Do you feel like a caged tiger pacing back and forth? Maybe you’re so tired and depressed that nothing excites you anymore; you would rather sleep all day or retreat into a book. Or maybe you just feel like there has to be more to life than this. How can it be that we are put on this earth for such a short time just to grind our wheels day in and day out?
The Quest for Personal Freedom – 11 Years In the Trenches
This is how I felt at the ripe old age of 26 years old. I had just finished my master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (my 8th year of college). My marriage to my high school sweetheart began a 2-year dissent to divorce. My uncle died. I was fixing up the house I was living in. And, I was starting a new acupuncture clinic that involved buying and renovating a commercial building.
As a previously happy-go-lucky type of guy, my world was rocked to the core. I was totally wiped out and was an anxious mess.
On top of this, I started treating patients. Everyday I saw sick, hurt, and unhappy people. They would often tell me things like,
- “Enjoy your youth while you can.”
- “The time just goes by so fast.”
- “He died 2 months after retiring.”
- “I worked hard all my life for what?”
By age 28, I had pretty much resigned myself that this is just how life is. It was time to grow up. You work hard during the day, you head to the bar after work and drink some beers to unwind, you go to bed, and you start again the next day.
Then I started dating a young woman named Alison. She was awesome. She was smart and funny, and so much fun. While this did help my mood some, I was still very anxious and bummed out about life.
Alison often told me about her plans to travel after she got done with school. She had always wanted to learn how to surf and to live in a tropical location.
I right away said in an envious and slightly indignant tone (like I so often hear from people now), “I wish I could do something like that.”
But then something amazing happened, a few simple words that changed my life forever, “You know, I think I could do something like that.”
“If you will it, it is no dream.” –Theodor Herzl
And that was it. A whole new world had opened up. I finished fixing up my house and sold it to make some extra money. I moved into the basement of my clinic and got rid of most of my things to keep expenses low.
I arranged a six-month sabbatical with my business partner. And finally, I talked Alison into taking a six-month road trip throughout Mexico.
This was the vacation of a lifetime, but it was also so much more than that.
I learned how to relax – which was surprisingly difficult. Despite being crammed in a 1980 Datsun pick-up together for many hours a day and living in a palm-frawn hut with no amenities, I fell in love with Alison (we are now happily married). We both began our dream to learn to surf.
We also got the chance to see what is possible in life. We met many ex-pats and travelers from around the world. We learned that you don’t have to be rich to be happy and confident.
After we returned to the US, we knew we had to get back down to Mexico (to our favorite little town on the Pacific) the next winter. So we completely restructured how we worked to make it happen.
Alison took flexible bartending and waitress jobs. I started making house calls and filling in for other acupuncturists taking vacations. We took Alison’s design skills and my house remodeling skills and started buying houses, fixing them up, and selling them.
From there it just snowballed, and serendipitously our dream began to take shape. I ended up buying a lot and having a house built in Mexico just a block and half from the ocean.
We continued “flipping” houses in the summer in lovely Portland, Oregon. We both got work visas in Mexico to pay for our expenses while we are here (Alison is a waitress and I have an acupuncture clinic).
We now spend six months in Portland and six months in Pacific Mexico. I tell you all this not to brag, but to just tell you that it is possible.
What do you want from your life? There is a way to make it happen. You just have to believe that it is possible and start taking action in that direction.
It probably won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen exactly as you planned, but it’s likely that it will lead to something more amazing than you ever could have imagined anyway!
The Renegade Guide to Personal Freedom
1) Act Confident
The road to personal freedom is not always an easy one. You need to move out of your comfort zone and this will require the ability to act confidently.
The bottom line is we all have fears, negative emotions, limiting beliefs, and insecurities. It is critical to learn how to identify these feelings as they are happening.
You can then name your demons and recognize them for what they are – a figment of your imagination. Even though these thoughts and feelings feel very real, they are not.
Here is the tough pill to swallow though (and the one no one else is telling you); these feelings will never totally go away. Also, and depending on how shitty of hand you were dealt in life, these feelings may be particularly intense and prolific.
Don’t bother with all that “self-love” and “self-esteem” bullshit. It’s a road to nowhere or at best a band-aid. We as humans will always have negative feelings and self-critical thoughts. It’s the nature of our brains.
Your better bet is to recognize these feelings and then ask yourself, “How can I act confidently right now?” or “What would a confident person do right now?”
Acting confidently begets confidence. Looking into a mirror and telling yourself, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone-it people like me” will just make you feel like a douche bag.
2) Get Healthy and Stay Healthy
Heed the advise of all the old and infirm, take care of yourself. You will be sorry when it’s gone, and it will be one day. It’s true, it will take some discipline at times, but it need not be that hard either.
Also, if you feel energetic, rested, strong, and relaxed, you will feel more inspired to take on the world.
3) Don’t Let Yourself Get Complacent
Complacency in life will keep you from starting a new adventure in the first place and it can also bite you in the ass later down the road. I say this from experience.
After the housing market crashed, I kept cruising along with it assuming that it would all just work out. Unfortunately it hasn’t and I now find myself scrambling to make ends meet and start paying down a load of debt.
And while this is painful and stressful right now, the silver lining is that I’m confident I can work my way out of it doing something that inspires me. I don’t have to be a hamster on the wheel going nowhere again. And, I get to figure it out barefooted, lying in my hammock, in the 85-degree weather ;-)
4) Travel, Travel, Travel
Did I mention you should travel? Get out into the world. Challenge your views of how life is and should be. See new cultures. Get back to nature and explore the last remaining wild places. Let the third-world totally ruin your sense of order and time.
Most importantly you need to see in-person that there are others out there that have chosen a different life than the 9-5 grind. There are people of all ages, income levels, and those with and without families. When you travel, you see that it is possible.
Start with an extended vacation or sabbatical. I personally don’t know anyone who started out as a “digital nomad” making a living completely online or remotely.
Most people just save up money, keep their expenses low, arrange a flexible work schedule, and travel. Some, like my wife and I, also figure out a way to do some work when they are abroad.
5) Do Something So Freaking Awesome that it Completely Overrides all Your Fears, Negative Emotions, Limiting Beliefs, Insecurities, and So-called “Responsibilities.”
This is by far the easiest route to freedom. If you find something you are passionate about, something that gets you so excited, something that will cause depression when you are not doing it, you’ve got it made in the shade. Personal Freedom will be your only option!
Living in Mexico and surfing ruined my life in all the best ways. But, it will be different for everyone and it doesn’t need to be an extreme sport either. Maybe you want to write that novel, maybe you want to move closer to the grandkids, maybe you do want to travel around the word.
Better yet, find something that combines your passions with a profession or in way that helps others. You’ll truly be unstoppable then.
When you find that certain something, you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. It might mean working long hours, it might mean selling all your stuff, it might mean some growing pains and discomfort, but the bottom line is you will be able to move confidently past all your doubts and fears and be free.
How do you define personal freedom? Please leave your comments and questions below?
This post is part of Mike Routen’s Person Freedom Round Robin. Be sure to check out the rest of the series here: