Freedom V and Self-governance

The Freedom V is a great tool and principle, because it helps you grasp how  to link freedom and self-governance. The V graphic is largely self-explanatory especially when you have the table to the right of the V as you can see in the picture below.

The two most important elements are the V shape and the arrow in the middle.

Freedom V and Self-governance

Freedom V Graphic

First, the V shape. The lines on the right and left are boundaries that define the limits of acceptable behavior. Make sure the boundaries are clear and bright. Do not leave anything for speculation or conjecture. And, make sure the boundaries are easily known and advertised.

Second, the space inside the V represents the area of Responsible Freedom. That is where you use freedom correctly or within the accepted norms of the structure that demands behavior. The amount of freedom increases as you move up the V shape. The structure can be either malevolent or benign, but there will still be a V shape. Even in the most disgusting dictatorships or gangs, there are those who gain more freedom when they do not cross the boundaries set by the structure.

Third, outside the V are consequences for crossing the boundaries. Once you cross the boundary, you move into the area of Irresponsible Freedom. Again, this is applicable to both good and bad value organizations or structures. Even evil organizations have their boundaries. Take the time to state the clear consequences at the same time that the boundaries are set.

Finally, the arrow in the middle represents self-governance. The color on the arrow represents the degree of self-governance a person demonstrates. At the bottom, it is inadequate. The yellow and green represent the increase in self-governance as you move from bottom to top. And, the colors directly correlate with the narrow or expansive freedom shown.

Three Levels

So, when we abide by the rules of the structure, stay inside the boundaries, greater responsible freedom is available. In other words, the more you demonstrate self-governance, the more freedom is available.

In the graph above, the table to the right provides additional ways to look at the Freedom V. For example, you can divide self-governance into 3 distinct levels that can overlap.

  1. Self-absorbed – From the bottom in the red into the yellow area. That would be someone that is either inexperienced, without knowledge about a topic, or simply ignores what is right. That is the Learning Stage. In that stage, people need specific rules, because there are tighter controls. That does not mean that you ignore the "why" for the rules.
  2. Self-controlled – From the middle yellow area into the green. That would be someone that is exhibiting an adequate level of self-governance. This can be measured in general, or specific for individual work or life situations. They are in the Apply Stage where they mostly need guidelines, since they understand the rules.
  3. Selfless or Self-denial – The top area of self-governance that tends to work to the benefit of others. That is the Serve Stage, where people operate based on principles and know how to broadly apply those principles to various life situations.

The Freedom V will work with any structure and is especially good for families, and, of course, organizations with great values.

An Example - Using It With Children

A person with self-governance considers others and the impact their actions have on others. They stay within the V as long as the freedom inside the V is about good values.

Tight Boundaries at First

Suppose you are responsible for a baby and you are a wise parent. You create tight boundaries for them, because they do not have knowledge or experience with the way things work in the world. You put them in controlled environments like a crib or play pen, watch and help them to reduce significant harm to them. At the same time, you provide them enough freedom to see if they can learn how to stay inside the boundaries.

Expanding Boundaries

When the baby has grown to be a toddler, you still have relatively tight boundaries. They will be learning how to stay within the boundaries for the freedom that you give them and experiencing the consequences when they don’t. The rules and expectations you create for them are an invitation to live wisely, not a way to make sure that they know you are the one in charge. You invite them to live by rules, because it helps them escape the consequences. If you see them moving toward a boundary, you may warn them, but allow them to choose, if the consequences weren’t too severe.

Expansive Boundaries

When a child grows older, the boundaries expand as they show the ability to make right choices. Since you have taught them how to recognize boundaries for themselves, they hopefully make good choices while they are away at school, with friends, or by themselves. The more they show self-governance, you provide greater freedom. When they cross the boundaries, you reduce their freedom by moving them down the V.

You might say to an older child, “go where you want, be safe and be home by sunset”. If that does not happen, and you determine it is willful disobedience, you move them down the freedom V until they demonstrate they will more likely be home at the designated time.

Reason for the Boundaries

The end goal is to have the child set their own boundaries that are always inside the clear boundaries.

If you remember, the definition of self-governance is “delaying immediate gratification for future benefit.” Another simple, very practical way to see self-governance is when you, rather than the authorities, set boundaries for yourself. 

You value people when you commit to influence people to be self-governing. You cannot do it for them. As much as you might want to control, it is often best to allow people to cross the boundary and suffer the consequences, if not too severe for them or the organization. You can control the people you lead, but it is seldom the best action. Exercising personal freedom is an essential part of what it means to be human and learning how to be self-governing after experiencing consequences.

If you learn to pre-decide, then you become more self-governing and suffer less consequences.

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