10 Life Lessons From My Prison Tour – (Reasons to Avoid Limitation)

In 2003, the year I left formal employment with a multinational conglomerate to focus on establishing businesses, I was arrested for having sold “stolen” computer equipment. It turned out after spending four nights in limitation and containment that this was a major theft scheme by people who were former law enforcement agencies. I was released having managed to get the “fake cops” behind bars. A total reversal of roles. Seven years after my freedom from limitation, I visited a maximum prison in Harare where thousands of people were in limitation. This brought a reflection of my experience in the cells. One could feel desire of those in prison that they were somewhat tired of the kind of life in prison and they wanted to be out and about. People who are not in prison sometimes take for granted the things that they have the liberty to do and access. My observation over the years is that there are many people who may not be in the actual physical prison but they are stuck in the way they think or don’t think. The cycles of thoughts can bring limitations that are detrimental in you expressing and living your full potential.

Limitations will cause the following
1. Your identity is taken away- when you are thrown in prison, you lose your identity. You cannot carry an identity document on you. More than just a physical identity document, you begin to lose your personal identity. If people used to know you for caring for your family, you now carry a new banner with you such as “the thief, the murderer, the rapist”. A good name (a good reputation) is to be chosen above everything else because it is the one that make you go in places never imagined meeting people you could only see in the media. Limitation or confinement causes you to willfully surrender your identification to take on new names and labels. Outside of the normal prison – you make give yourself names that will limit you. If you keep saying to yourself “I can never do this, I can’t” etc, these are negative confessions which you are adding after your name. Such thoughts and verbalizations manifest in your life and it becomes a lifestyle of limitation. You can counter this by speaking well of yourself (affirmation) even the things you are not yet good at. “I am the best cook, I travel to many nations”.

2. Your self-worth, esteem and confidence are destroyed– When you are in confinement, your view of the person you see in the mirror changes. I saw people who went into prison as CEO, Directors and great leaders but the moment they got confined, they lost all that they thought they were worth. Suddenly even the possessions they had, the houses, cars and so on could not be associated or attributed to them. People I have known to be so confident of themselves began to show signs of losing value in their own eyes. This goes to people who may not be in prison – In your thinking, you can easily undervalue who you are at the expense of others that you see. You must be able to face anyone in any capacity regardless of how much more they have in the bank. Your value is not set by your balance sheet. People can easily have a good judgment of your personal worth based on how you view yourself. If you always undervalue yourself, do not expect others to value you. Crack the walls of the box, see yourself out of limits and boundaries and begin to think big.

3. Relationships and networks you had are cut off – It is quite sad that there are people who are in prison whose relatives are embarrassed to be associated with them. People can make the incarcerated an outcast of their family or society. Suddenly, people you could meet for coffee and call on anytime you had issues are no longer there to assist and walk you through. You now have a new society, a new culture all under one “GLC” label which is the Guilty, Limited and Confined. Some people have life imprisonments hence if relatives fail to visit, they literally die and get buried in prison. Sometimes in life, we terminate relationships unnecessarily. Instead of confronting issues, discussing to find a way forward in the relationship, the tendency is to “do away” with the relationship by deleting the emails, addresses, contact details from all sources like phone, and social media and be “free” from them. Relationships can take you beyond where skill, school and salary have taken you.

4. Belief and value systems are impacted – there are many people who went into prison with one type of faith but lost it as the feeling of confinement got more and more intense. I am so glad that even prisoners have a chance to receive inspiration from outside. They have chaplains who preach to them and inspire them. All this is with the intension of enshrining good value and belief systems. When you are in confinement and unable to exercise your thoughts, your life revolves around your thoughts. You can easily create a new culture in your mind, something that you begin to believe strongly and value dearly. There is no one to correct or speak to you. The main voice you hear is your own. When the echo comes back in your mind it is as if someone else is telling you or lecturing to you the new value system. Your mind is your battlefield. You win and lose the wars of life mentally before you even attempt them on the physical. A person with no values of a wrong belief system will not go very far in life. Values drive your life system; they control you when the worst things happen to you in life. You need to take time to cultivate positive value systems not just for you but also for your children.

