Sartre told us that we are radically free. Freedom is in every choice we make, and anytime we convince ourselves that we are not free, we are actually living in “bad faith.” For example; you live in a small town and you want to leave to go live in the big city to start a business. You think you can’t because your family won’t let you. Are you actually not free here? Or are you ignoring your freedom because you are afraid to pay the cost? Jean-Paul Sartre thinks you are afraid, i.e. you are living in “bad faith.”
But I don’t want to pretend freedom is easy. Freedom makes you realize that it is on you to leave the person who doesn’t make you happy or leave the place that holds you back, etc. Why is it so hard?
- Choices are hard
- Change is scary
- Responsibility is scary
Choices are hard because they literally make you tired. Research shows that choosing can make our brain exhausted. We naturally try to choose fewer times in a day if we can. We are often just too tired.
Change is something that is scary for almost everyone. If you are free to change, why don’t you? Because it is hard. If you are used to a way of life, you are probably pretty good at it. Change might mean that you are taken out of your element and maybe you won’t be up to snuff. That can be scary.
We also just don’t want to take responsibility for our choices. We are afraid that we will fail, so we just rely on social norms to relieve responsibility. Sometimes people even marry someone they don’t love in order to avoid responsibility for their freedom. It is hard to admit when we are wrong, so we avoid circumstances that require us to. (like picking our own partners)
What is to be done?
- Understand that choices are hard and thoughtfully administer “choice energy.”
- Know that things will be okay, you will get used to any change.
- Learn to take responsibility for yourself and your choices.
Now we understand something very important; we only have enough energy to make a certain amount of choices per day before we start losing good judgment. That is the first step. The next step is to make important choices more often and stop brooding over choices that do not matter so much. For example, don’t waste you energy picking breakfast cereal and then avoid choosing where you want to live or work. The latter is obviously more important. It is good to recognize that we often do things similar to this without even noticing.
Next — everything will be okay. You will definitely be okay. You will make new friends, you will find another partner… probably. The thing is, it will be okay even if you don’t. Humans have an amazing capacity to eventually be happy, no matter the circumstances. Don’t be so afraid of change.
Finally, (and probably most difficult) learn to take responsibility for your choices. This is not only sensible advice for becoming freer, it is also great advice for becoming a better person. It is a great quality to have precisely because it is so hard and it takes lots of practice.
If you are the type of person to blame others or maybe to fall back on obligations in order to dodge responsibility, try this: offer yourself as responsible for things whenever you can (only when you could actually be responsible — don’t be a martyr). You will be surprised how quickly things change for the better for you.
Mastering these qualities is a huge part of becoming the type of person who is free enough to break conventions or to be a successful entrepreneur.