Dear lovely blue readers, this is a guestpost by Ben Holt from Jump!. Please enjoy and if you too have an idea for a guestpost, shoot it my way firstname.lastname@example.org!
Freedom Ain’t Easy, But It’s Not Complicated Either
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” – John F. Kennedy
It’s never easy to buck the trends, to refuse to conform for the sake of our personal integrity. It takes serious guts to live an unconventional life.
How many times do you hear people saying things like “I could never do that” or “I wish I could do this”? When is the last time you heard those words in your own mind or from your own mouth? If it was recently, don’t worry. You’re not alone. But it’s not complicated to get the freedom you seek.
“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.” – Thucydides (Ancient Greek historian and author, 460-404BCE)
“He who is brave is free.” – Seneca (Roman stoic philosopher)
Freedom comes when we are able to act without, or in spite of, fear. It’s about wishing and making it so.
“I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery (French Pilot, writer, and author of ‘The Little Prince’)
Freedom is realizing that the options in life are nearly endless and limited only by our willingness and ability to sieze the moment.
It’s up to you to develop the skills and habits for being free.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’d like to offer one habit that, if you cultivate it, will lead to greater freedom in your life. It is simply this:
Be bold, every day.
Being bold in thought, word, and action helps erode our resistance to change, our fear of standing out. It’s crucial for our freedom that we overcome our resistances and fears.
When asked for your opinion, make bold suggestions. When presented with options, choose to go in a direction that pushes you out of your comfort zone. When you find yourself waiting, take action instead. Talk to new people. Break your routine. Move more, sit less. Reach. Stretch. Do.
You’re smart and I trust you’ll find your own way to be bold, but I’ll give you a few exercises to jump-start your boldness. I suggest picking one and doing it daily for a week or two. Keep an eye on how you feel during the entire process: the lead-up, doing the exercise, and afterward.
Compliment a Stranger
Making good eye contact with the next interesting-looking stranger you meet, offer a genuine compliment on their hair, clothes, or an accessory they’re wearing – something they seem to take some pride in. Keep it quick and casual, but sincere – don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
Here’s an example from my actual life, specifically with an attractive college-aged girl who was next to me at the counter of my usual coffee shop:
Me: “Hey, I don’t want this to seem like a come-on, but I like how you’ve done your hair. It’s very pretty.”
Her, surprised: “Oh! Thanks!”
(most people are too shocked that a stranger is talking to them, much less complimenting them, to say much else right way.)
Me, nodding: “Yeah, sure. I really dig your style. Anyway, take it easy!”
Her, smiling: “Yeah, you too.”
I like to end with something like that. Being in a college town, people, girls especially, are on the look out for getting hit on. The quick and casual “take it easy” as I walk away keeps the other person from feeling awkward.
I gave an example with me (a guy) and a girl, but the genders involved don’t matter. Men appreciate compliments as much as women, and there’s nothing wrong with giving a compliment to someone of the same gender.
The Cold Shower
This is an interesting one. People thing I’m crazy for doing this, but you know what? I am crazy.
- Turn on the water in your shower as cold as it will go.
- Set a timer for one minute at a minimum, or two or three if you’re feeling extra bold!
- Quickly step into the cold water, getting your entire body, head, and hair wet.
- Stay in until the time goes off.
Crazy? Yep. Cold? Indeed. The worst thing in the world? Hardly.
I love this exercise because it helps me realize that I could survive without modern comforts. Many people already do that on a daily basis.
It helps me realize that things nearly always seem worse before they happen than they turn out to be.
It helps me get over my long-reinforced fear of discomfort.
Say “Yes” to Everything
Say yes to everything you possibly can. Look for ways to make it possible to say yes when you think it’s not. Nevermind what’s convenient, comfortable, or within your percieved level of ability.
I’m actually doing this right now, though I haven’t told my wife yet. I worry she might take advantage of it if she knew :-)
So far, this challenge has got me climbing around on the roof of a campus building with a duo of photographers, eating some rather, um, interesting food, repairing the dock at a friend’s lake house, meeting interesting people, and starting a podcast. I would never have done these things if I had been a slave to “no”.
Saying “yes” will lead you to new experiences that will expand your skills, boost your confidence and courage, and expose you to new and interesting people.
This is simply a good habit to develop, but you can start by just trying it as an exercise for a week or two.
Take time each day to do something that makes you sweaty. It can be exercise, sex, or being in a nerve-racking situation like public speaking. Each of these have their benefits, physical, emotional, and mental, which should be fairly obvious.
It’s your turn to take it from here. A life of freedom can only be gained by doing the difficult work, by taking action even when you don’t feel like it.
“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” – Nelson Mandela
If none of the above suggestions appeal to you, make up your own and start on them today. Don’t find excuses, find possibilities in your power to choose.
As you know, A Life of Blue is all about minimalism, adventure, and living free. If you’re looking for more on these topics, you might check out Ben Holt’s blog, Jump!.