Six Steps Toward Freedom: A personal story
In six (6) liberating personal steps, here’s how I conspired with the Universe to realize a personal dream:
- Question life
- Examine benefits
- Overcome obstacles
- Define purpose
- Handle logistics
- Hit the road
STEP 1: UNHAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT – STAMP YOUR FEET!
From the article “Happiness is Love — and $75K” we saw that after analyzing more than 450,000 GHWBI responses from 2008 and 2009, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Kahneman found that happiness is actually the result of the fulfillment of two abstract psychological states — emotional well-being and life evaluation.
When I started, from a Life Evaluation perspective, at work I had “accomplished the goals I had set, was financially secure, and emotionally fulfilled.” I was living a fast paced corporate life. I was getting results: an excellence award, a promotion, a bonus… I was a Hilton Diamond member, Hertz #1 Gold, Emerald Club, United Premier, and Southwest A-list. On the road more than 80% of the year, my stress levels were through the roof, I hadn’t seen a personal friend in months, and my marriage was strained to say the least. In all my success at work, I was lonely. I was unhappy.
And no wonder…”Emotional happiness is primarily social,” says Dr. Kahneman. “The very best thing that can happen to people is to spend time with other people they like. That is when they are happiest, and so, without question, this is a major story. We find loneliness is a terrible thing. So is extreme poverty. But loneliness, regardless of how rich you are, is a very bad thing.”
STEP 2: EXAMINE THE BENEFITS
For more than a decade I dreamed about traveling. While this conviction that we needed to travel was strong… I had no idea why. Sure, other people unequivocally stated that their career break was the right decision for them. And I knew first hand from my Study Abroad experience that travel was good for my soul… but my life partner wasn’t convinced, and without her I probably wouldn’t be here today.
Everything that I read on sabbaticals indicates that the benefits far outweigh any sacrifices made to realize these sacred times of fulfillment. For example, as this Career Break Secrets article explains, through measurement we know the effects of a sabbatical on a person’s health and well-being. Specifically, career breaker’s long term stress decreases, life satisfaction increases, and they tend to burn-out less when they return.
Businessweek reported in 2007, “Just as small breaks improve concentration, long breaks replenish job performance. Vacation deprivation increases mistakes and resentment at co-workers… The impact that taking a vacation has on one’s mental health is profound,” said Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles told ABC News. “Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out.”
Still other inspiring figures present their stories in TED forums and on YouTube which gave me even more desire to hit the road:
In the end, research shows that a career break would inherently reduce stress, boost creativity, amplify life satisfaction, increase productivity, and properly prioritize well-being. So even before I crafted a convincing personal argument advocating a career break, I knew my premise was strong and the effort was worth it!
STEP 3: OVERCOME OBSTACLES
Early on it became clear that relatively few things were preventing our departure. Those can be summarized in terms of fear, lifestyle, and money — all related.
The money concern was the easiest to resolve. We had already established an aggressive debt elimination strategy that, over the course of several years, was about to transition our net-worth out of the red, and into the black.
Besides, with a quick search on the Internet, I’m sure that you can validate for yourself… you can travel long term as have many others. Money should not a primary constraint.
Obligations in terms of responsibilities, mortgages, cars, careers, etc. are really a result of conscious or un-conscious decisions. As Adam Baker states in his TEDxAsheville video, “Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love.”
In another blog post, ¨Pursuing a Dream¨, I wrote about scaling back “amenities,” but now I would call it simple LifeStyle (re)Design. It’s about foregoing that cafe latte at Starbucks everyday, knowing it will buy you and your Wife breakfast in Vietnam for a month.
STEP 4: DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE
When I told my Wife we needed to sell all our belongings, and leave our family (and our dog) to travel for a year… She had a few questions. She also had a few statements…
“You can’t just run away from your problems, Matt. If we are going to leave, we need to know why. Why are we going to change EVERYTHING?”
So I did some more reading, and discovered that without a strong sense of purpose, that is – without an End in Mind, a sabbatical might not bring about desired results – whatever they might be?
As stated by Oliver Segovia in his article on the Harvard Business Review, “People working on the biggest problems are compensated in the biggest ways. I don’t mean this in a strict financial sense, but in a deeply human sense. For one, it shifts your attention from you to others and the wider world. You stop dwelling. You become less self-absorbed. Ironically, we become happier if we worry less about what makes us happy.”
Now, having a stronger understanding of what brings meaning to our lives and how a career break will directly benefit our mission, we designed a trip that should inspire a more fruitful existence by helping us establish our personal legacy, and facilitate growth in our marriage. (You can follow our adventure at www.InertiaInterrupted.com)
STEP 5: HANDLE LOGISTICS
This one is easy, as there are plenty of checklists out there to help you along. Here are a few:
STEP 6: HIT THE ROAD
When you do, we’ll be waiting with open arms! So what are you waiting for? Only you can make that dream come true. If I can be of any assistance to you along the way, feel free to contact me…