"Dad, do you know the story about Lucky the Dog?"

"Yes, Jill. I do."

"No, not that one. The other one."

My two girls had just come back from several days with my parents and had been regaled with stories from the past. So naturally they wanted to share them with me.

I'd grown up with Lucky the Dog and had been the person who told them most of the stories (including how Lucky, who was a german shepard, bit their mother the first time they met.)

Nonetheless, Jill was eager to tell her story so off we went. She wound up telling me a story I had either forgotten or never known.

Lucky had a section of the backyard enclosed with a chickenwire fence and a gate that was all his. At one point the gate around the fence came down and Lucky was free to roam the backyard.

Apparently, the missing door wasn't in Lucky's field of vision. He would stand in the fenced area and cry to be let out, even though he could have walked through the hole where the gate used to be at any time.

Typical behavior for a dog, I suppose. They accept their limitations because they need them to survive their environment.

How about people?

Another family story from the past is more telling. My mother's cousin was a dentist for the U.S. Air Force during the 1970s and 80s. I remember him telling me he worked with the men who were being held hostage in Iran during the Reagan administration.

After their release, their dental health was very poor. He was deployed to care for them. When he arrived at the base where they were staying, he saw an amazing example of conditioned behavior.

The former hostages would wait in a room and confine themselves to a tiny little area of that room. They would not move until given explicit permission to do so.

They had become so passive and subservient to their captors that their own will barely existed.

Just like Lucky.

I only pray that the years of freedom and choice have restored their sense of self-determination.

There was one exception. One of the former hostages reacted in a completely different way from the others.

This man exercised every little bit of freedom and self-determination he possibly could. If an appointment was scheduled for 9:30, he would postpone it for no apparent reason at 9:29.

He would insist that little details, irrelevant to the rest of us, be in place before he would give his dentist permission to go to work.

This man claimed his freedom, and claimed it in a hurry. Bravo!

Look at your life. We all have self-imposed limitations. We all choose to remain behind our imaginary doors because we feel we need them to survive.

Some of us have truly been placed in situations where liberty has been taken from us. When we're rescued, do we carry the imaginary prison with us?

Or do we find our freedom waiting for us to accept and embrace it?

Your gate is open. Walk out and step into the sunshine!

Author's Bio: 

Larry Hochman is "The Guidance Guy" and the author of NINE SECRETS TO COLLEGE AND CAREER SUCCESS. He is an amateur juggler who uses this skill to teach people confidence and healthy risk taking. Call Larry at (888) 249-1160 or visit http://TheGuidanceGuy.com if you would like to discuss private coaching for you or your group.