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Freedom – what does it even mean?! Part 5: No freedom without commitment?

There's a perspective on freedom that revolves around the idea of living your life on your own terms. This can translate to avoiding strong ties or commitments that might hinder the ability to choose what feels right in the moment. I confess, I too struggle with committing to long-term plans, as they feel quite constricting. So when I heard someone say: "There's no freedom without commitment", this sounded rather alien to me. How can being committed possibly give a sense of freedom?



Different levels of commitment

The responsibilities I had committed myself to, such as my full time job, didn’t give me a sense of freedom at all. I now realise, I was confusing my mere physical presence at work with commitment, whereas true commitment – one that makes you feel free – requires a profound connection between the heart and the purpose behind ones actions. The fact that I showed up at work every day doesn't imply a genuine alignment with my passions and values. When there's a misalignment, the commitment becomes more of an obligation than a conscious choice. While the act of showing up may fulfill a contractual or societal obligation, true fulfillment and a sense of freedom come when your commitments resonate with your innermost values and contribute to your overall well-being.


What travelling for 2 years had thought me

It is understandable that the response is to opt out of such commitments that make you feel so unfree. That is exactly how I embarked on my journey through Europe with no clear plan, destination or goal. In those 2 years, I haven'd committed myself to anything long term: not to a community, job, relationship or particular interest. Perhaps the only thing I was committed to, was having a nomadic, highly flexible lifestyle, where not much was set in stone. This has taught me that there's also no real freedom in not having any commitments. I experienced that without a deeper sense of purpose, the perks of this lifestyle wear off over time. Being completely free from obligations and commitments takes away a sense of purpose. Doing whatever you want, as we sometimes tend to portray freedom, also has something very lonely in itself. No one to account to, no one to care for, nowhere to belong to.

Taken to the extreme, it reminds me of a quote by Charles Bukowski:

“And when nobody wakes you up in the morning, and when nobody waits for you at night, and when you can do whatever you want. What do you call it, freedom or loneliness?”

I have come to see that true freedom is not about avoiding commitment and responsibilities. As Paulo Coelho describes: “Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose - and commit myself to - what is best for me.”


Choosing is loosing?

If you struggle to make any commitments and want to keep all your options open all the time, it's likely not true freedom that is driving you but rather a fear to make a wrong choice, to miss out. But the thing is, by not choosing, you miss out. On real connection, on real intimacy, on real meaning, on a sense of belonging, inner peace & clarity and a sense of direction. I'm not saying that we should never cut ties with our current commitments. Breaking free is sometimes a necessary endeavour; a start of a journey to figure out how you can come back into alignment. However, keep in mind that staying away from any commitments is perhaps not the true freedom that you are seeking. It is in the giving a full yes to something, in your presence with your heart and actions, yes even sometimes through hard work, where lies our freedom. Otherwise you are just scratching the surface.


As Erling Kagge, a Norwegian explorer and mountaineer, wrote:

“Responsibility and burdens give life substance. To choose only the easiest option is a recipe for emptying life of this substance. If your life doesn’t make a difference to others, then in the long run it won’t matter all that much to you either.”


In that sense, freedom is closely related to feeling fulfilled.


In sum

Through my nomadic endeavours, I've come to realise that I desire to be part of something greater and make a positive impact in the world beyond my daily actions. Also, personal growth is crucial for my sense of fulfillment. Simultaneously, there is still the strong desire to explore new places and live an adventurous life. My challenge is thus to find a way to have meaningful commitments whilst regularly exploring new places. Ideally, that exploring new places is part of my dedication to manifest a certain vision for humanity 😏.


While I continue to explore these desires, I for now decided to find housing and a job in the Netherlands. In this search, I'm being led by the question: What's worth my time and energy? What can I commit to from the heart, whilst I'm here?

If you are, like me navigating questions around commitment, freedom, and fulfillment, trust that answers will unfold over time. Stay open, keep exploring your interests, your values, your desires, and listen to your heart.


Journaling prompts

  • How do my current commitments align with my values and aspirations?

  • What are some fears or hesitations I have about making commitments? What beliefs or assumptions underlie these fears? How can I address them?

  • List three things I am grateful for in my life right now, and how they contribute to my sense of freedom and fulfillment.




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