The Prisoner Paradox: 8 Reasons Why You Feel Imprisoned In Your Freedom

by Erica Gordon

Do you ever feel as though you are a prisoner even though you are not behind bars?

A self-limiting mindset, which affects our awareness, experiences and personal growth, causes the metaphorical prison bars that make us feel trapped.

These "prison bars" can prevent us from reaching our full potential in life. Mental and emotional blockades leave us feeling locked up, inhibit self-improving actions and suppress our ability to aim higher.

Self-limiting attitudes keep us from reaching our capabilities, thus preventing us from realizing the true realm of possibilities at our fingertips.

Millennials are free agents who have the ability to do just about anything. The goal needs to be maximizing that potential instead of allowing self-limiting perceptions to continue.

Your freedom is not an illusion, so don’t treat it as such. Here are eight reasons why we feel trapped even though we are free agents:

1. We need to become more self-motivated

Without self-motivation, you may as well be a prisoner to society. You’re ordered around at work and you don’t mind because you don’t seek the autonomy or freedom that would come if only you were just a little more self-motivated.

Think of ways to own your vitality and take back your life. Your ideas and dreams could very easily become realities with the right amount of self-motivation.

Much of what you want is in your power to attain as long as you are willing to work for it. Don’t write off any plan because the results might surprise you.

You need not come up with an elaborate plan to escape from your metaphorical prison. The cell door was never locked; you just need to make the move and open the door.

2. We have become passive bystanders who fail to take action

The bystander effect is a well-known phenomenon that causes people to diffuse responsibility onto others instead of taking responsibility themselves.

If you are a bystander, you might see someone hurt or suffering on a busy street and watch instead of intervening because you assume someone else will do something about it. You are present but not a participant.

Many of us are bystanders in our lives. We see ourselves hurt or suffering and we do not intervene. We do not actively get involved in things that could make us happy.

When we see we are not getting anywhere, we fail to get up and do anything about it. When we are unhappy about something, we think we can diffuse the situation if we “let it ride” and are convinced it will surely resolve itself.

Instead of being bystanders, we should change something and do something. In fact, we should be doing everything and anything and commit to better lives for ourselves.

It is empowering to know that we are able to write our own stories and change our environments if they make us unhappy instead of passively watching our unfulfilled selves go through life on autopilot.

3. We have yet to unlock our full potential

Part of feeling metaphorically locked up is due to hidden talents or passions you have yet to discover.

You will never reach your full potential if you do not unlock those hidden talents, gifts and passions. In Steve Harvey’s bestselling book, "Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success," he encourages everyone to discover his or her gifts because doing so could be life-changing.

A great way to break free from your metaphorical prison is to discover your gift and focus on your passion. Don’t waste any more time. As Steve Harvey explains in the book,

It would be a sad state of affairs to wake up one morning and realize that you have spent years wandering aimlessly in circles, unclear about your purpose, wasting your gift and destroying your promise. What kind of life is that? You can’t afford to go another day without a clear direction and focus for your life.

Without a clear focus, we can feel as though we are trapped in a state of limbo where our lives lack stability and purpose.

As soon as you discover your gift and find your focus, you won’t feel as trapped any longer. Suddenly, it will feel as though the possibilities are endless and your potential is realized.

4. We hesitate instead of following our instincts

Perhaps your instincts are telling you that you’re meant for bigger and better things. But, when an opportunity presents itself, you hesitate because it falls outside of your comfort zone.

The most amazing things happen outside of your comfort zone, so the best plan is to avoid hesitation and go for it.

Rather than hesitating because of the things that could go wrong, switch your mindset and think of all the possible positive outcomes. Those positive outcomes aren't attainable unless you stop thinking and start doing.

5. We are afraid of change and afraid of making decisions

The only thing required to make a decision or a choice in life is to have a preference of one environment over another, which many of us do. Considering so many of us have preferences, it’s perplexing why we don’t make the appropriate choice to follow that path of preference.

The decisions to change jobs, cities or lifestyles should be easy especially if we know our preferences. When fear comes into play, it can leave you feeling trapped because the concept of making the decision to change something becomes overwhelming.

Something as simple as not being your own boss can leave you feeling trapped. Working a 9-to-5 job, for example, with no more than two weeks vacation per year is sort of its own prison, isn't it?

But, if it's something else you want, like being your own boss so you can work your own hours, don't be afraid to go after that dream. Being your own boss, running your own company or inventing your own product is certainly attainable with the right mindset.

6. We’re too often on auto-pilot instead of seizing the day

It’s not your fault; it’s easy to get stuck in your routine. You wake up, have a coffee, head to work, get stressed out, go home, hit the gym, stress-eat while binge-watching Netflix and go to bed.

Suddenly, it’s December and you can’t account for anything very important that you’ve done this year.

The problem with going through life on autopilot is that time passes you by so quickly because you’re cruising through it, not allowing anything to imprint.

In "Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success," Steve Harvey points out the fundamental reasons why you should break free from your mundane life instead of perishing,

Perishing is the dangerous state of living in a mundane existence without even realizing it. There you are, living your comfortable life, going to the same job – day in and day out- doing the same things. You know your routine so well that you can probably do it without thinking. There are no dreams or aspirations in front of you, and if you were fired tomorrow, you wouldn’t know how to pursue a better life.

A solution is to seize each day. Every single day, you should do something you have wanted to do but have been putting off. Make each day matter.

Have aspirations and work toward achieving them every day. Have side projects and try new things. If you have a checklist of small goals you wish to attain, try to check something off that list each day.

7. We pigeonhole ourselves instead of being open-minded

Going back to the concept of your day-to-day routine, it's important to remember that while routine can be good, you should not rely on it.

Believing that your life is your routine and that there is nothing beyond — nothing bigger and nothing better — is a close-minded way of thinking.

When you pigeonhole yourself, you tend to perceive who you are in a certain way. You may stick to that perception and allow it to define you. For example, you might think of yourself as an organized, career-oriented woman. But, why can't you also be a creative woman? A family woman?

Don't be envious of those who have more and do more. Instead, try being a little more open-minded and remove "I can't" from your vocabulary.

8. We procrastinate instead of having a sense of urgency

Perhaps after a stressful, hard day at work, you decide to skip the gym because all you feel like doing is stress-eating and watching "Friends" re-runs.

As you’re lying in bed falling asleep, you realize you forgot to write that important pitch for that big online magazine and you tell yourself, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

The problem with saying you will do something “tomorrow” every single day is that “tomorrow” will never come.

We need to live our lives with a sense of urgency. Even if you think there’s no rush, why wait? Why put your life on hold when you could act now?

The sooner you make that pitch, the sooner you get an answer. The earlier you start that diet, the earlier you see results.

Why prolong the mediocrity of your life by procrastinating when you could expedite your life’s exuberance simply by acting with a sense of urgency? If you want your life to sparkle instead of feeling dull, you need to do something and make it sparkle.

Stop procrastinating and remember you are a free agent with the freedom to claim your life.

There are no limits when it comes to the great things you are capable of achieving. The deception of limits is what makes you feel locked up.

The motivation required to break free from the metaphorical prison bars is within you. You just need to remember that you only get one life — and this is it.