The Way to Freedom from the Things We Put up With
Have you ever stopped and thought about the things you do every day (or more days than not) begrudgingly?
How many of those things do you do just because you feel you have to?
After visiting my dentist, I walked around the building. It’s an office building where I used to work. It was close to lunchtime (just before noon) and the line-ups were starting to form in the food court area.
I was never able to make sense of people lining up every single workday to get something to eat. Based on the lines, my guess is each person would stand in line for at least 5 minutes, if not more.
After a moment of gratitude that I don’t have to do this, I started thinking about why we put up with things such as lining up every day to get food.
We do so many things collectively as part of our daily routine that if we stop for a moment and reflect on the choice, we’d realize that these routines don’t make any sense.
Here are a few examples that come to mind.
Commuting and traffic: Most people drive, or take public transportation to work end up spending a considerable chunk of their time just getting somewhere (either to or from work).
We learn to tolerate hours of being stuck in traffic jams or packed like sardines on a bus. Everyone goes to work and back almost at the same time, and in the same direction.
In the name of uniformity and facilitating business, we trap ourselves in metal boxes (cars, buses, and trains) every day for hours. Why do we put up with that?
Rushing and putting life on speed dial: It never ceases to amaze me how fast most people are zooming in and out of places.
Most can’t even stand still on a moving escalator. It’s too slow for them. They start climbing the stairs to move faster.
What is so important every single day that we can’t have a moment’s peace and get somewhere slowly?
I don’t know how many people pay the slightest attention to their surroundings, the quality of their communication and work, and the quality of their lives in general when they’re running all the time.
Social obligations: Parties and celebrations that we feel obligated to attend, though we don’t care much for them, end up creating more stress and struggle than joy.
We fear we’ll disappoint someone or miss out on an event. But most of the time, we’re most happy to be back home. Why do we keep doing it?
Education and career choices: Most of us go through the first 18 years, or more, being told what we need to learn, how to learn, and what we should be doing after. We study the same material, go to to the same colleges, and then get jobs.
When we’re young we may not know what’s good for us. But it seems the “how to live life template” applies even when we get older and wiser, regardless of our innate traits and personal preferences.
Doing something for a living: One of the most basic questions we ask is: What do you do for a living? And we expect an answer.
Can’t we say I’m just grateful to be alive? Why do we have to earn a living?
Isn’t the fact that we’re here enough of a proof that life believes we earned our living?
These are just examples. Add anything society collectively imposes on us and the list feels endless—get an education, a job, get married, have kids, buy a home, go on vacation, save for retirement, be social and interesting, have mementos from every phase of your life, and so on.
I don’t know how many people are happy to be stuck in traffic.
Or how many of us zoom in and out of days with one hope only—looking forward to a rewarding weekend (where everyone else is doing what we’re doing), or a vacation (assuming no airport hassles, airline delays, or spending hours seated next to unsavory characters).
Over time, we learn to just do these things like robots. We automatically follow this conditioned way of life. We complain, and resist, but we abide by the rules of how to live your life. And this compliance comes with a cost.
The price of conformity
When we do what society expects all the time, we lose our sense of who we are and what we value.
If you feel discontented, exhausted, or stuck, you try harder thinking that you must be doing something wrong.
But that’s not usually the case.
We don’t feel miserable because we’re not complying enough. The feelings are a result of pushing aside our true desires and values for the sake of compliance (call it the side effect of following the herd).
If rushing through traffic, weaving between work, social, and other commitments was fun, you will be in heaven.
When we don’t enjoy such life, we live in the hell of conformity, and sacrifice our true desires and preferences.
Revising the modern life template
I’m not going to tell you to be cynical and complain about this template of living. It is the reality of the moment. Trying to change it by force is not going to work.
We can’t individually force businesses to operate at different times, or force people to slow down. But we can do one thing for sure:
Stop participating in this manmade trap.
That’s all we need to do.
If we can’t change something, at least we don’t need to be part of the problem.
Yes that might be a form of passive resistance.
We’re not resisting reality
But we’re not resisting the reality of the moment by not participating in it. When we comply with traditions and expectations blindly (other people’s reality), we’re resisting our inner reality.
To not participate in the collective charade because it doesn’t feel right to you is an act of surrender to your own truth and path.
A new path of truthful living
When you choose to live your life your way, without the frivolous noise of expectations and compliance, you will change your life.
Paving your own path is a conscious act of:
Courage: It takes guts to stand up for what you want and not follow the hard-set rules. Saying yes to your truth means saying no to preset expectations. And that’s not an easy thing.
Growth: As you walk your own path, you’ll learn, stumble and get up, correct your path, if need be, and grow.
Inspiration: Instead of complying and then complaining about traffic, or mindless routines, your choices and changes might inspire others to do the same.
With each individual making a different choice, we’re one step closer to changing the collective.
One choice at a time
We don’t need to go on strike and stop doing everything we barely tolerate.
We can start with one thing, and then another. The best way to start is to question what you’re putting up with. Are you tolerating or are you welcoming and accepting?
We were not meant to live someone else’s life (or the collective choices of the generations before us).
Imagine a life where you live, most of the time, on your own terms. You do work you enjoy, and spend time with the people you care about. And, most importantly, you savor your life, instead of rushing through it anticipating some future reward.
What are you putting up with every day?
If you answer this question honestly, you will be on your way to freedom.