Updated: Nov 7, 2017
A recent motivational video suggested that there is a requirement for successful people to become autonomous. What does this mean?
Autonomy is a funny word, bringing to mind roving exploration vehicles on Mars, or unmanned aerial vehicles. The definition of autonomy is “independence or freedom, as of the will or one’s action” (dictionary.com). Other descriptions of autonomy are “self-governing”, “not subject to control from outside sources or people”, and “having the power and freedom to control your own life”.
“An autonomous person is willing to walk away, from any person or situation that does not fit their best interests, purpose, or set of beliefs.”
So, how does being autonomous help us in our daily lives? Well, how would you like to “have the freedom and power to control your own life”? Sounds good, doesn’t it? An autonomous person does not need any object or any person to be in their life in order to achieve happiness. An autonomous person is willing to walk away, from any person or situation that does not fit their best interests, purpose, or set of beliefs.
The Opposite of Autonomy
The opposite of autonomy is neediness. Needy people are afraid to displease, offend, or inconvenience the people in our life, for fear that they will get angry or leave. They give up their own dreams and goals, in order to surrender to the will of another. They change their views and opinions to try to fit in with the group. They say “yes” when they want to say “no”, because they are afraid to disappoint or upset someone else.
There is a saying, “What other people think about me is none of my business.” We cannot control what others think about us, and their opinions have no real power over us, unless we choose to give them power. We can choose to be immune from criticism or disapproval (even from our relatives!), and we can live true, authentic lives. Being autonomous is like wearing a suit of armor, protected from any outside harm.
In relationships, autonomy gives us personal power. We refuse to allow another person to control or own us. We are willing to walk away from relationships that do not fit our needs. We put ourselves FIRST, and will never apologize for enjoying life in the way that we desire. Our passions, ambitions, goals, and experiences are the primary sources of our pleasure. Other people can join us on the journey, and that might be fun, but we are fine on our own. We have the ability to say “no” to people, which is an incredible source of personal power.
Exercises to Try
Here are some exercises you might try to increase autonomy in your life.
Spend the next week pleasantly saying “no” to requests that don’t serve you, without overly explaining or apologizing.
This week, make it a point to outwardly disagree with something you are against, or is not aligned with your values. For example, if someone criticizes something you enjoy or support, stand up for your belief, without feeling the need to continue arguing or to justify your position.
Create a schedule of activities that you enjoy, that you are not willing to give up or cancel regardless of the opinion of others.
Approach the people in your life with the mindset of “I’d like to enjoy ‘some’ time with you.” Be willing to walk away whenever it serves you, and especially if the encounter is unpleasant.