What is your definition of freedom?
Two main motivations why people train in complementary therapies.
One is borne out of passion for the subject. They fell in love with it. Perhaps they experienced a treatment for themselves and it changed their outlook on the body and health. Or they felt a force – their path, drawing them more and more into it.
The other is a desire to take control of their life. Perhaps frustrated with doing work that doesn’t excite them as it feels empty. Though it pays the bills, they feel frustrated being tied down by the rules of work. They must be at the workplace at a fixed time. They must do set hours. They have to deal with co-workers or customers they don’t like. Attend pointless meetings. And the worst… they must ask permission if they want to travel away, even for just two weeks.
People seek freedom. I seek freedom. And by freedom, I mean the choice to decide what days I work. What hours I work. The freedom to stop working for 6 months or even a year and not be in financial difficulty. The freedom to change the kind of work I do and experiment with something else like going back to school, take a course or learn from another teacher. And of course the freedom to travel abroad for weeks or months at a time – whatever my choosing. And then return and restart work. And to do all this while comfortably paying my bills.
Sounds impossible to many people? ‘Yeah, sure, I want to win the lottery‘ – kind of thing. But it’s not the same. This goal isn’t a pipedream. Winning the lottery is random and out of your control. But choosing and making your life is something we do have some control over and is something that we can slowly work towards.
Some people do live this kind of life of freedom. There is a way towards it. Though at first it may not be immediately achievable. However, by inviting it as something that you would like and are prepared to work towards, you can create the possibility that it can and will happen.
To an extent, this is achievable with a complementary therapies career. But only if certain aspects of your life are relatively secure. To be free, you will need a decent amount of savings. You may need (but not necessarily) own a home outrightly or have small monthly payments. It would be useful to have very low monthly outgoings. Or to have learnt to within your means.
It can be really difficult to do this if you are living paycheck to paycheck. Or if you have large debts like a mortgage. Or family that depends on regular income now. So for many people, this freedom seems impossible to attain. But some people do attain it.
I know of two practitioners who have attained a level of freedom in this manner.
One is a Chinese acupuncturist. She travels to China about twice a year and stays for a month or two to see her family. She owns her house. When she comes back, she tells me she has lost all her old clients, but then she just starts up again and gets new clients.
Another lady I know is a Japanese massage practitioner. She also owns her house and travels regularly for work or back to her country to see family. She has a list of clients who ask specifically for her. Both of them now charge in the higher range of the market and have decades of experience between them. They both live in London.
In their cases, they have attained a level of what I consider freedom. But it wasn’t always like that for them.
One of them lived in a council flat and is a single mother. The other had to flat share for several years and at one point earned minimum wage in a spa. But they both kept working at their professions. Then it came – the breaks, the opportunities. Their incomes increased. They took advantage of the housing boom, before it burst. They were fortunate in other ways. And now, they have attained the freedom to choose how they work and live.
Perhaps, these stories are just exceptional to these people. It can’t fit everyone’s situation. That is true. But I include them as an example, to show that it is possible. It is not like winning the lottery.
This is the most important point to take from this post. It is possible. So why not me? Or you?
What is freedom to you
You may have a different idea of what freedom constitutes. For me, two of the reasons I went into complementary therapies and especially acupuncture was freedom and control of my own life.
For example, I chose acupuncture because I felt it would give me a profession that I could keep practicing even into my old age. No one can tell me to retire. I figured that the day when I forgot how many needles I put into a patient and left some in, is the day I should think about retiring.
Also I don’t really want a boss. I don’t want someone telling me what to do. I prefer to tell someone what to do. But this is not the easy path. I feel the natural state of a man and women is freedom for our own lives.
The safe path is secure. You take a regular job and you adjust yourself to fit in. That’s fine, some people like that. But some people struggle with it. Another thing is that the longer you work for yourself and don’t have an employer, the harder it is for you to go back to working for someone else. Especially as you get older. It requires an adjustment period to get used to becoming an employee again.
However, in this day and age, we are led to believe that you have to work for an organisation. It is hugely validating in society.
But it is not the only way. Unfortunately, creating a path to freedom is not easy. Otherwise everyone will be doing it. There are large barriers at the first stage. The best is to ease into that direction.
Steps to freedom
The first step is financial freedom. Start to save money. Avoid the trap of buying stuff to make you feel happy. Avoid the consumerist trap. Buying the new model car because everyone else’s car in the parking area is new and shiny. Buying to impress strangers. That’s mad.
If you invest, invest in yourself – your own skills or knowledge.
The second step is to work your business on the side. Your business is your freedom. Instead of vegging in front of TV or Instagram, spend an hour working on your project.
I wrote a book just doing 1 hour in a cafe after coming back from a 9-5 job, when I used to work as an acupuncturist in hospice care. Sometimes, I could only write one paragraph. The book will soon be finished and published. It’s not a grand piece of work, but so what? It’s finished. Little by little.
