When I started writing about financial freedom, my goal was clear – to become financial independent in 5 years – by 2022.
As time passed and I dug deeper, I realized financial freedom is only one limited aspect of the broad concept of freedom. It is external. The most tangible. The most easily graspable. Most of all it can be achieved relatively linearly by consistently following simple steps and guidelines: Spend less than you earn and invest the difference.
I started tackling financial freedom first, but it led me to explore freedom more deeply.
What is Freedom?
Freedom is the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited.
As it usually happens, the aha moments come while I am doing some mundane task. I was listening to a podcast and I heard the following:
Thank your body, thank it for being healthy. You can now stand up and walk and do whatever you want.
If you only have this, you are incredibly free.
I am free already! I am healthy, I am able to do, say and think whatever I want without anyone limiting me! What a revelation!
The point I want to make is that if you are (relatively) healthy physically and mentally you are at least 80% of your freedom. Every additional percent on top of it is a bonus.
So, you don’t really need financial freedom to be free. Time to close the blog and open the champagne. Just kidding, the journey has just begun.
How it feels to break your body
At the age of 23, I broke my heel at a skiing incident. It was followed by a long period of uncertainty – I didn’t know if I would ever walk again. I was afraid and I was worried. I spend a week in a hospital, followed my a surgery. Another week in a hospital and I had to walk on crutches for about 3 months until I recovered.
One night I dreamt of walking freely down the street and the sun was shining down on me. To this day I can feel the bliss and the warmth of the sun on my whole body. I was slowly putting one leg in front of the other. Complete peace and harmony. I realized – hey, walking is such a pleasant thing and it’s so underestimated.
It was the first time I realized what I had and how suddenly I lost it. I had been taking my health for granted. I had always had it, I was active, doing sports, studying and working at the same time. In an instant, I was lying down on a hospital bed and all my ongoing activities were put on hold.
How it feels to break inside
Right at the start of my 6 months sabbatical in February 2017 I had an emotional breakdown*. It was a period of extreme uncertainty. It was the culmination of a couple of very emotional months, the end of an era and the beginning of exciting but unknown times.
For a couple of days, I felt powerless. I couldn’t take simple decisions, I was breaking down in tears in front of the smallest issue. My body wasn’t sick. It was my whole being that was down. The only thing I could do is lay down.
I knew this breakdown was temporary, but it was still scary – I am always up to something, constantly crossing tasks off my to-do list. This idleness was unusual. But I couldn’t do anything – I was powerless.
* In retrospect, I see this as a natural way of my body to find a balance. It’s like a pendulum – after an extremely high point, it needs to drop extremely low to eventually balance itself out.
Things we take for granted
Financial freedom is a very powerful step but you don’t need to wait for it to be free. The fact that you can read this means you can read English, you have a computer, an internet connection and a roof over your head – this makes you one of the most prosperous human beings on this planet! How is that for a start?
You most probably have a bed/room/apartment – you can cook your meal, you can relax and recharge.
How about your close family circle? First of all, are your parents fit? If it’s so you don’t need to dedicate extended time to care for them and you are free of a huge burden.
If your kids are healthy and developing well, then you really have no reason to not be happy with life.
Other aspects of freedom
Do you take these things for granted? You can:
- access any information available on the internet – you can learn literally anything, get a hold of anyone
- start anything – a movement, a business, a side hustle, an NGO, a donation campaign, etc. This all didn’t exist 20 years ago!
- create whatever you want out of yourself
- convert your time into whatever asset you would like to or invest it in joyful experiences
- choose what to work on
- express yourself through your (written) words or speech, your appearance or beliefs
- go anywhere on the globe you wish. This is relative, as a Bulgarian, I had some trouble getting visas for some countries, but I got it eventually
- hang out with whoever you like and choose your friends – no one has a gun on your head
- decorate your inner world and choose your religious and world beliefs – you can worship a pink unicorn if you wish!
Everyone is different, but you have at least some of these freedoms present in your life. Look beyond the daily frustrations – you are a powerful free human being!
Freedom = Empowerment
How does it feel to know you are the master of your own time and thoughts? What are you doing with this power and freedom?