In the United States, July 4th represents independence. This is the date that the Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence. At its essence, the Declaration was the founders’ way of saying to the monarchy that the ways they were being treated were no longer acceptable and to create a framework for how this great democratic experiment would work. Now, before you think that this is going to become a political blog, rest assured, it is not. We’re going to talk about your professional/personal development.

What does that have to do with the Declaration of Independence, you ask? I see it as another way for you to begin stepping into the vision you have for yourself. Ask yourself the question, “what are the foundational elements that are important to me?” Don’t be surprised if what comes back is a list of “what I don’t want is…” That is normal. Your brain is trained to focus on how to protect yourself and so it naturally tends toward what I don’t want to have happen. That’s okay. Get it all down on paper. Every single “I don’t want.”

Then, take a deep breath and start a new list. Your declaration of independence. What do you want? Sometimes, it’s as simple as starting with the antithesis of the what I don’t want list. For example, what I don’t want is to continue to have to work nights, weekends, holidays, and vacations just to keep up…what I do want is to have a role where I can feel fully engaged and accomplished while also being able to disconnect and enjoy my life outside of work. Take your time with this list. It may not be long. It doesn’t have to be. It simply has to represent those things that are most important to you at this point in your life. Harkening back to the actual Declaration of Independence, amendments are made to address the evolving environment we find ourselves in. Our declaration should be no different.

Declaring your independence doesn’t have to mean walking away from things. It can mean re-centering yourself and creating healthy boundaries. Using the example above, perhaps it is a matter of having a conversation with your team to clarify what warrants your attention after hours. Or, maybe it’s a self-imposed habit that you’ve adopted of saying yes to too many things and not negotiating appropriate timelines. The point is, once you’ve identified your declaration of independence, you can begin to identify the steps to take to move yourself in that direction.