6 Surprising Ways to Feel More Freedom at Work

You don’t need to win the lottery or quit your day job to experience a sense of freedom at work. I was recently interviewed about how “being an entrepreneur makes me feel independent

I answered joyfully. But the truth is, I’ve been making a lot of my own freedom in a corporate day job for the last 2 decades. Much freedom comes from getting clear on who you are and taking control over your corner of the world.

6 Ways to Feel Freedom at Work

  1. Butt Out – Not always, but sometimes. It’s easy to get sucked into someone else’s drama. I have a colleague who says, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” There’s huge freedom in that sentiment. Sure, if you’ve got something substantial to offer by all means engage, but just like more spectators to an accident, more is not always helpful. Free up your energy for something more productive.
  2. Establish Personal Boundaries – Knowing how far you’re willing to go will take a lot of stress out of each situation. Having a clearly established values, ethics and boundaries will help you feel more in control of decisions and makes it easier to let go of minor frustrations. It’s liberating to know who you are and to live by that code. You’ll be surprised how much people will respect you taking an occasional solid stand, if most of the time you’re supportive and helpful.
  3. Create Structure and Processes – The more you can establish routines and systems for every day activities, the more time you’ll have for experimentation and creative exploration of new ideas. Plus structure keeps you organized, and nothing will make your boss leave you alone than a well-organized approach.
  4. Speak Up: – Every time I take over a new team, I begin with the following words: “If something feels stupid, it probably is. Say something.” We then proceed to celebrate when someone outs some “stupidity (of course never actually using the “s” word. )“I’m just wondering if this really makes sense in the context of that.” I’m always amazed how many people feel strangely empowered by this basic invitation to speak the truth. If something feels stupid, speak up, and encourage your team to do the same.
  5. Build White Space Into Your Calendar – It’s tempting to jam your calendar to the brim with “productive” activity. When your brain is full, there’s no time for creative signals to get through. Build some deliberate time in to your day to step back and take the long view. If you’re in an hourly structured job where that’s impossible, find a way to carve out a few minutes of your personal time to really reflect on how you are doing your work and how you could be more impactful. It will pay off in the long run. Read more
  6. Create a Cultural Oasis – If you’re feeling frustrated by the culture of your organization, do what you can to create a cultural niche in your neck of the woods. Lead how you would like to be led. Engage your peers in creative ideas. Be the boss you wish you had. Encourage special projects, volunteer for new assignments. Read more here

The Beautiful Journey From Why Me to Why Not Me

Angelle Albright had every reason in the world to say “why me.” Angelle was just 38 years old going through her second round of chemo treatment for the most aggressive form of breast cancer when she had to evacuate her New Orleans home during hurricane Katrina. While cancer was wreaking havoc on her life, the hurricane destroyed many of her family members homes.

Her physician husband and her doctor sat her down to break the news, she was not going to live. She recalls  telling a church member, “I can accept that God would take me, but why would he take the mother of my 3 children.” She felt strangely comforted by her friend’s response. “They’re not your children.”

But she did survive due to a miraculous drug described in the movie Living Proof in which Angelle serves as extra. She now believes, “Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. Somebody upstairs is using me to do good. If that’s why I was kept here, than I’m up to the challenge.”

A Calling Toward Entrepreneurship

When her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer five years later, Angelle felt compelled to ease what she could of her sisters pain, not start a movement. She wanted her to be able to “focus on her healthcare not her head ware.” They began to help others and Chemo Beanies was born.

Angelle’s mission is to help women with cancer “take the burden out of baldness” and to stop dying from vanity as they delay or avoid necessary treatment. Her footnote message is equally powerful: find the possibilities in every circumstance, and DO something to make a difference.

With no business degree, Chemo Beanies was recognized in Walmart’s Get On The Shelf contest, received a major grant from Chase, and additional support from Google.

Her sister and other family members partner with her in the business which they have defined on a clear set of core values. Helping women always stays at the forefront over profits.

A few examples:

Although it would clearly be cheaper to have the sewing done overseas, it’s all done in the US. “We didn’t want to enslave women somewhere else when we were trying to free women here.”

All designs are named after real women. When I told her of my mothers situation, she asked for her name. “Some day there might be a design that will feel just right to be named Jean, and I’ll remember this conversation.”

The picture above was taken at the airport when Angelle spotted a woman wearing a beanie and introduced herself. Her eye’s glowed and she shared the is story of “connection.”

In addition, Angelle hand crafts chemo beanie bridal veils for free when brides reach out, and this year they’ll donate 3000 beanies to needy patients. “It’s important for women going through this to feel graceful.”

Her sister, hand folds each beanie with love and prayer.

Finding Good In Suffering

When I asked Angelle what advice she’d give to people in the midst of unthinkable tragedy she shared:

  • Know that everyone is suffering in some way
  • The best good comes from suffering- take yours and do some good
  • Take action- just wishing things were different will keep things the same
  • Think REALLY big
  • Get outside your comfort zone- take some risks

Angelle knows the cancer could return, but for now she’s living each day to leave an important legacy, and is a powerful example of resilience, possibility and the power of dreams.