Discerning thought is the one thing that separates us more than anything else from all of God’s creatures. Our minds are a vast bastion of freedom that no person can restrict without our permission.

And while it is a sad statement that we have become a society in which free thought receives a lot of lip service but very little actual support, that discussion is only relevant to those who choose to think for themselves. Few do.

The greatest threat to freedom is not oppression by others, it is the self-suppression of our own minds. This suppression characterizes itself in three forms: Habit, Fatigue, and Compliance.

Habits are useful for humans. Man is a creature of habit. Habits make life predictable which is essential in complex world with so many variables. But habits can be harmful as well. While we all have habits we should change, the habit of not thinking as a free man or woman should be at the top of the list.

When was the last time you truly thought like a free man or woman? Perhaps it was as long ago as your childhood. What were you going to do with your life before you were worn down by experience and necessity? What is it that you secretly wish to do now, if you only had the freedom to do it? Brian Tracy asks, “What one thing would you do if you knew you could not fail?” He goes on to ask, “Why aren’t you doing it?”

The only place of true freedom is in one’s mind. This year, exercise the freedom of your mind by thinking of what you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail. Then think about how you can go about doing it.

We all succumb to fatigue. But what makes us most fatigued is one simple phrase: “Have to”. How many times in a day do you “have to” do something? We “have to” go to work. We “have to” pick up the kids. We “have to” make dinner. Fatigue should be experienced because we’ve fully spent the freedom we enjoy, not because we’ve burned up the hours in “have to” activities.

When exercising your freedom of thought this year, use it to make those things you do free choices as well. Replace “have to” with “get to” and see how different you feel. Imagine the joy of “getting to” pick up the kids after school. Many parents don’t have the privilege. Best of all, when “have to” becomes “get to” you just might find some of those “have to” activities aren’t all that necessary.

Perhaps no other thing we experience is so defeating as compliance. Whether political correctness or family and peer pressure, we all comply with others to some extent. Compliance is good in that it provides common ground from which we all can prosper and be free. But everyone suffers when we comply in an attempt to appease others.

We all know people who had dreams and aspirations that were thwarted by well-meaning family and friends who cautioned them against their dreams. What fantastic new services or products have been kept from us by this type of compliance? Countless are the thought-provoking, idea generating ideas that have been held back due to fear of failure, success, or scrutiny of others. How devastating it is to the free mind to hold back ideas and beliefs.

There was a time when men and women said what they meant and meant what they said. That was a time of thought-provoking ideas. Today we may say what we think but don’t think about what we say. More often than not we’re reciting our lines or those of someone we listen to often. We comply with ideas instead of investigating them and seeking our own. We become involved in the conversation before we investigate what the conversation is about.

This year, commit to thinking through things that matter to you. Decide that you will be well-versed in those things and you’ll stay out of those that don’t matter to you. Things happen and are reported far too quickly to be an instant expert on everything. Think before you speak, but speak once you’ve thought.

To be truly free, one must think like a free person. Free people resist bad habits. Free people “get to” do things and limit those things they “have to” do. And free people rarely comply unless they have thought through things first and make a conscious choice to comply.

Free people are open to new ideas, especially those of their own thinking.