So much of our lives takes place in our heads—in memory or imagination, in speculation or interpretation—that sometimes I feel that I can best change my life by changing the way I look at it. — Pico Iyer
Choosing a life we truly wish to live can have the greatest impact on one’s health and happiness, yet it is often the most difficult decision we make.
Choosing our individual life path requires one to listen to his or her gut and take action from one’s soul. It requires silencing the voices of the crowd that have embedded themselves in your psyche. Most of our lives have been spent internally recording and filing opinions of others, opinions that disquise themselves as our own. We can often confuse that which we really desire with that which society desires—or expects—of us. We learn what is normal through our experiences in school, at home, and among our peers. But, the skills learned in our education system help us survive by the rules of our culture’s games, which aren’t necessarily the games we wish to play. We are shown how things work and how to behave, but not given the skills to improve our self sufficiency. We aren’t taught how to pursue, or craft, our individual definition of freedom. Freedom was always framed in financial terms; get the education, get the job, get the money, then you’ll have the freedom to do what you want. That path may have worked for one-percent of my peers, though I personally know very few people who have realized this path. If I was told as a youth that there was a 99% chance this path would fail I might have sought another path with better odds.
I believe personal freedom is having the health and the time to pursue your passions. I no longer believe personal freedom has much to do with finances. I’m not saying money doesn’t play a role, but there is no magic amount of money in one’s bank account that translates to freedom. There are other, more impactful, factors to creating personal freedom. Flexibility and ownership of one’s time, along with the freedom to engage in one’s creative pursuits, are now a greater priority than the false promise of a steady paycheck and longterm employment. To choose the former over the illusion of stability requires compromise and sacrifice. It requires a more minimalist lifestyle and it requires a thick skin. You have to question your definitions of needs and wants. You must draw a line between the two and pursue only needs, and a few wants that support your passions. Getting all one’s needs met is far easier than getting all of what one wants.
You may no longer be understood in your social circles, but perhaps you never felt understood regardless, a telling sign your alternative life path decision is long overdue. You may, at times, feel guilty about your choice. I do, and not because I don’t believe in it, but because I was taught to contribute to society in a certain way and I’m rebelling against my programming. This creates doubt, the fighting against the misinformation that I held as truth for nearly four decades. I’m confident, however, that over time as I engage more and more in my passions, this guilt from an uncertainty of standing alone will subside. Ultimately my contribution to society will be far more meaningful than if I continued doing and being out of an obligation rooted in guilt.