I’m going to London and, standing on the platform, I feel glad that I don’t have to do it every day. Hardly anyone looks happy as we wait in the already strengthening summer sunshine.
On the train people put bags on the seats next to them in a futile attempt to secure personal space before the inevitable crush at Borough Green. The man across the aisle is reading a copy of “Logistics Manager” and, when I glance at him a few minutes later, he is fast asleep with the magazine open in his lap.
Outside the green speeds by with the occasional splash of yellow from a field of rapeseed and the vibrant purple which looks like a field of lavender in Provence, but turns out to be some plastic netting over a salad crop.
I wonder how many of the people on this train feel free, and how effective we have become at ignoring the question.
A client was telling me how great he felt to be walking in the mountains through the snow just breathing the fresh clean air. We had been talking about freedom and how he worked so hard now to achieve it later. I’ve often heard this, and it always jars with me. I know what it means but I can’t help feeling it’s misguided.
When I left corporate life I swapped relative financial security for a feeling which is incomparable. Freedom is impossible to really imagine until you experience it. We don’t know what we don’t know.
Perhaps the most disturbing trap I fell into for years was the one where I committed to dissatisfaction in order to achieve satisfying freedom at some point in the future. Just like my client in the mountains. I confused the need to earn a certain amount of money with taking care of my responsibilities, thinking that I could not do one without the other, but they are not the same thing at all.
We chase freedom because we want to feel content, but contentment is the feeling of freedom we’re seeking.
The most extensive research piece ever undertaken on human happiness is the Harvard Study Of Adult Development and, in it’s eighty years worth of research findings it is relationships that are found to be most impactful on our feelings of happiness and contentment, not money, success or even achievement. We are free all of the time to invest in our relationships yet we sacrifice them for the need to keep pushing forward and upward even if we do so in relative myopic solitude.
Money is a thing, something physical, tangible and measurable which can be held and spent. It is a tool, a medium with which we can shape and bend the world, something we can measure ourselves with and against. But freedom is state of mind, an internal world where nothing but our own musings can disturb the balance. How can it be that these two completely disparate things are so closely linked? When we tie them together we make each more elusive.
When I finally realised, in the depth of my own struggle, that I was responsible for my emotional state, that nobody gave me sadness, anger, pain or any other feeling of negative restriction, I had to take responsibility for the way I wanted my life to look, and for the way I would experience it. Then, in some small way, I was released. Like my client walking in the snow capped mountains I was free to do it too, regardless of whether I was actually there or sitting on a train to London.