We’ve noticed a trend over the past few years revolving around “freedom from work” – as opposed to ‘work freedom.’ You may have read some of the best selling books reflecting this trend: The 4-Hour Workweek the best known among them. Promises of retiring young, becoming independently wealthy through passive income, and getting rich quick are nothing new. And it seems as if all of the focus of these approaches is to be free from work.
This is understandable when you consider how many people are engaged in income generating activities that they don’t enjoy.
Working as consultants for many years, most of our clients were health practitioners unhappy in their jobs or practices. There were a lot of reasons, but they all wanted out – and needed help finding their “next thing.”
For those of us seeking meaning in our profession, what does work freedom mean? Does it really mean breaking free from work?
Freedom from Constraints
Most of the professionals we’ve been privileged to work with fall into one of two camps:
— Some truly love what they do, but realize they are limited by the number of hours in the day and by the number of ways they can profit from their expertise. They are really searching for a way to leverage doing what they love. They don’t want freedom from work. They want freedom from constraints.
— Others have yet to find a vocation that they feel is interesting to them, a good fit for them, or work that really expresses their values and passions. They don’t want freedom from work. They want freedom from the wrong vocation.
A New Era of Work: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose
One of the goals of this site is to support health practitioners already seeking to transform their experience of making a living. We want to banish the illusion that we need to “escape” work, or “outsource work” and get someone else to do it for us; the notion that the problem is work and the solution is ‘not work.’
We want to spread the idea that when pursued with purpose, creativity, and full engagement, our work can be a joyful expression and an enjoyable part of life, rather than something to escape or limit to a mythological “4 Hour Workweek.”
In his excellent new book Drive, Daniel Pink lays out what research reveals about our collective motivation on the job. He maintains that the three elements of true motivation are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. These underscore the core issues we’re posing here.
Can you find meaning while pursuing something you don’t personally value? Sure, you can. The meaning lays a few degrees of separation away – in what the money you earn can get you: Food, shelter, clothing, leisure, things, free time, convenience, etc.
But if you could move beyond that – if you could accomplish all of that, while also doing something you found meaningful, engaging, challenging, and satisfying – if you could do business in a way that gave you more flexibility and control over your income – wouldn’t you?
The Pursuit of Happiness
Making a living will always have its challenges. Why not meet those challenges with the added benefit of being interested in and even passionate about dealing with those challenges, rather than dreading or even trying to avoid them?
Viktor Frankl, a pioneer in psychotherapy and a shining example of creating a meaningful life, wrote that happiness is “. . . not an aim but an effect, let us say a side effect, of the achievement of a task.” He believed that a person could not directly pursue happiness but proposed that “. . . pleasure establishes itself automatically as soon as one has fulfilled a meaning or realized a value.”
Even if you are already working within an area that you are passionate about, you want to be able to work smarter. You aren’t free to do your best work if you’re in a constant state of exhaustion or overwhelm. You can’t excel unless you have time to work ‘on’ your craft, not just ‘do’ your craft. You need freedom more from constraints – or leverage.
So, the goal I would think, is make your living doing something that you feel is meaningful and is profitable enough to be sustainable – to allow you room to find your voice, explore your potential, and excel.
You can’t have meaning and purpose in work that you’re not personally well suited for, that you don’t feel connected to, or interested in. Nor can you do your best work if work is burning you out, even if you love what you’re doing.
Anyone, anywhere can enjoy more income freedom by finding meaning in his or her vocation and doing the job well. And now, more than ever before and due largely to the Internet, many people actually have the opportunity for genuine work freedom.
Here’s what work freedom means to us:
- Feel engaged in your professional field and in deepening your mastery of it.
- Feel well suited to the day-to-day actions required to do your job.
- Feel valued through knowing your output is of value and having others recognize this, too.
- Feel Happier not because you try to, but as a result of accomplishing work that is meaningful to you.
- Get Leverage over your time and effort so that pursuing your passion can be truly profitable and sustainable within the kind of lifestyle you desire.
- Be Independent from a single source of income that can be lost or taken away from you without warning.
- Be Free to choose and control your own time and to choose where you invest your life’s energy daily.
What does “lifestyle freedom” mean to you?
What would economic independence look like for you?