Are you a free range human living a battery hen life?
Last weekend I watched Mr Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO. There was something that Lynne repeats a few times through the film: overwhelming joy he got from being able to do what he loved every day.
The first day he didn’t have to get up early, go on the top deck of the bus under leadened grey skies to a factory in downtown Birmingham, doing a job that meant nothing to him, was the greatest day of his life. When he got to tell his mother ‘I’m not going today, and I’m never going again because I’m now a professional musician’ was a beautiful feeling.
He had arrived at a destination that he had dreamt of and more importantly worked towards for years.
We are great at getting in the way of ourselves. The biggest hindrance to making big change, living the life we dream of and embarking on those hopes and ambitions we aspire to is often us.
In her book, Free Range Humans: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills, Marianne Cantwell says that she hears two sides of the same excuse from people all the time. Those who say ‘I will start a business, but I want to wait until we’ve settled down and have kids’ and then those who say ‘I will start the business, but it’s impossible when we’ve got kids around’. One who says ‘I’m too old, I’m out of touch’ while another says ‘I’m too young, I don’t have enough experience’.
Excuses are convenient ways we can get in our own way. We externalise our responsibility for a difficult decision that we ultimately deep down want to make. Many of us build a fortress around our status quo and justify it with excuses and hope: “Not right now but definitely someday”.
As long as we have this mindset it will always dictate reality. It feels totally believable and rational. It resonates with our free range heart. But tomorrow never comes.
For many introverts and highly sensitive people we are naturally free range spirits. We love the idea of designing a life that allows us to do more of what we love and less of what we don’t.
The Lottery is Not a Plan
And yet we too have a tendency to get ahead of ourselves and start making excuses.
Someone at work recently said to me, ‘believe me, if I won the lottery I wouldn’t be doing this any more’.
I had to break it to him (gently)…the lottery is not a plan and it’s never going to happen. It’s like booking a holiday without organising any transport, hoping that someone will invent a teleport so we’ll just magically end up where we want to be. The lottery mindset keeps us shackled within the status quo, giving our dreams to luck and removing any sense of autonomy we have over our situation.
Marianne is adamant that we should not allow any excuse to come between us and a free range life. It all starts when we allow ourselves to dream freely without that little voice of ‘realism’ bringing us ‘back down to earth’.
Know where you want to get to. What would a free range life look like for you? What would you do if money were no obstacle? How would you spend your time? What do you want to move away from (Jeff Lynne kept talking about those leadened skies).
A Free Range Human is:
1. A person (human) who has created a Free Range work-life that suits them.
They choose when, where and how they work. Some choose live a life of travel (often found on beaches with their laptops). Others have a nesting urge and prefer to free range close to home, from their local cafe, or kitchen table.
In the film we see Jeff Lynne’s home set up to be both a living space and a factory of music. This is where he still makes music…every day. It’s not just a job, it’s a way of life.
2. A person who gets paid to do what makes them come alive.
Free Range Humans work out what they want to do with their lives and are doing it, right now. Before they quit their job.
3. A person who has decided to live their life every day, not just weekends.
Most free rangers eventually do what many think is impossible: quit their job and figured out how to make a living without an office or a boss, on their own terms.
The process starts when we recognise the pace and lifestyle that would make you the most impactful and effective person we can be. Not with some great plan for how you’ll make a living.
This was a significant breakthrough for me because it allowed me to think big and think carefully about what I want my life to look like. What’s most important to me? Who do I want to spend more time with? How do I want my days to ebb and flow?
It’s about so much more than work. A process to design the whole of life in a way that brings together the different aspects (work, family, community, hobbies voluntary etc).
It becomes a different way of thinking, and it starts with a simple acknowledgement that it actually matters to you. That life is too short to just drift along. Too short to keep getting up early everyday and travelling on the top deck under leadened skies to spend 9 hours doing something you care nothing about.
Don’t Quit Your Job
But as Marianne says, “crucially, you can do this right now without even quitting your job”. It’s about direction and intention, not some grand gesture of change. It’s the start of an incremental process. We can all embrace our free range dreams from within our present situation. As Jeff Lynne did.
You can make big lifestyle changes (as you can with your health, relationships and interests) incrementally. In the margins of your current situation. It’s all about priorities, and the first priority has got to be your GPS…
One of the things that appeals to many introverts and HSPs is the autonomy such a way of working gives us in being able to design a lifestyle that works for us. What do we need to be aware of as we accept this is something we deeply want?
Marianne talks about “free ranging as the Third Way between jobs and high-risk entrepreneurship”.
It doesn’t require funding, big risky investments, and the outlay of a traditional business like premises and staff. All it requires is you, your personality and your desire to play, create, and imagine the possibilities. Again, this doesn’t require you to quit your job. It just requires you to commit to exploration.
There will never be a ‘right time’ to make the change. We are ALL too old or too young, too poor or too well paid, too attached or too single. Everyone is definitely and eternally too busy right now.
Once you make the decision to ‘go free range’ and start building your business it can get a bit overwhelming. Maybe you’ve got loads of ideas and not enough time to make them happen. With success comes opportunity and as Greg McKeown says in Essentialism, there is a strange paradox that occurs where the biggest cause of failure is some success.
When we don’t know how to process opportunities and requests it can get overwhelming. This is a huge consideration for HSPs and why the GPS concept is so helpful. Marianne walks us through how to keep on track and ways to maintain that route while dealing with the overwhelming stuff from around the edges.
Making the Wrong Choice
I don’t know about you but I find it can feel daunting to commit to one thing. I want to do loads of things. I fear committing to one path because it means rejecting all the other potential paths. But when we’re
There is a time for everything. Embrace this abundance thinking and it gives you the push you need to get started. Because there is no major risk involved we get to see free range living as a laboratory, a place where we can experiment, learn and grow. We can tweak as we go along. I’m forever doing that with my online businesses. You honestly don’t know what works both for you personally and from a business perspective, until you start. But because you’re calling the shots there is no such thing as the wrong choice, just feedback to inform the next choice you make.
Start Your Free Range Life
So many of us complain about the situation we ‘find ourselves’ in and yet do nothing to change it. You don’t need to give up your job right now to pursue an uncertain risky dream. Simply reflect on your priorities, know what you want, and set your GPS.
I would recommend firstly Marianne’s book, and then if you’re serious about making the change stick get her 21 day intensive course, which will help you craft your ‘escape plan’ in just 3 weeks. It’s been honed over the years and supports creative people who are tired of jobs, offices and only living for the weekends break out. When no one job can tick the boxes it’s time to take control and find a free range career that caters for all your interests and passions.
Over to You:
If you had the freedom to completely design your life what priorities would you place in first? Please leave your answer in the comments below.