In just a few short days, millions of Americans will celebrate Independence Day. As I thought about this week’s post, I reflected on the root of this summer holiday summed up in one word – “freedom.” Despite being a nation that is free, and as believers, children of God who are free, way too many of us allow a few common traps prevent us from really truly living free – free to pursue God’s purpose for our lives, free to enjoy the best life has to offer, and free to be ourselves..

5 Common Traps and What You Can Do About Them:

Assumptions – Assumptions cause us to “fill in a blank” in a situation we encounter based on our own perception without proof and regardless of the truth. We interpret the world around us through a filter we’ve created. If for example someone doesn’t respond to a message we’ve sent, we conclude they’re mad at us, don’t agree with us, or worse yet don’t like us. We don’t consider that they might not have had the time, energy, or bandwidth to respond yet. Unchecked assumptions fuel our own internal negative self talk and can damage relationships.

What to do about assumptions: Ask yourself, is this really true? Do I have proof? Am I basing what I’m interpreting on current actions or on the past? Identify assumptions for what they are and do not give them the same weight as truth.

Expectations – Expectations cause us to set the bar too high or too low. Our preconceived ideas can tell us something will be perfectly wonderful and then when in reality it doesn’t hit the mark we’re let down, disappointed, or angry. Or conversely low expectations can convince us that we won’t enjoy or like something before we even try it. We taint our taste buds with bitterness and fail to allow ourselves the potential joy we could have experienced with the new opportunity.

What to do about expectations: Ask yourself if you are biasing your opinion. Are you establishing self-fulfilling prophecies or are you being realistic? With realistic expectations you can avoid unnecessary disappointment and lows on the roller coaster of life.

Comparisons – Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Too often we see the progress someone else has made and wish we were where they are. Be content where you are on your life’s journey. You will meet people further along in their progress as well as those who are following behind you. Don’t allow someone else’s progress to discourage you. Instead allow it to fuel your desire to continue.

What to do about the comparison trap: Recognize the resource offered through those who are farther along than you. Perhaps you may even find a mentor. Cultivate their lessons learned to fuel your growth. Share what you learn with someone who isn’t yet where you are. Look to be a better version of you, not to be someone else.

Vices – What are your go to habits that rob your progress? They can be obvious dangerous vices such as alcohol, drugs, risky behavior, or they could be overdoing what outwardly appears to be healthy such as excessive exercise, or being a workaholic. Do you for example run to food for comfort rather than trusting your faith or turning to God when your world is stressful? Vices steal your focus from God in the times you need to turn to Him the most while stealing your time and energy from His purpose for your life.

What to do about vices: First and foremost recognize your vices. Is your vice a small misstep that you can work to consciously overcome, or does your vice require support for you to get on the right track. Commit to giving yourself the resources to free yourself from your vice(s) so that you are free to pursue God’s purpose for your life.

Complacency – Complacency tells you to maintain the status quo. Don’t stretch beyond where you are comfortable. While it may feel “safe” inside the bubble of comfort, it prevents the opportunity for personal growth, reliance on God, and prevents freedom to enjoy the magic that can happen when the impossible unfolds before you.

What to do about complacency: Take an inventory of your dreams and aspirations. What are your goals? If you are unsure, pray for guidance. Make a list of ideas. Then pick one next step you can take. Try something new. Work towards a goal. Take a step – action shatters complacency.

While you celebrate July Fourth this year, free yourself from these common traps and truly celebrate your freedom.

I’d love to hear from you. How will you celebrate Independence Day? What traps have tripped you on the road to freedom? How do you overcome your traps? I look forward to hearing from you!

Have a great week and Happy Fourth of July!