Stay In or Go Out? A Bigger Question Than You Might Think

Security, Freedom and the Pursuit of Happiness

Posted Nov 25, 2015

lalalululala/Dollar Photo Club
Source: lalalululala/Dollar Photo Club

Imagine a big, comfortable cage that locks from the inside. All the things you’re scared of, and that can hurt you, are outside the cage and can never get in.

Inside, there’s nothing scary, nothing that can harm you. You’re perfectly safe as long as you stay in the cage.

On the outside, where all the bad things are, there are also lots of good things -- things that are fun, interesting, or just really cool. The catch is, they’re ONLY on the outside; you have to leave the safety of the cage to get to them.

Outside the cage is freedom.

Inside the cage is security.

How much time do you spend in the cage? How content are you with that choice?

Freedom vs. Security

The opposing forces of freedom and security become apparent whenever we make important decisions in life. In fact, just about anything worth doing will make us aware of the tension between these values.

In order to travel, we have to leave home (along with the security that home offers).

If we’d rather stay home, we forfeit the freedom of travel.

To start a relationship, we have to give up the freedom of being single.

To leave a relationship, we relinquish the security of being partnered.

Security and freedom are like yin and yang. Neither is complete without the other and ideally, we need some of both to be content.

Over-Valuing Security

According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we all need security in order to even begin becoming our best selves. Most of us who lack balance tend to spend more time inside the cage than outside. We prioritize security over freedom.

Do you over-value security at the expense of your freedom? Check out the following statements and see how many you agree with:

  1. I realize I may be missing out on some things in life, but I like my routines.
  2. I would never leave a job unless I had another one lined up.
  3. Being married to the wrong person is better than not being married at all.
  4. I won’t share an opinion if I think it might make me sound stupid.
  5. I’d rather invest safely and make a smaller return than risk losing money.
  6. Familiar discomfort is preferable to unknown discomfort.
  7. Things could probably be better for me, but taking action feels too risky.

If you tend to stay in the cage a lot, you’re likely to agree with at least four of those statements.

But if that cage is starting to feel a little bit stale, you might consider taking the risk of moving toward whatever’s “out there” that’s been calling to you.

Is it a new job or career? A relationship? A move to a new location?

It’s not supposed to feel safe to take risks. If you’re uncomfortable leaving the cage, you’re on the right track toward growth, achievement, and the possibility of greater happiness.

Escape to Freedom

Want to exercise your freedom muscles? Here are a few ways to step outside the cage in small ways. Pick the ones that are hard for you and ignore the rest.

  • Go exploring. The Internet doesn't count.
  • Change (or ditch) your routine one day a week
  • Speak out about an issue
  • Smile unabashedly at someone
  • Wear something daring in public
  • Be the first to welcome a new person
  • Take a baby step in the direction of a crazy, impossible dream
  • Stop labeling your dreams “crazy” and “impossible”
  • Spend some money on yourself, or give some away
  • Write a list of things that would be fun for you…
  • Then do those things

There’s nothing wrong with liking security. As I already mentioned, security is a necessary condition for everyone who wants to thrive.

But ask yourself this: When you approach the end of your life, will you be glad you stayed safe, or will you look back and regret all the roads not taken?

Don’t let your desire for security eclipse your equally valid need for freedom. You’re an adult. You’ve earned some time outside the cage.

Be careful out there …. but be out there.