Freedom. I’ve talked about it a lot these past couple years, and I keep finding new levels of freedom I couldn’t have imagined having in my life. There are the obvious places in my life like being independent, being at choice about when and where I work, and what I spend my training dollars on. However, lately I keep finding new levels and definitions to freedom I never would have thought possible.
When I first met Christopher Avery, I was intrigued by this phrase he’d use if you asked how he was. His response was often; “Free, Powerful and at Choice”. I remember at first being intrigued by this, and wanted some of it for myself, although I wasn’t sure what it truly meant. After joining Christopher’s The Leadership Gift ProgramTM, I started to realize I had the potential to live my life in this way as well. However, getting myself to a point where I actually felt this was true for myself was not going to be an easy journey.
It all starts with the word Free. When I first met Christopher, I was working as an employee, and reaching the end of my rope in terms of what I would tolerate anymore. Learning The Responsibility Process taught me what was really going on for me. In so many ways I was going through my working life in a mindset of obligation, and complying with what others wanted me to be doing. This led to all kinds of other situations where my mindsets were holding me back from experiencing full freedom.
The problem is I no longer believed in what I was being asked to do or be at work. I no longer believed in the construct of managing people in a fashion that can best be described as something historically equivalent to slavery or ancient kingdoms. Strict hierarchy, lack of free thought, hoarding information for power, controls on your every movement, and the use of carrots and sticks to get a manager’s bidding done were and are prevelant in all sorts of work environments.
So I quit my job and jumped into the world of entrepreneurship. I thought this must be the place of real freedom … not working for ‘the man’ anymore. I would be my own boss, get to decide what conferences and training I do, what path I follow, who I work for and so much more. How hard could this be right?
Well I’m happy to report this job (if you want to call it that) is my longest standing job ever. I’ve never had a job which lasted more than 5 years, and so I’m now into record breaking territory. Which has me reflecting on what made the difference to allow me to stay this time.
I’ve written about my experiences these past 5+ years many times, and how I entered the world of professional coaching. Long story short around two years ago I was in a big funk and ready to quit. This solopreneur thing was just another failed attempt at finding happiness in my work. I was ready to go take a job like mixing paint at the local hardware store, where in my mind I could just go to work, make some money, and escape at the end of every day to my home life. Thankfully, instead of quitting again, I hired my first coach and the real journey of finding my freedom began.
There have been many stories these past couple years, in which I discovered something about myself which was holding me back. Usually, it’s some assumption I’m holding which isn’t true or some story I’ve been telling myself for a very long time. Most of these were things I developed throughout my life as the experiences of living helped to form them. However, all this time I remained focused on finding the right work to do.
What I’ve learned is real freedom has nothing to do with the work I’m choosing to do. Real freedom is what I find inside of me. Freedom is about letting go of stories which have kept me in my comfort zone for a very long time, and continually seeking bigger and bigger ways to impact my world. Real freedom is paying attention to who I am and only living my life on purpose in the most powerful way I know. Simply put freedom is being me.
What I found in freedom
I no longer believe in work-life balance. I first heard this a long time ago from Christopher, and am only now at a point where I truly get it. When we think about work-life balance it implies there is a scarcity. You don’t have enough of either, and you need to find balance in them. (I could go on a tangenent here about the abuse of time by so many companies and will save that for another post.)
The concept of working and living no longer crosses my mind. I simply live now, and isn’t it incredible how some parts of my life provide us money so we can maintain the lifestyle we love.
Sometimes living has me working at home (like this morning), and other times it has me working at a client site. At times, I’m coaching an individual at 8pm at night, and other days I take the day to go do something like camping or doing stuff around the house. Don’t get me wrong I have a very busy calendar, and if you want a significant chunk of my time it may be weeks or even months until we can find a time slot.
I no longer think about retirement. For me, retirement has become about escaping the scarcity of work-life balance. Given I no longer have this scarcity, the thought of retiring is no longer present. I do envision changing our lifestyle one day, and although I will still be working I would love to do it from wherever Rosie and I happen to find ourselves (RV Trailer in tow).
Freedom is going through life, following my heart in everything I do.
Leading for Change
I frequently encounter Leaders who are struggling to lead. They are so caught up in the constraints of a busy corporate life the thought of finding any freedom barely enters their mind. If you want evidence, look at your working calendar and tell me what you see. How many time slots do you have where there are 2, 3 and maybe even 4 bookings at the same time? How many days per week do you work through your lunch just to squeeze another meeting in? How many days per week do you find yourself working late into the night, just to try and keep up with the flood of emails?
You will not find freedom in a life where you barely have time to think. The path to the type of freedom I’m talking about requires you to get clear on who you are, what’s important to you, and being able to see clearly what you want for your life. The only way I know to finding these things is with some space for yourself.
You only get one chance at this life … why not live it with freedom in your heart!