By: Ethan Maurice
This is a 10 step guide to taking back your time and freedom and discovering how you want to live. The norms that guide us through life are highly negotiable. If you're bold enough to break a couple key societal conventions, you can free up your time and money and learn to move to the rhythm of your own drum.
Here's how to take back your life, in 10 simple, yet not so easy steps:
When you spend money, you're really spending time invested in exchange for that money. The less money spent, the more time you have, making the effort to consume less not about money, but rather about taking back your time and freedom. Stop buying stuff. Only purchase necessities. Cook your own food. Wear things out before you get rid of them. The more radical you get with this concept, the more time and freedom you'll have in life.
Be a minimalist. Excess stuff clutters your surroundings and mind. This is about more than stuff, though—trim responsibilities, obligations, and upkeep too. We tend to choose easy items on our to-do lists over difficult and important ones. By eliminating less important things from life, you can do something rare: dedicate your time to what's important, not urgent.
3. Airplane Mode.
If you're constantly connected, you're constantly distracted. Keep your phone on Airplane Mode and only connect with the world on your terms. Airplane Mode is vital when trying to focus, but I've found the lack of distraction hugely beneficial for one's general well-being as well. I know what you're thinking: “I don't want to miss something important!” But instead of being receptive to notifications, wouldn't it be better to be in tune with the world around you?
The average person in the U.S. spends 2.8 hours per day watching television. Over a lifespan 80 years, this amounts to 9.3 years of one's life spent staring at a TV screen! Want another decade of free time added to your life? Stop watching so much television. I've stopped almost completely, only watching a handful of movies the past year.
Not romance novels, thrillers, or the latest celebrity biography. Read books that can teach you how the world works or how to be a better human being. Some of the brightest, most influential people to ever exist spent months, years, even decades writing books to pass on messages they felt were of utmost importance. Through books you can receive those messages. Here's a comprehensive list of books that will improve your understanding of the world. Here's a list of books that could change your life.
6. Ask “Why?” of things you habitually do.
As humans, we tend to mimic others without ever considering if something makes sense for us. I came to understand this in New Zealand as fellow travelers from other countries pointed out how “American” some action of mine was. Ask: “Why do I do this?” “Why do I go there?” “Why do I eat that? “ Ask “Why?” of the things you do, and if you don't have a good answer, do something else that makes more sense.
7. Renew yourself daily with exercise.
“Use it or lose it!” was the creed of my college anatomy professor. Based on how you use your body, it's either building itself up or breaking itself down. There is no in between. So, we must use our bodies often. Not only is this important for maintaining your function, bone density, and physique—your body and mind are intimately connected. The mind doesn't just control the body, the body also controls the mind. When stressed, antsy, or feeling any negative emotions, exercise is a reset button.
Bonus: try meditating. It's like a shower for your mind.
Yes is the ultimate tool for new experiences, expanding your comfort zone, and encountering “How Did I Get Here?” Moments. It brings novelty and discovery to your life. It stimulates you in new ways. Say Yes to opportunities that present themselves, especially the ones that scare you. When the question, "Should I.....?" pops into your head, "Yes" should be your default answer.
9. Go on a pilgrimage.
A pilgrimage is a journey to detach from the familiar, to exist apart from the structure of society, and to return to your life with the insight of looking from the outside, in. In 2013, Pedaling a bicycle across the United States was my sort of pilgrimage. I discovered much about myself, my values, and returned to pursue a completely different direction in life. In stepping out of your life for a while, you can gain perspective and understanding beyond the pressures and influences within it.
Stop for a second. Glance around. Breathe. Wonder at how crazy this all is. Look beyond concepts of philosophy, knowledge, words, and any other interpretation of this experience of living. This is a wild, beautiful, flowing, unpredictable dream that we have learned to recognize patterns in and interpret in certain ways. But step past all that—past interpretation, past understanding—on into raw, rapturous awe at the miracle of being alive. Do this often! It melts the stress and seriousness of our lives away, if even for just one perfect moment.
These steps are listed in a particular order. First, you must gain control of your life; only then can you direct its course. Steps 1 through 4 come first as subtraction from life that can help you gain the time and freedom to discover how you would like to add to it (steps 5 through 10).
The point of it all: to take back your life. To have less struggle and more time to live how you want to live. To become the captain of your own ship without ties to the crown, sailing wherever, whenever, and however you please.
Taking back your life is not easy, but it's much more fun to be captain of your ship.