I watched a documentary on Bruce Springsteen a few days ago, and he said something that really made me think. He was talking about his life and he said that when he was first rich and famous, he had unlimited choices, but it didn’t bring happiness or contentment.
Then as he grew older, and perhaps wiser, he realised that unlimited choice isn’t freedom. Freedom of choice is being clear about your values and being able to choose in line with them.
It was the reminder that being able to buy anything, go anywhere, do anything you fancy, is not the answer to our innate deist=re to feel good about life. Acting in accord with our values feels so much better.
And that requires that we are clear about what really matters to us. We have to sort out what those values are, and do everything we can to live by them. (One of the effects of the lockdowns during the pandemic was to make us realise how much we need connection with others for example).
This isn’t an easy thing to do: we are influenced by upbringing, education, culture, the media, those close to us; and those influences can obfuscate our own values. We need to sit down and explore what really matters to us.
One way we can do that is to begin to notice the difference between the temporary pleasures that quickly wear off, such as the latest i-phone, getting one over on someone else, and expensive meal in a posh restaurant. Then there are the things that continue to make us feel good: being a good friend to someone, that sweater that is old but you love it, being kind rather than right.
We all make choices sometimes that don’t feed our soul, but let’s see how much more often we can make the choices that build our own freedom.