Freedom is the Option to live in ways I find fulfilling

The more we get paid at work, the more tied our hands are. The bigger the post, the greater the number of meaningless tasks we must perform, like checking on the ‘lower orders’, organising meetings, setting rules and boundaries. It’s almost like one has to be on the shop floor to really impact customers and stakeholders or to take pleasure in CREATING something, whether it’s part of a product or a service.

So if you’re a doer instead of a manage-r, where do promotions and raises figure in the do-work-that-interests-you and the get-paid-what-you-deserve continuum? Because if you’re promoted at work, you will get further from the real WORK and closer to always-checking-on-people-because-you-believe-that-they’re-not-doing-what-they-should. Managing might be ‘real’ work, though not always hard work, but unless your dream job involves inspiring, motivating, and record-keeping tasks, chances are that managing is not what you signed up for when you first chose your career.

Most people also associate a good post in the organisational hierarchy with not having to ask for leave, and being able to take long periods off. Haha! Not true, because responsibilities only multiply at that level, and the company brainwashes you into thinking that without you, business will come to a standstill, employees won’t work…so on days that you’re too unwell to be at work, the company has you checking email every hour, making calls, and otherwise doing all the things you’d generally do at work, which contradicts the idea of staying at home in the first place!

So if being promoted is the opposite of having ‘Options’, then what is real freedom?

1. The first and most difficult roadblock to freedom is money, and everyone, from corporations to the middle management knows it. That’s the carrot they dangle before our noses: work harder and you qualify for a bonus, an incentive, organisation-wide recognition… This is B F Skinner’s positive reinforcement working in a way he might not have anticipated: companies know that what drives us is money, so our worth is measured by how much we earn, and hence our interests are bartered for money. What else is overtime work, how else can you explain 10 and 11 hour workdays in order to ‘complete targets’? Hours that I’d normally spend working out, meeting up with friends, or hell, even lazing in front of the television, I now spend in my cubicle at work, because I have to justify my raise, my position, the company’s faith in me. Bollocks! You’re not doing it to make your bosses happy, you’re doing it because you love your salary so much!

So real freedom is ceasing to let money be used to control you. Real freedom is searching your heart for your dream job, your real purpose in life, and then following that dream, wherever it might lead. My father’s only career advice to me was to study what interested me and to do what I liked best; he said money would always come. Oh, and he stood by the rule that if one felt bogged down or harassed at work, one should just kick up the job, no matter how much it paid you. It’s a huge risk, to settle for a fraction of your salary while you pursue your dream. And the break might not always come quickly, you might stay poor for some time before things begin to work out. But they will always work out. And once you start to trust god, or the universe, or fate, you will see that serendipity does exist!

Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame says that greed makes us think that we can’t forsake that salary, while higher-order thinking makes us reign in our greed in order to focus on more important goals. Don’t let fear and greed motivate you. If you don’t like what you’re doing, it’s not your dream job!

2. Freedom is also knowing oneself. The Bible says “Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find.” The Secret by Rhonda Byrne promises that if you fixate your attention on a goal, you will attain it. Paulo Coelho said that when one wants something desperately enough, the entire universe conspires in helping one to achieve it. The common factor? Knowing what you want, of course! How can you direct your life and live purposefully, how can you ask others for help, if you don’t know where you want to go and what you consider an achievement? If you don’t know what you’d rather do, you’ll spend your life working. Nothing wrong with this, of course, if you’re enjoying your job. Not just putting up with it; enjoying it so much that you’d work even if the company suddenly stopped paying you to do so. If the work isn’t intrinsically motivating enough for you to work without being paid, you have to ask yourself what is.

Steve Pavlina has written about ‘identifying your dream in about 20 minutes‘ although he admits that it could take upto an hour. Just realise, though, that the more time it takes you to understand what really motivates you, the further away from it you currently are, and the less you understand your real self. Persist, though. Give yourself time. And just like with some people, you click instantaneously without so much as a real conversation, when you come upon your dream job, you will just know that it’s what you’ve been looking for. And because a dream originates from your self-actualised self, it won’t tie you to staying in a job you dislike just so that you can keep earning that fat salary.

3. In order to understand what motivates you, or once you do, plan for yourself a perfect day. Write down all the things you’d like to do on a perfect day. From the time you’d like to wake up, to your ideal breakfast, to how you’d like to commute to work. You can include or exclude anything at all, however unrealistic it seems, because hey, it’s your DREAM day. You can go fishing, laze around on a beach, visit your favourite people. If your perfect day means getting out of the city, so be it. The idea is to give free reign to your imagination. Let creativity take over, and enjoy the feeling of being swept away!

4. No, there’s no point 4. Once you get points 1, 2, and 3, make your own point 4. What do you think you must do next? Where does your dream lead you? What place does your current job get relegated to? Freedom means making your own options, setting your own standards! Woohoo!

Credit is due to this post by Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project.

Head over to this post by Paul Graham, entitled ‘How to do What you Love’. I wish someone had shared this with me 15 years ago. Yes, that good.

For an interesting counter-view regarding freedom, options, and habit, read the largest piece of quoted text in this article, entitled ‘William James on Habit’. ‘

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