A few years ago a good friend bought me a new book for Christmas. Written by Tom Hodginson, “How to be free” is described as a joyful blueprint for modern living, highlighting that consumer society has not led to a widening of freedoms but quite the opposite. In essence we have been sold a lifestyle where GDP continually rises, we spend all we have keeping up with each other and, as we worry about income we still spend, spend, spend. Some people are getting much richer from this, many are getting increasingly anxious though they do have the latest phone.
On first receiving the book I said I found some of it interesting yet rather wishy washy. It seems however, after over two years on the road, living with fewer things and travelling the globe seeing folk with even less that I am now more ready for the messages the book holds. I admit I’m not entirely free of my consumer roots – I still like nice things- but I am ready to adjust a lifestyle to become richer in other ways.
For a number of years I was fortunate to see my salary rise – far from rich but doing ok. However, as earnings increased so too did the quality of food and clothes I bought. I upgraded my home, my holidays and, inevitably, my levels of debt. I was living the dream? At the same time some friends remained static. I questioned their ambition, yet, while their status remained “normal” so too did their stress levels. I wore nice shoes yet went to work while having shingles.
Two years out and my ambitions have changed. I plan to downgrade again with the aim of being mortgage free such that less of my time needs to be filled working for others. Of course, I will need some income. Of course, I may work for others but I hope that in needing less financially, others will need less from me emotionally and physically. I will not be working so much out of hours. I will not be answering email during holidays and days off. I will be giving my best, hopefully doing something I love but still having time and space for me. I’m aware not everyone is in a position to do this. I realise I am fortunate to be able to try but I do believe more folk are able to should they choose.
So look out….I may not talk quite so much about my new shoes, I’ll be on the old style cell phone but I will have a blooming big smile.
Here’s working towards freedom.
I love being in the mountains. It’s not always easy to reach the top yet, on arrival, one is rewarded with great views, cleaner air and a sense of accomplishment. The opportunity to look back, assess the route taken and get an overall picture of the landscape and environment. I also find this is an environment that encourages reflection and the time to think.
Lifting one’s thinking is then both practical and metaphorical. Taking time, looking down, making an assessment of the overall scene. Far too often we just get caught up.
Often is referred to as taking the helicopter view it’s one of many approaches to strategising, understanding, reviewing and moving forwards. While we may be encouraged to do this in our work environments we rarely apply the same energy and approach to our personal lives.
Taking time out, which I’m lucky enough to currently be doing, provides a fabulous opportunity to determine what we really want to do. So go on…make time. Go for a walk, find a quiet corner, ride your bike. Make space and time in a way that suits you. Don’t waste chances by not taking time to reflect, make changes and live your dream.
Lift your thinking.
Having taken both the dictionary definitions for success and happiness I am using the term “successfully happy” to refer to “the accomplishment of a state of well being and contentment”.
It often appears, however, in current culture, that success and happiness have become related to wealth or the spending of money. It seems we always want more. I’d like to think there’s a bit more to it all than this.
For many years I chased a career – higher earnings, increased status and responsibility. I used my income to invest in a better home, upgrade essentials of food and clothing and spend on leisure. In essence I did as most of us do – given the opportunity - adjusting both spend and of course my ever changing definitions of want and need. It wasn’t particularly lavish but I was comfortable. The price I paid was increased work hours and associated stress. I have no regrets. I enjoyed my work (in the most part) but the chance to take a break and reflect leads to interesting deliberations.
I’m currently reading a book which looks at the relationship between wealth and happiness – it’s looking to determine what is “enough” in considering the work of a previous economist who predicted that by 2030 we would all work vastly reduced hours thereby increasing our leisure time and well being. While I’m only part way through two key points raised in trying to understand why this prediction failed to materialise are the satisfaction we now seem to derive from the workplace and the ever increasing and insatiable appetite for consumption.
As I travel my belongings have been greatly reduced and I certainly dream of returning to a lifestyle whereby I will not become entrenched on the treadmill that is life for so many. My head is churning the want and need debate much more. My mind feels sparky, full of ideas and opportunities. My heart feels open as I start to look at making these dreams my next reality. My challenge it still seems will be a break from all past behaviours as I plan what I may need to make this work. My return from earning is beyond monetary yet I am unsure quite how this will transpire. I’m aware my current position to travel has of course required cash.
It’s hard to break away from the norm. As individuals we just need to work out what makes us successfully happy. It’s when we just follow what we think people expect of us that we will feel discontent. The trick is honesty, with yourself and others regarding your definition.
Good luck and be happy.