In the beginning, I knew I was going to need some sort of structure to the days ahead. There was no longer going to be a full-time job to keep me ‘busy’, there were no pre-determined rules or guidelines, the field was wide open.
The funny thing about freedom is that in its complete, absolute form, things tend to fall apart. What I have come to realise is that my mind functions best when there are established boundaries, rules and constraints. I mentioned that this is funny, and this is what I mean.
Just a short time ago I was completely surrounded by hard constraints that were (seemingly) not self-determined. I was working a full time job, my workdays had a particular structure to them, which then had downstream effects on what my weekends looked like. The rules in one domain, my job, had corresponding side effects in another domain, life outside of the job.
Although I had voluntarily accepted to work in the job, many of the rules in that domain appeared to be beyond my circle of control, which meant that the constraints established around life outside of the job were not self selected either.
There were moments when it became very easy to feel frustrated about the lack of freedom or personal agency.
Why do the weekends have to be so short!
I feel cooked, if only I could show up just a little bit later than normal this morning without having to ask…
But here’s the thing, to voluntarily accept a job is to also voluntarily accept all the corresponding rules of the game. To trade in some amount of personal freedom in exchange for pre-determined constraints and a reduction in personal responsibility.
Going back to the necessity of rules, this reduction in personal responsibility does not mean that accepting a job is a transition from responsible citizen to irresponsible citizen, but instead a reduction in the responsibility of establishing the rules of the game that one plays.
There seems to be a direct relationship between responsibility and freedom, where ultimate freedom does not actually look like bliss or happiness, of laying on a beach and sipping tequilas without a single care in the world. Perhaps it could look like bliss from the outside looking in, of laying on a beach and sipping tequilas on a weekday but with the underlying, less visible, internal burden of carrying maximal exposure to personal responsibility.
Oh, you want to have more freedom? Are you prepared to bear more of the weight? To make the call on each and every decision, to accept the exposure to all the possible consequences, to ride through all the inevitable highs and lows in the driver’s seat?
If the answer is no, go and find someone or some entity who will and then do not complain of being in servitude. If the answer is yes, go forth, bear the weight and chart the map. Yes, chart the map, because there is no map when moving towards the future.
It is very difficult to determine which particular condition is objectively ‘good’ or ‘bad’ — while maximal individual agency and freedom might sound ideal it also necessitates maximal responsibility for everything.
In an attempt to build out a structure to my days, one of the experiments I had started from the beginning was to go outside for a run every morning.
At the forefront of my mind was the question of, “what would this look like if it were easy?” — inspired by Tim Ferriss and his words in Tribe of Mentors
I knew I was in it for the long haul, this was not going to be a couple of sprints per week but instead a sustained effort over a longer period of time.
So I started off by setting the bar low, extremely low and almost laughably so. My goal was to do a simple loop around the neighbourhood for a minimum of 2 km at whatever pace that felt comfortable.
The key here was to make the entire process of getting out of bed every morning, putting the running gear on and getting out the front door as effortless as possible. For me, this was where the real challenge was, taking the first step and getting out the front door, and less so the physical challenges in the run itself.
I have come to love running since starting in 2017, but in spite of this it is often a recurring mental challenge to just show up.
The conditions post-run is unbeatable — it consistently makes me feel like I have accomplished something of substance for the day, when the morning is still early and there is plenty of sunshine left. In addition to fitness and physical conditioning, running has been an excellent psychological primer for me, which is why I continue to do it, day in and day out.
What are the things, the big, scary and intimidating things, that you really want to do but never get around to? Even though you know that the end results would be worthwhile, it continues to be written off as too difficult, painful or time consuming?
The trick is in tricking the mind into just getting started, by setting the bar low and using the question, ‘what might this look like if it were easy?’
I continue to believe that a great life consists of many, many smaller moments of greatness. It is within the incremental, small and private victories that accumulate, endure and hold the most meaning over time.
You can fill in the blanks with your own personal definitions — a “___” life consists of many, many small moments of “___”.
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach.
The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”
- Ayn Rand