My formula for freedom
Yesterday I had a wonderful and challenging conversation about freedom with fellow Wellteam member Jason Dunstone. Jason is one smart individual and owns a very successful human insights agency called Square Holes, based in Adelaide, Australia.
The conversation started around what we did over the Christmas break. Sonia, our kids and I spent time with my wonderful parents in a town called Bendigo in Victoria (Australia) and then went camping in the amazing North East of Victoria. Jason and his family went to the coast and hired a beach-house.
We both reflected on how fortunate we were to be able to do these activities. Fortunate to be able to take a break from working and during Covid, to be able to get away at all. It led us to the question of what's life all about. We pondered "YEAH" moments, which we felt often correlated with a sense of freedom.
Freedom for us both was quite different.
As we're starting a new business, which is still in its early phase, cash flow is tight and camping is our key option if we want to get away.
In contrast Square Holes has been running now for 16 years and going from strength to strength. For Jason, it was a positive year, largely due to a strong reputation and immense effort and the beach house was an option but beyond our means.
The conversation was great and we considered the tradeoffs in life between work and play. There are nearly always tradeoffs we have to make. With infinite possibilities for choice in our lives when we choose one thing, we take others off the table. That made me wonder what the formula was for more freedom in life.
When I got home, I got in touch with my super-nerdy side and started to develop a formula for freedom.
I started here:
Freedom = income > (greater than) expenses
The logic being that surplus income beyond your needs gives you freedom to spend on whatever makes you happy. While this really only equates to financial freedom, it does present some simple strategies. If Freedom = income > expenses then logically, for more freedom:
- increase income
- decrease expenditure
Those of you who have followed the increase income path may reflect that increasing income often equates with longer days, increased stress and less time doing what you love. When you're on this path, you often increase expenditure to compensate for the crap you put up with trying to grow your income. Freedom, can be a trap!
Society (ie. capitalism in general) also screws with the formula by imposing a basic rule:
If income > expenditure => you should borrow money to grow assets
Remember, the formula for good capitalism (growth of economy):
Good economy = what you should have > what you have.
This ensures we all live beyond our means and creates growth which drives us all to work harder, our economy grows, creating more jobs for more people. Politicians get re-elected and banks continue to flourish. Everyone is happy!
At the same time, to ensure this happens, marketing agencies are engaged to make us believe in another simple formula:
Increased expenditure = look more successful = attract more attractive people
This is the reason why expensive cheese, wine, gin, whisky, saki, Gucci, Rolex, Rolls Royce & Labradoodles exist. None of them do their functional job any better than cheaper alternatives, except maybe Labradoodles. Labradoodles are lazier than labradors and more cuddly than poodles - improving their primary purpose: to calm us down, relieve our stress and signal success to our friends and neighbours (ie. we spent the price of a small car on a smelly, lumpy, cuddly doormat).
Cuddly cross-bred dogs aside (they used to be referred to as mongrels before they became a fashion object) the reality for true financial freedom is:
Freedom = means > needs
The formula only remain stable when our wants </= to our needs
What if wants and needs can't be brought? My mother, who has so much life left in her, is fighting every second for oxygen due to a lung condition. For her, neither a beach-house nor camping holiday are options. Her next breath is her priority and freedom for her is a truly deep breath that fills her lungs and relaxes her body. Sadly, that can't be brought.
So let's rework our freedom formula to add in health:
Freedom = ((means/needs) + (needs/wants)) x health
(where normal health = 1.o and death = 0)
Health however is such a broad term and not healthy for trying to determine freedom. So let's break health down into a simple formula.
Health = Clarity to make meaningful decisions and understand the consequences (C = 1.0) x Ability to undertake daily physical needs (A = 1.0)
The World Health Organisation used the term "Intrinsic Capacity" to identify the combination of cognitive and physical abilities. That sounds more intelligent and because it's the WHO it packs some punch. So let's use IC = C x A
So I think we're getting there. Are you as excited as I am? Freedom is so close I can taste it...and it looks surprisingly...affordable. I can hardly wait. Here goes...
Freedom = ((means/needs) + (needs/wants)) x intrinsic capacity
...will that make me free, will I be happy? If I look back on 2020, how many people had freedom but didn't appreciate it, or enjoy it? I actually think this formula is a pretty simple and effective way to think about life and reducing stress but will it make you free in your mind. Freedom, in my mind, isn't achieved by a formula. Freedom is a 'state of mind' that can be achieved with practice and patience.
Freedom for me is the ability to sit and switch off to all the distractions around me. I experienced an incredible state of freedom just once in recent years. I was holidaying on the beautiful island of Bali (Indonesia) with my wife Sonia. We were staying in a lovely little village called Ubud, up in the mountains.
I was in a crappy mood. My mind was super-active (often referred to as monkey-mind), I couldn't relax, couldn't switch off. I had a great job, good income, senior level, decision maker, great team, my needs were less than my means, my wants remained low, my intrinsic capacity was good...but I wasn't experiencing freedom, I was trapped.
I was trapped in my own head. My mind was in over-drive, I could only see possibilities, options, choices, challenges, opportunity - all positive things. Sadly, I couldn't see them. I couldn't see the beautiful forest around me, my beautiful wife, the monkeys in the trees, I couldn't smell the amazing food.
I left the lovely resort we were staying in and walked into a beautiful forest with massive old trees, vines, old temples and monkeys (the Money Forest). It was late in the day and I sat down near an old temple and tried to calm down. I began to meditate but was failing. I kept at it, I kept getting distracted and it was frustrating.
I persevered. I sat there, motionless for over an hour. I wasn't cross-legged in some human pretzel pose. I just sat on a step, to the side of old temple and breathed...and breathed...and breathed.
At some point I noticed something shift. My mind slowed to a stop, my eyes stopped moving, I could hear my breath go in and out. Then I somehow connected with the environment around me in a profound kind of way. I can't really explain it but it was a magical moment. I was wide awake, I was so beautifully still. It was peace...it was freedom.
I have sought that moment almost everyday since it happened. I have come close, had similar experiences but never the same level of freedom. I crave it. It was true freedom.
After that experience, my holiday was amazing and my life changed. I found freedom and I can only hope you all experience it too. So, for me...
Freedom = the experience of being truly present, without distraction.
For some tips on achieving that level of freedom, head to Wellteam.me and join one of our programs and community.
Please take care and go well.
P.S. I'd love for you to join the conversation and share your formula for freedom. There are no wrong answers, just more insight to share. Please comment below.
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