By: Jonathan Pishner

As we get to Freedom, we are moving into the more abstract and complex psychological needs. You might notice that the previous three: Survival, Belonging, and Fun are somewhat easily understood.

But Freedom? How do you define that clearly? We know that it’s a psychological need, but it’s the first on our list without some concrete definition.

We at least have some starting point if we assume that Freedom is “being able to do what you want to do, when you want to do it.”

But we also know that Freedom isn’t achieved by simply not having a schedule or being allowed to wander away from work if you wish. It’s not solely about free time, or money, though these can contribute.

To adequately meet your Freedom need, you have to balance a fairly complicated list of factors.


Don’t get discouraged by the complexity. It only looks that way before you’ve had practice.

Think about it, almost everyone knows that person who can slap together a complicated dessert out of thin air. The process LOOKS enormously complex, but with enough practice, Grandma can bake a cake from scratch faster than you can tie your shoes.

Balancing the Freedom equation is similar.

And to help, I’ve narrowed Freedom down to the four most important items:

  • What;
  • Where;
  • When;
  • Who.

In general, the more time you spend doing What you want, Where you want, When you want, and with Who you want, the better met your Freedom need is.

Consider some simple examples:

Your work hours can have a dramatic impact on your Freedom. Let’s say you work the night shift. You will be on a different sleep schedule than your friends and family (limiting the Who). Depending on what you like to do for Fun, it may be unavailable to you (limiting the What), or you might have to sacrifice sleep to do it, thus trading the Survival need to meet your Freedom need.

It’s easy to see why people who work long or strange hours struggle more than others.

The same goes for relationships. Ideally, you should be able to do much of what you want to do without friction in your relationship. However many people are in love relationships were even going to the gym, or meeting up with friends, creates some sort of friction (limiting the Who and What aspects again). In many couples, at least one person lives somewhere they don’t like as much (hurting the Where). Any of these can have a negative impact on the Freedom need.

How Do I Fix It?

Now that you know how your mind perceives this need, look at our four aspects of Freedom: What, Where, When, Who. They probably are not of equal importance. Decide which are most important to YOU. For some people, What and Who may be more important, but for others it may be Who and When. Your Freedom need will be unique to you.

Once you know what’s most important, you can ask yourself: Is there any way to increase some of those without some kind of major upheaval? If so, it may be worth exploring that first.

Maybe going straight from work to start that new class or hobby causes problems with your spouse, but doing it on your lunch break works out for everyone. Maybe just changing your work shift, rather than your job, fixes 80% of the Freedom deficit by making it easier to be around Who you want, When you want.

We’ve sought to make understanding this need relatively simple. But the simplicity of this need is counterbalanced by the fact that meeting it sometimes requires major life changes. It’s sad to say, but sometimes exiting a bad job or bad marriage is necessary to meet this need.

And if it’s not possible to meet the Freedom need any other way, you have to make a choice. You can choose to continue having it unmet. Or you can choose to get rid of the thing in the way.

That’s a BIG step, and not to be taken lightly.

After all, whatever life you’re living is probably working out in some ways. So the idea of throwing a bomb into the middle of it is scary.

That’s why so many people live without their Freedom need met. It feels more comfortable to be partly content, rather than exiting a marriage or job just because it’s not allowing you to meet your needs.

Whichever path you decide to take, remember the same advice we’ve given with all the other needs: Be intentional in meeting it. Don’t just sit back and hope.

Whether by making tiny changes within your circumstances, or by taking drastic action, you’ll generally feel more content just by continuing to work on getting your Freedom need met.