The Balance of Structure and Freedom
Life is an interesting conundrum. It's all about a personal balance.
As we live, we are constantly offered daily wisdoms on what our life should be. These wisdoms are offered by those of our familial tribe, by the media and by our living tribe - those we interact with daily and/or often who remind us of cultural norms that are expected and how to live within them and be happy.
What I've learned through my work and my own life is part of the human conundrum is that as human beings we have an inherent need both for freedom and for structure. This is prevalent in childhood, where we see children prone to depression both when they have no freedom AND when they have no structure.
The happiest children have a healthy individualized balance of freedom and structure. Individualized means their parents/caregivers have found a way to offer the individual child the level of both freedom and structure that they need personally - and it differs from child to child - in order to assist them in discovering their true nature and finding a comfortable place within a society that demands people live to certain societal structures.
As adults, we are often taught that those with the least structure - entrepreneurs, those living on inheritances, those with flexible work-from-home schedules, etc. - are happiest. This is not true. Somehow freedom as adults seems more important than structure, possibly because we have much more responsibility as adults and that is somehow perceived as structure.
Yet responsibility IS NOT perceived as structure to the unconscious mind in most cases. Responsibility is it's own animal and unless we have a healthy balance of structure and freedom - one that fits our individual personality - responsibility can actually feel debilitating at times.
So how do we as adults learn to find this balance of structure and freedom?
First, is the necessity of understanding that we are not all the same. Some people thrive as entrepreneurs, enjoying making their own schedules and having no challenge working from home. For others, this sort of lack of imposed work structure can be overwhelming. So the first thing is to learn your needs and find what would feel right for you.
Second, we need to understand that we don't always have to make dramatic changes to feel better. Sometimes simple changes feel dramatic and don't shake up our lives in ways that feel overwhelming. We have a tendency of pushing limits in our society - that isn't always the healthiest way to go nor is pushing to the edge often needed to find happiness.
The mind is a beautiful thing and offering simple changes in ways that fit our lives can reap beautiful benefits.
Here are a few ideas that may get the wheels turning.
If you are feeling stuck in too much structure in your life, you might consider:
- Setting daily or weekly 'unstructured' periods of time to do whatever you want to and perhaps spend time outside in areas where the earth is dominant such as the woods or by the ocean. I believe there is a correlation between feeling stuck and one's personal surroundings. By placing yourself in the unstructured open space of nature, you can unwind and clear your head easier.
- Map out the structure in your life and see if any of the areas where structure is upheld could be alleviated through creative thought. This will help you to open your mind and your world, thereby alleviating unconscious tension and increasing the feelings of freedom and self-appreciation.
For example, a client of mine worked as an HR director in Chicago. Every day she took the 'L' (nickname for an elevated train in Chicago) to work, walked the same 10 blocks, and picked up her black coffee and went to her office usually arriving at 8:06am. I offered to her that for one week I wanted her to every day take a different route to work, walk down a different street, zig zag, get coffee at a different kiosk, etc. I had her make a list of what she learned on the way to work. She found new restaurants, that the coffee on the other corner was sweeter which she very much enjoyed (we think he used nutmeg), and that her colleague had walked the same 10 blocks every morning but they were on different blocks so they never had seen one another. Now they walk to and from work together whenever possible.
If you are feeling too much freedom in your life and this is causing you to feel you aren't getting anything done and/or are feeling stuck in other ways, you might consider:
- Setting a block of time each week to go sit in the library (not a coffee shop unless you already have this habit and it works, coffee shops can be too social for this exercise and caffeine for many can cause low levels of nervousness) and work on a project. Two to four hours is a good block of time. At the end of the time, write down what you accomplished.
- Setting up a morning ritual to get the day started within a frame of order, and even better, make sure to leave the house, for anything, even a grocery run, in order to make you feel you are out in the world. For example, get up at 7am, make coffee, shower, check your email, then go run an errand outside of the house. When you get back, decide what your day will be like and start working. At the end of the day, make a list of what you accomplished.
***For those with the feeling of too much freedom, looking at our accomplishments is key as it shows our unconscious mind that we ARE doing things.
I hope you found this a useful look at the balance of structure and freedom. May you find your balance and thrive knowing you are honoring your needs and your individuality.
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