Photo taken at Iliminaq lodge on the west coast of Greenland, near Ilulissat.
Freedom drives so much of what we do. We want the freedom to live the lives we dream of, create what we want to exist in the world, enjoy our bodies, and step up to be fully ourselves.
It also influences why we spend so much of our lives doing what we do: working.
The easy answer to why we work is to earn money to pay rent, feed ourselves, buy nice things, and save a bit too. If we’re lucky, work brings us meaning and purpose.
If we have money, we have the freedom to buy or rent our own home and treat ourselves to nice things.
If we manage to save up enough to retire, we have the freedom to do whatever we want for those years… travel, live by the beach, spend summers by the mountains.
One of the most important questions to ask, yet one that’s so often neglected, is this:
What does freedom look like to you?
Here’s today’s version of what freedom ideally looks like to me:
I can use my time how I choose. I don’t have to worry about money and have enough to easily look after myself. I have a small warm house next to the mountains with fantastic views, a great vegetable patch outside, and solar power. I can spend abundant time with people I love.
I can write, create and build what I want to exist in the world without the expectations of others in my way. I’m close to nature and spend my day watching the mountains, birds and weather. I have a relationship that supports me and helps me be my best. I’m not chasing a stressful career or paying off a huge mortgage or trying to be the best. I don’t have toxic relationships or environments bringing me down. I’m just me, and perfectly happy with that.
When you write your own freedom definition, you’ll hopefully notice that not all of it is out of reach and some is accessible now.
I don’t have a house by the mountains right now, but I am close to nature. Because I’m self-employed, I’m lucky that I can mostly use my time how I choose. As I saved a lot this last year, I don’t have to worry too much about money either. My freedom definition is a nice reminder of what I’m most grateful for, how I can make the best of where I am now, and the direction I want to be heading in (the house by the mountains!)
What about you?
Once you have your freedom definition, you have a handy toolkit for making big and small decisions and calibrating the direction of your life.
When you need to make a decision, you can ask yourself if this gets you closer to or further away from your definition of freedom.
A bit about money and freedom
It’s not all about financial freedom, but it’s ignorant to say that money isn’t important for living well. Being in debt or unable to pay your rent is a surefire way to kill your peace of mind, creativity, and even health.
You might not need millions, but you do need enough. Enough looks like something different to everyone. If you want to have a cash buffer (hopefully yes) and stop working at some point in the future, whether when you’re thirty or sixty, you need to earn more than enough and save the difference.
My definition of living well includes a level of comfort and options that many LEANfirers would want to burn me for – I still like staying in fancy places and having a small wardrobe of well-made things with high price tags. But regardless of your saving goals, there are three main ways to maximise your financial freedom by enabling you to go part-time or retire early:
- Earn a lot and save a lot
- Earn a lot and save a bit
- Earn less and save as much as possible
Option 1 will get you there in the fastest time, whereas options 2 and 3 could get you there in a similar timeframe to each other.
I’ve been closest to option 1 for the last year (teetering closer to option 2 some months), but I’m currently reducing my workload for more creative freedom and planning to increase my saving rate (option 3).
Right now, I feel I can justify sacrificing some of my earning potential to enjoy more freedom (and less burnout) now instead of later. With all the gifts of 2020, I feel I need it too. I’m thinking of my next three months as a sabbatical or mini retirement, which is still going to be filled with one of the core pillars of living well – meaningful work – but focused on projects that matter more to me.
What about you: what does freedom mean to you right now, and how can you enjoy the most of it now and later?
The TLDR: Know what freedom looks and feels like to you. Maximise how much you can enjoy it now while paving the way to enjoy more of it as time goes on.8 Enjoy this article?