The Beauty of Freedom
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
Have you ever had a transition in your life and been left feeling extremely lost, when every Tom, Dick and Harry was advising that you should see this as an opportunity, a chance to seize the day and that in fact the world is your oyster? Freedom can often seem daunting, the psychology of human nature likes routine, familiarity and a feeling of safety. In fact 'positive emotions increase with routine behaviour’ (1). Why? because routine is f'in safe and not feeling safe can cause us to produce stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. So much so The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (2) was developed to show us just how stressed we should be if we go through that divorce we never thought would happen.
However being thrown into a place where you are striving to just achieve the most basic of The Hierarchy of Needs (3), such as being able to eat and put your head on a flea infested pillow, can sometimes be the making of the new you. Consider does the safety of routine mean you have fallen into a reactive status quo of boredom rather than a proactive 'come at me' vibe? are you living the way you do because you actively chose life or because you fell into a bucket of accidentalness? often our reaction to societal needs e.g. wanting a new sofa, finding the one, following the pack and the fear of time causes us to lose sight of our teenage dreams.
How to Own Your Transition.
Whatever has brought you to read this post has a key to how to enjoy the change within your life (or maybe you are just wondering how the hell you ended up on this website), but this can't happen unless we accept the past. Ever noticed you are a bit of a Time Traveller; always worrying about the past and future, but never really being in the moment? Human acceptance (as suggested by the grief cycle below) is an important part of moving on after any life event, particularly where we have experienced a loss (this can be any type of loss; a pet, that shit of an ex), its part of our natural human emotional processing. A good start to this is to accept that the emotions are there, they are passing by and thats ok - this in a sense is practising mindfulness - yes I bet you've been wondering what that new hippy dippy word meant, thats been banded around a lot recently.
Post Acceptance and as Part of Moving On.
As part of accepting our new identity and trying to find the vajazzle of the new us we have to challenge the mindset that we might have about this new way of living. As part of this, arguably, its helpful to question how social norms have led us down a set path that perhaps we didn't choose. Why do we eat three meals a day, why do we want more cushions and who ever said the rat race was the best way to live. For example some studies have suggested that having a nap brings more happiness than parenthood and that marriage only brings happiness briefly at the time (4) - he'll probably get old fat and bald anyway. Perhaps this tells us more about modern society and our innate biological drives not meshing well, but arguably it's important to choose our life, not let it choose us, if we want happiness.
Not Lost but Free was developed following a personal transition in 2015 (life became rather dull and fluffing cushions wasn't hitting the spot anymore) leading to a thought that, with a little self awareness, how amazing would it be to jump before being kicked. So dear reader take a moment, to look at what you REALLY want to bloody do with your life. Consider a list, draw a cloud with arrows, whatever gets you off your tits more.
As part of this exercise think to yourself, when was the last time you felt excited, when did you last feel truly you. Other things to consider are what true aspirations do you have, so you can start to build in some small actions, towards a greater life. Using the below SMART acronym can help, we are not setting an objective of a skydive (even if this is the long term aim) just one small step towards awesomeness.
Take a moment to take stock and realise how bloody amazing you are, consider what utensils you have in your tool box. Ask yourself does your occupation (note occupation is anything that gives you, your purpose - not just your employment) match your heart and ability or does it just bring stability? if your occupation no longer existed what would define you? do you have your eggs in more than one basket to avoid disappointment? contemplate your life journey, imagine yourself looking in your rear view mirror, who are you? what skills have you picked up on the way down the highway of life? does the road ahead turn you on?
When life is thrown up into the air and we question our purpose everything can start to feel like sex without an orgasm; pointless. We have to learn how finish ourselves off and formalise our mantra into a feeling of freedom, not being lost. Research suggests it takes a varying amount of time to learn a new habit, anything from 2 months to a year, dependant on the change and personal motivation (5).
The brain chemistry behind this tells that practising the new habit makes the old neurological responses, or brain signals, less potent. Essentially the new memory overrides the old, helping us through the loss we are facing. Our mind is a bitch as its designed to enable you to make decisions quickly, so overriding old chemistry is like trying to forget that ex you wish you never had. This also provides us an insight into why we often hold cognitive bias (belief systems) without even realising. Essentially, in breaking the habit, we are trying to make ourselves think, before we think.
But with time my dear, you too can also feel Not Lost, but Free.
1 Avni‐Babad, D. (2011), Routine and feelings of safety, confidence, and well‐being. British Journal of Psychology, 102: 223-244. doi:10.1348/000712610X513617
2 Holmes, T. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The social readjustment rating scale. Journal of psychosomatic research, 11, 213.
3 Abraham Maslow original Hierarchy of Needs concept 1954
4 Stevie C.Y. Yap, Ivana Anusic, Richard E. Lucas, Does personality moderate reaction and adaptation to major life events? Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey, Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 46, Issue 5, 2012, Pages 477-488. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2012.05.005
Kübler-Ross, E., & Kessler, D. (2005). On grief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. New York ; Toronto: Scribner.
5 Lally, P. , van Jaarsveld, C. H., Potts, H. W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998-1009. doi:10.1002/ejsp.674
Doran, G. T. (1981). "There's a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management's Goals and Objectives", Management Review, Vol. 70, Issue 11, pp. 35-36.