lalaraa

    I recently headed over to the other side of the world to a place I had last been really happy, thinking it was geography that was holding me back.
    I learned the hard (the very very very hard) way that what was holding me back was actually inside!
    Funnily enough I also learned that right now, my home is exactly the place I thought I needed to leave. This year has given me a lot of surprising lessons =)

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  • i randomly came across this blog and loved it!! The mentioned Oprah quote has been a favorite of mine for awhile, plus I completely relate to the epiphany you experienced when reading A New Earth. This is such a lovely website 🙂

  • Hi Eleanor!

    I didn’t write this post, but I run the site so I thought I’d say hello. It’s a pleasure to e-meet you. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the site so far. =)


  • Tami

    Love this!!! Thank you for posting, Jackie!

  • ajin

    this article really helps me look at things differently and freely. i can not express enough my thanks to the writer, Jackie Vecchio, for her advice and direction. there are a lot to take in and learn and practice. thank you!!

  • Margarita Daly

    These are truths I know & for my own peace if mind NEED to reread, remind & release the false attachments. Thank you for such a susinct teaching.

  • Mahesh Sahu

    Its nice article and thank you for sharing. But according to my opinion, forgiveness is not just you have mentioned. “Forgiveness isn’t about saying that whatever happened was okay, right, or just, but about letting it go.”

    Forgiveness is to really forgive others because it is for betterment & good health of oneself. To liberate from judgement and show compassion to the other person even if that person is wrong according to one.

  • kerri

    I totally agree and am grateful to come to KNOW this

  • tia

    thanks for this…ive been so negative & unfocused lately. my thoughts are so toxic…i think this is what I needed. To help slowly bring myself to a new perspective

  • garima

    Grt write Jackie…reading through it felt as if my story was going on..most of the days i feel so negative, constantly demeaning myself n as a result going into a never ending cycle of self loathing, depression..n avoiding the beautiful things life has offered me..this was a sort of eye opener for me n i hope to inculcate all u have written in my life…Thanx for inspiring

  • James

    The kind of blog post I like reading: Concise, true and important.

  • Captain Kirk

    Hi there. There’s a lot of good advice in these articles and I’ve read Tolle’s The Power of Now which holds great truths. I wonder if anyone can give any practical tips on how to go beyond thoughts to the real ‘you’ – the consciousness that lies beyond language and beyond the ego. I’ve read a lot of stuff and done yoga and meditation and although it’s quite relaxing it hasn’t fundamentally made any difference to me. Give me one good tip. The nearest I can get is “Wonder what your next thought is going to be”

  • Bradley McWalter

    Great piece!