5. You can lose your mind – I mentioned before that when you are in prison, you become a speaker and you are you have yourself as the audience. I remember in the 4 days I was in solitary confinement, having been falsely accused of trading in “stolen” IT equipment, I almost lost my mind. I built giants in my mind. My thoughts were centred around “Now how will people see me, what if I am seen in the newspapers, how will society view me since I am someone they thought was noble and with a sound character?” The monuments that you build in your mind can be deterrents to your own progress. Your mind is so important for the outcomes of your life. Your mind is the seedbed for your destiny. Do not ever think of losing it. Once you lose it, finding it may become a hard task to achieve.

6. Your power of choice is removed – When you are in prison, you lose your power to choose what, when and how you want to do things. You have no choice over the diet you eat, the clothes you were the places you want to go to, the projects you want to implement. You follow a pattern that everyone else follows. There is a set time to bath, eat, be counted and so on. You follow a set routine. Your options are indeed limited. The system chooses for you. When you are out of prison, you eat things out of choice. You can even visit people who can make the kind of food you want. You can be invited for dinners. You can attend cocktails or meetings where there is buffets. This falls away in prison. You eat what the prison system gives you. It is easy to take for granted the power of choice while you are not in prison. You have so much freedom of choice but sadly, sometimes your choices and decisions are so detrimental to your purpose and vision. Exercise the power of choice while you have it. Wisdom helps you through in any decision.

7. Your access to information is taken away – Prisoners have no access to the internet, newspapers or anything that is going on outside of prison. They can only relate and talk about issues centred around the place where they are contained. A few prisoners however make special arrangements to study while in prison to avoid losing time. I can never emphasize enough the power behind access to information. It is the exposure and information you have that gives you an edge or advantage over your neighbor. People are paid differently based on the reservoir of information they have in their minds. There was a time when it was alright to simply attend High school and enter the job market. In the modern world you need to get more information into your mind, finish your Bachelor’s degree, Masters Level and all the way to Doctorate studies. If you are out of prison, always endeavor to increase your exposure and access to information through the many sources. Test the information before you start believing and living your life based on it. Not every piece of information is accurate and useful.

8. Normal and formal communication is lost – prisoners have no privilege to be on the cellular phone or email to converse with those who are outside. They have no liberty to speak to visitors except through special arrangements. It is the ability and access to communication that enables individuals to transmit information from one place to the other in some cases resulting in immense financial and material benefit of both the sender and the receiver. Such a luxury does not exist in prison. You communicate with the officers that look after you and among yourselves as inmates. It is interesting however that even those who are not in a physical prison also chose to live in solitary confinement, on “little islands” where they do not communicate with others. When you lose communication with the rest of the world, you get left behind on what is happening elsewhere. You get to miss opportunities that can potentially change the course of your life.

9. You right to freedom and liberty is removed – When you are in confinement, you are not free. You are supposed to feel the effects of being limited. You cannot act on some of the visions you have. Your freedom of speech, liberty to express and experiment on ideas is taken away. You take on the dictates of prison. In life, sometimes people put themselves in bondage by refusing to use their minds to think of solutions. When your mind focuses on problems, you will always see problems and wonder how to get out. Exercise your freedom and liberty to think wide. Think beyond the corners of the box. Think like there is not box at all. You have the right to freedom of thought.

10. Your lose control of your own life matters – there is nothing as frustrating as having a feeling that you no longer have control over your own life’s matters. You may have a family and you may desire the best for them but prison can limit your ability to fend for them. You begin to live in the world of wishes. For some, prison experiences get them to miss family so much. They get to realize how irresponsible they could have been before they went into prison. In some cases they realize how much time they lost looking for satisfaction in the wrong places neglecting the ones they love and care for. Now, in solitary confinement, the feeling of helplessness kicks in. While you have the opportunity, while you are not in prison, it is time to ensure that you cover your life matters with the necessary attention necessary. Look after your health, wealth, family, business, social groups and so on. Live a balanced life. Avoid leaving others to dictate how your life must be run, make a choice and live with the consequences of the choices you make. Take charge and take control.