What Does Freedom Mean to You

by | Jun 15, 2021

We’re halfway through the Spring Year of Values, and at the beginning of an amazing summer. Around here, we often remind each other: There will never be another Summer of (this year).

We love summer, which is – perhaps oddly – one of the reasons we named ourselves after the season just before it. That’s because one of our other deep loves is planning, and in order to have an excellent summer, you need to start planning for that in the spring.

Why do we love summer so much? It’s not just the warm weather and late sunsets. It’s the freedom.

Just like you, we’ve spent a lot of time in education systems that adjourn for the warmer months. We vaguely remember what it was like to have two full months left open to do whatever we wanted. To be whomever we wanted. To explore. To relax. To create.

Summer reminds us what it was like to be ourselves, however that may appear at any moment. To be entirely autonomous, making decisions based on what made us happy, in that moment. To express ourselves in whatever way we wanted, through the things that we enjoyed.

If we were lucky, responsibilities were limited during those summer months. If we were even luckier, someone else took care of all the minutiae – ensuring that there was a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, and clean sheets to fall into after an enjoyable day.

When we’re helping people design and plan their own futures, the word “freedom” often arrives with reverential tones and wistful sighs. Financial freedom. Time freedom. Decision freedom.

Freedom is not a destination, or even a journey – though it may feel like it when we’re looking at it from the perspective of summer holidays and eventual retirement. We believe that freedom… is a value.

Just like every other value that we are discussing this year, freedom is one that can only truly be defined by you.

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

There’s freedom for yourself, which our starry-eyed version of childhood summers encapsulates for us.

There’s freedom for the people you love, because it’s hard to feel remotely happy when the people we love aren’t with us, experiencing the same.

There’s freedom for the people in our greater society, because being the only person on a jet ski while everyone else is hanging on to saggy pool noodles tends to suck the fun out the day.

How the value of freedom shows up for you is entirely unique to you. What is important to us, when we’re helping you create your own, unique version of success, is that you spend time on defining it.

Defining Your Value of Freedom

Sure, you can spend all your time being altruistic and thinking of others, but if you’re not happy, you don’t have any business trying to make other people happy. You can’t pour from an empty cup, put your mask on before helping someone else with theirs, etc., etc.

Clichés exist for a reason. Sometimes (just sometimes) they make a lot of sense.

You’ll be able to help people, and you’ll be able to do a great job of it, when you have the capacity to help them. They’re also far more likely to take your advice when you actually look like you know what you’re talking about, because you’ve done it for yourself.

Let’s create your version of freedom first, before you start trying to help other people with theirs.

A simple exercise for this is what we’ve called The Perfect Day. Grab a piece of paper. It could be a digital piece of paper. We don’t really care what it looks like.

On the left hand side of the paper, write down the time you like best to wake up, and how you want to wake up. It might look like this:

7:30 am Go for a run while the sun rises

Or maybe like this:

11:30 am Slowly remove eye mask and earplugs

From there, start mapping out the next hours and activities in your perfect day, right up until that ideal time when you love to fall asleep. You might pop in some of your favourite physical activities and sports. You might pull a favourite book off the shelf or download it from your library app. You might find a warm beverage, sit at the end of a pier, and watch some water move about. You might write a book, paint a picture, play an instrument, talk to a friend, venture out for lunch with people you love, care for children or grandchildren, teach a class, attend a class, cook a meal, take a nap… realistically, this list is yours. It’s your perfect day.

If you’re the type of person who likes a little variety, you may even try mapping out your perfect week, with different days where you do different, wonderful things.

When you read it over, look for items that you threw in there because you felt guilty or thought “well I’m a grown up, so I have to do this bit”. Other than eating (you need to remain alive for your perfect day), we recommend that you cross those out and replace them with something you like better.

Your perfect day… or week… should give you a very solid idea of what freedom looks and feels like for you.

Once you have a sense of that, you can start asking yourself these questions about the people around you:

  • What does freedom for those you love really mean? How will they feel? What will they learn? What do you hope for them?
  • What does freedom for your community really mean? What dreams do you have for the people who live in the ecosystem of your life?

We don’t recommend creating their perfect day for them though. Everyone needs to do that for themselves. What you want to know is: what kinds of freedom for those people would you like to contribute to?

How Do You Live It?

It’s common that most of us will rush to the “how” of problem solving before we spend time on the “why”. As a lawyer friend shared recently with one of her clients: “No, the lawsuit isn’t the goal. The lawsuit is the process. Let’s talk about what you’re trying to achieve first. Then we’ll figure out if the lawsuit is the way to get it.”

Luckily, we’re not suing anyone today. We’re spending time on far more fun things, but her point about the difference between the goal and the process is vital. Determining the goal and understanding what we want to get out of it must come first. So, if you skipped over the above section to run your eyes down to this one… just head on back there. The “how” always falls flat when we don’t have any sense of the “why”.

When you have a few of those answers – and know that when we said “The Perfect Day”, we understood that “perfect” isn’t a real thing, it’s just an idea – you might actually be able to start the work on how to make it happen.

When we define what we genuinely want clearly for ourselves, it gets a lot easier to identify what we need to do to make it happen.

This definition tells us how many of our freedoms require cold, hard cash, and for how long. It tells us whether the freedoms are location dependent – living near family, in a particular part of the world with specific kinds of weather or geography, or near the amenities we’d rely on.

It tells us how much those freedoms are about external factors like world markets, legislation, and tax changes. It tells us how much those freedoms are about changes we need and want to make in ourselves, things that might require coaching, counseling, training, education, and other kinds of growth.

It tells us how much we rely on our health to have freedom, and what we really need to feel purposeful, and fulfilled.

When we understand what we really want for others, after we understand what we need for ourselves, we can consider what actions would be most beneficial for the people around us. It might be just a bit of the time we found we had when we cleared away the other things. It might be our expertise and skill in something we’ve developed over time. It might be our networks and friendships, which can lead to opportunities. It might be increased education. It might be a little financial support that increases feelings of security.

The value of freedom is one we hold near and dear at Spring Plans. It’s one of the reasons why we even exist. We wanted the freedom to help you understand, define, and create your version of freedom, every single day. Freedom is our childhood summer. What’s yours?

Julia Chung