Can you be happy while chasing goals?
It’s part of the high achiever paradox. I had a social conversation last week with the head of innovation of a company specialised in machine learning. He’d switched from being a big bank quantitative analyst not long ago.
He felt he’d finally found the right career path for him and that if he could just get the perfect job and sort out his personal life, he’d be happy and feel free.
I asked him what was stopping him from being happy and feeling free now.
He said that he needed these things first. Then he asked me an unusual question:
Freedom must have a cost - what’s the price of freedom?
I asked him the question back. He didn’t have an answer but a sort of fever lit up in his eyes, something that looked like fear…
In his book The Fear of Freedom, social psychologist and humanistic philosopher, Eric Fromm argues that the freedom to do what we want (positive freedom) necessitates a freedom from the beliefs, conventions and expectations that hold us back (negative freedom).
In other words, the freedom to follow your path requires the courage to leave your past.
And that is no mean feat. For millions of years, we’ve evolved a social instinct to fit in with the tribe and its conventions and expectations. Being outside the tribe could mean starvation or a grizzly death.
So choosing freedom had life or death consequences, in our distant past. This means your deepest (primal) fears will come up as you entertain a change in your career of life, no matter how small.
Changing career is scary enough. Leaping outside the system to work independently can feel even worse.
Here are the top 4 fears I’ve faced in the process and that I hear regularly from people on the same journey:
I need people around me.
I need structure to get things done.
I don’t know what to do/where to start.
I need financial security.
They can take various different forms and variations. They can hold people back for years.
My machine learning friend and I had great fun going through some powerful coaching questions and challenging some of his fears and assumptions.
Perhaps freedom doesn’t have a price but requires consistent courage.
In my experience, opportunities, money and relationships flow more easily from there. I believe happiness and freedom aren’t destinations but by-products of a courageous attitude to life. And anyone can do that.
Have a great week,
Liked it? Subscribe to Wise Wednesdays - weekly wisdom to live by + updates.