Freedom Is Characterized by Limitation

I’ve been thinking a lot about the best ways to maximize my days and my weeks. What’s the best way to spend my day so that if it all ended tomorrow I’d be happy with how I spent the last 24 hours? It can be a morbid thought, but I’d say it’s more irresponsible to not think that way with life being as fragile as it is.

I’ve talked before about making an ideal day for yourself. As I’m going through mine, I realized it’s soaked in this one common theme. Limitation.

My ideal day isn’t where I’m free to do whatever I want. For some, an ideal day is having nothing planned. That sounds nice and can be for a day or two, but I’ve lived a couple of those days in a row and actually, it’s miserable.

You have no direction, no discipline, and your days feel meaningless. You go from Netflix episode to Netflix episode. Why is that? Isn’t that what the American Dream is about? Getting to a point where you’re so financially secure (retirement) that you’re “free” to do whatever you want.

I’ve found this not to be the case and I think it’s linked to the Law of Diminishing Returns. Which states that there’s an inverse relationship between returns of input and the cost of production. Basically, the more you put in the less you get out. This is first-day-of-Econ stuff, but it actually applies to everything in life. When you eat ice cream most of the enjoyment you get is in the first few bites. It’s why we have buy one get one half off deals.

So let’s apply this to a daily routine. When you wake up in the morning, do you feel freer when you oversleep or when you discipline yourself to wake up on time? When you eat breakfast do you feel freer when you can eat whatever is in sight or when you discipline yourself to eat a meal that will give you energy for the day?

Even at work I’ve started limited myself to work for a certain amount of time and the break for a certain amount of time. So no phone checking, no article reading, no distractions. Then, nothing work related.

I learned this from my friend’s company. They do coding “sprints” for all their software developers where for an hour at a time they do all their coding and then everyone breaks and they’re not allowed to do anything work-related. So they play ping pong, go outside, eat something, or take a walk. I found this to be way more productive than just having an 8-hour block every day to “work”.

There’s the saying “everything in moderation” and I think that would apply here as well. The drunkard isn’t free because he has no restraint. In fact, he’s restrained because he thinks he’s living in free. He’s restrained by his addiction.

This goes for most thing. You aren’t free when you can’t control your desires, so you mask it in the belief that “I’m free to live my life and no one has the authority to tell me otherwise”. That thinking leaves many people chained to addiction. I’m not even necessarily talking about addictive substances. I’m talking about everything. You’re free when you can look at something like food, sleep, entertainment, and think “ok this is the healthy amount that I’ll enjoy this and no further”.

It’s not easy to live like this, most worthwhile things aren’t easy. You might take all this into account and actually put it into practice. You’ll look back on your week and think “Wow, I only woke up on time twice this week and went to the gym once, I’m terrible at this.”, yes you are, but you’re doing better than you were a week ago and that’s all you should compare yourself to.

I’ll leave you with this lecture from Jordan Peterson: (Ignore the clickbait title ;)