I seem to be in a season of wanting to explore elusive words that impact many aspects of your (and my) life. Last week, it was the word “simple.” In that post, I talked about how tapping into the power of simple typically goes through a complex process. This week, I am turning your attention to the notion of independence.

What does independence, in general, and regarding money specifically, mean to you; what does it look and feel like; how do you know when you have it; how does it change as your life evolves. You know…easy stuff 🙂 

As with most topics I write about, this latest theme on “tricky” words was sparked by a conversation, which made me wonder if independence is more of a state of mind, way of living, or something else. (Thanks, Sean McMullin!)

So naturally I took my curiosity to social media, posting a video across my channels asking my followers for their thoughts. The conversations in my Instagram DMs confirmed that I’m not the only one that thinks “independence” is a BIG topic to ponder. 

In the midst of my own contemplation, I thought about independent films and recording artists. What made a film “independent” to me was that it played at the “art” cinema (like the Angelika in NYC) and not at a national theatre chain; it had a low budget (read: not a blockbuster); wasn’t backed by a major studio (though this aspect is no longer a hard rule); and the storyline is usually less formulaic – often “edgy.”

When it comes to independent musicians, I think of them as releasing their own albums or working with an independent label – rather than at large ones – so that they can have greater ownership of the material they create.

I’m sure if an independent film maker or musician is reading this, they’d say I’ve greatly over-simplified my description. And I hope they’ll forgive me for not accounting for some of the complicated nuances that go along with their “independence.”

But it is precisely those complicated nuances that cause you and I to wrestle with defining and living out, however we respectively define, independence.

I also pondered independence through the lens of growing up as a single child, where being “independent” was simply an inherent part of my experience. 

The Throughline: Similarities

And what I concluded was that while we may all describe the spirit and truth of independence differently, I would argue that within those varying definitions lay a number of similarities

For starters, independence is just as much about the “freedom to” do something as it is about the desire to be “freed from” something. And as I see it, what is at the core of both is a vision – a picture of what it is about the future that you want to be different than your present. This is really exemplified by one person’s response to my social media video; here’s what they said, “to be free from other people’s expectations.” 

Yes, we have expectations of others and they us. That’s normal. But what I hear in what this person shared is how some expectations feel a bit heavy. Can you relate?! 

Here are a few other similarities:

Another person shared how “all the important insights and advances [in their life] have almost always come as a result of dialogues with other people.” They, thus, posed another question: Is independence real? 

I agree with this sentiment/question because I wholeheartedly believe that nothing we achieve in life is on our own efforts alone. (I even say such in the video I posted.) 

However, having said this, I do believe that the way you discover what your *personal sphere of independence is – be it in thought, deeds, or feelings – is through several words that begin with “self.” 

For example:

Self-awareness

According to a study referenced in a Harvard Business Review article, while “most people believe they are self-aware..only about 10-15% truly are.” Yikes! That means many of us are walking around not as aware of our beliefs, values, habits, feelings, thoughts, etc. as we think. And yet, self-awareness is key for getting clear about your vision so you can articulate your personal sphere of independence

An exercise that can help in this regard is doing a personal SWOT analysis!

Self-confidence

I think about the independent filmmakers and recording artists I mentioned and the tremendous level of trust they have in their ability and judgment to side-step the mainstream path – for whatever their reason. Your scenario may not be anywhere near theirs, but you, too, need a great deal of self-confidence to establish and honor the boundaries that give your independence the space it needs to thrive. 

Self-acceptance

Whether independence is a state of mind, way of living, or something else to you, it is likely something others would describe as outside the box, maybe even unconventional in some manner. Or, as Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino describes it, you are practicing “constructive nonconformity” behavior.

Operating outside the box is the perfect invitation for challenges and potential blow-back from others. Thus, this is when it helps to affirm yourself and remember the vision that undergirds your independent thinking, actions or feelings. 

At The Root

However you may define the spirit and truth of independence, or how fully you may embrace that there’s a relationship between it and interdependence, independence begins with self-discovery.

So why all this talk about independence – now? 

Well, it goes back to my conversation with Sean, who is the co-founder of Yellow House Media. We had a strategy session about my podcast, “More Than Money,” and a side-bar conversation about my book turned into us talking about financial independence in relationships. 

Can you be too independent; not independent enough? 

What does financial independence look like when you’re dating vs. when you’re in a committed relationship – especially marriage?

What impact does a second marriage or getting married later in life have on one’s stance on this matter? 

Again…easy stuff! 🙂

Like I note in my book, it is difficult to cultivate financial intimacy with someone else if you haven’t done so with yourself (or are at least in the active process of creating it), first. And I believe the same is true when it comes to independence.

First, you have to define what it is, generally, before you can drill down into what that looks like from a financial perspective. 

Not to mention that, when it comes to relationships, you need to leave room for your definition of it to potentially evolve as the relationship shifts and your financial circumstances change.

Plus, I am writing this a few days before February 14th. And while talking about love and money is wise any day of the year, doing so now, through the lens of independence, seems auspicious.

So on that front, whether you’re single or coupled up…Happy Valentine’s Day.   

p.s. *By the way, I purposely am not tackling political and social freedoms in this piece.

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