The Meaning of freedom


Image credit: © PsychoShadow -

What does freedom means? Google gives you a couple of definitions:

the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.  

the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.

The first association that comes to my mind on the meaning of freedom is the ability to do what I want in a way I want or deem necessary and important. Being free means doing what I want. Or rather, being free means doing what I chose to. 

And question comes: How often am I aware of my choices? How do those choices come through? What do I exactly want?

And here I'd say - simple things. In the book "8th Habit" Steven Covey defines the "whole person framework" with the following needs:

Which in a way resembles Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but through a different lenses. And if I bring it to a level lower, here is how I understand each aspect and how it applies to my life. 

The Body => eating healthy and exercise regularly. In my life it looks like abstaining from "unhealthy" foods (or limit the intake), being more conscious about the choices. For instance, I'd buy salmon and steam it with broccoli (have it at least once a week). Or order rice and steamed chicken, instead of rice and pork chop or a steak. When it comes to exercising - regular hiking and running to the Peak (two-three times weekly), gym (whenever it's open, but not nowadays), meditation and practicing mindfulness (as an exercise for the mind). Thanks to COVID-19 I became more mindful and more aware. 

The Mind => keep up with life-long learning. Learning is not only through doing the work, but also from other people experiences - books, podcasts, articles. I love learning, and the need for it is highly felt within. For instance, I organise meetings of The Economic Club of Hong Kong where we meet and discuss various articles from The Economist and other media (more recent one was about AI and its limitations). Or learning mandarin. Or listening to Tim Ferris podcasts and reading books on management, philosophy and psychology. 

The Heart => loving myself and others, loving what I do and doing what I love. Perhaps that's where the freedom is felt. Because I find it practically impossible to do things that I do not like. I can force myself into doing something I do not like. However, it's not sustainable. I'd quit quickly, otherwise I'd just feel dead inside. And being a "living dead" or "zombie" is not how I want to live the life. 

I can't really sell myself into a 'golden cage'. I do need freedom of doing, of choosing and shaping the way I live. It does come at the expense of not earning a high pay. But I am not driven by money. Money is important part of daily life as a tool, but not the most important. I don't think I want to be rich. I just want to have enough to support my life, care for my family and friends in a times of need, and save up for 'dark days' (which inevitably will come) as well as retirement. So balancing money and freedom while doing what I am passionate about is not easy, but that's the way I chose to be. For instance, instead of being a regular employee in one company, I chose to set up my own firm and work with clients (medical device manufacturers) closely to develop their business in Asia and the Middle East. 

On the aspect of loving self and others, I believe here I can do better. I do a 'work' on it with a professional therapist (found on on the platform called TreatField). It's about loving more deeply, understanding others, supporting them in the way they want, understanding and supporting myself. It's also about romantic love and engagement in more close relationships (which isn't easy for me, but I try). 

The Spirit => the impact I can make in life of other people. I aspire to make a world a better place. So I volunteer for JCI, The Economic Club, Gay Games Hong Kong, Toastmasters. Also what I do professionally should bring the value to the people around, should be meaningful. Like I work in the area of neurological rehabilitation, and define my mission as to bring innovative technologies and concepts to the market, which improves the people's quality of life

That's what means to be free to me. My freedom has boundaries and limits. But it's enough. I am enough and content with what I have. It can be better. And there is a part of me that aspires to be better. Every day it constantly reminds me of doing it. I make conscious effort every day to upheld my life to the standard I want, to maintain the freedom, to live and lead the life from 'whole person' framework. 

And I do fail at times, I make mistakes, I try and experiment. It's not all rosy and pretty all the time, but it is as it is. 

Thank you for reading. I am curious about your thinking on what freedom means to you and how you feel about it. Please feel free to write it in comments section here or send me a message whenever you prefer. 


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