A third step is to continually improve. Learn new things and skills. Read constantly – not just books on your topic of internet, but broadly on business, making money, read biographies of people who overcame challenges, invented things, or set up businesses.
Read websites and blogs (like this one). Or how about my book on blind acupuncturists to see how physical restrictions do not stop people from building successful businesses and teaching others.
And just never ever let the TV and mainstream media spoonfeed you on whatever information they choose.
I allow myself the guilty pleasure of watching the Apprentice and as bad as that show is, I have learnt a few things from it. But that is the only time I ever watch terrestrial TV. I wouldn’t watch things like Dancing with the Stars unless I was really into dancing and taking classes. But I don’t watch stuff just to sedate my mind.
For example, in the London tube, they hand out this free newspaper called the Metro. You can see it lying around everywhere during the rush hour. People pick it up from the entrance, read it, discard it. Then other passengers will pick it up, read it and discard it. So on and so on. All those dead trees.
But I avoid it like the plague. I remember year ago, I worked minimal wage jobs in London hotels. I used to feel so miserable going to work, I would read that newspaper on the tube just to numb myself. The news is generic. It covers whatever is happening in politic, main events, disasters, celebrities, bubblegum news.
So many people read it in the morning. It is like a sedative. It provides no value for anyone’s life. It is a time-sink. Be better than that.
Here’s a quote from Withnail and I –
Accident black spot! These aren’t accidents. They’re throwing themselves into the road. Throwing themselves gladly, to escape all this hideousness.
And this is how I feel when I read the Metro.
Your time is your greatest commodity. It becomes even more valuable when you get older. Use it carefully to enrich your life.
So the third step is to use your free time filling yourself with motivation information or knowledge. Listen to audio books, podcasts. It is even possible to study a language. I used to study Japanese on my walkman.
What is your definition for freedom
The fourth step is to ask what is freedom to you. If you could do anything in this world without worrying about money, what would you do? Then look at how you could make that a reality. And write it all down. You’d be amazed, but many things can be done even whilst broke.
I studied (the old) Japanese N5 Level without spending a penny in Japan. I simply went to free community classes taught by trainee teachers or retired teachers. I supplemented that with private study from a library textbook.
Also don’t underestimate the value of putting your goals on paper. I make goal sheets every year. When I look back at some of my old ones, I am amazed at seeing how many of them come true.
I have been writing goal sheets since 2013. A year earlier, I had just returned from Japan and was having to restart my life and business again in England with very limited resources – basically I was broke. The UK was also going through the credit crunch which made things difficult. We had to live in a shared house with about 5 Vietnamese students as I couldn’t find a landlord that would accept me without a job or references.
This prompted me to look for ways out of this situation. It made me hungry. Comfort won’t do that. Nor sedation.
Some my goals were simple – For example – start a daily exercise or meditation habit. Others were things like seeing 10 clients a week. Or writing a new article for my website. Looking back at some of my goal sheets, I can see many of the goals had been achieved. They may not have been done in the time scale I set, but they were completed in one way or the other.
Goals don’t have to be extravagant. Some of mine are quite modest and some I surpassed by a long way. Curiously some of the ones I didn’t achieve, strike me as being goals that I am not really all that passionate about – such as practicing a martial art. Whilst it is something I would like to do, it is not something I feel really strongly about achieving.
Also if I set a money goal – to have a certain amount of money, that doesn’t seem to work. it would probably be more successful to say – I want to save X amount of money each month. Or if I set a goal like – to see X number of clients.
Set your course, sail
The walk towards freedom is a long march. It may take time. But it will only come if you make that conscious choice to move into that direction. If you do not, then you will coast. Forever putting your life and fortune in the hands of external forces – your job, the economy, your partner.
Security is relative
No job is ever 100% secure. When I used to teach English abroad, I worked for a company that suddenly went bankrupt. One day, we went in and we were told we had to leave by lunchtime with all our stuff. Some of my co-workers had been there for years. They had been loyal. They had even brought a lot of their own possessions to decorate their rooms there. But they only had a few hours to shift it all.
Because the company was broke. They don’t care about loyalty. I didn’t get my salary paid. Worst thing was that I had left a secure job (but not enough hours), for that job that was supposed to pay me more money with more hours.
It taught me that you are indispensable. Don’t put all your trust into a company or organisation. Put your trust in yourself.
Years later, I worked for another healthcare organisation. It seemed secure, but then we found out it had been losing money over the years and needed to downsize. Layoffs came. In this instance, I kept my job, but my confidence was shaken. I didn’t feel comfortable putting my financial life in the hands of an organisation I had no control over.
And who knows what black swan event can occur that can send you into a financial abyss – economic factors, divorce, imprisonment for a crime you didn’t commit or sickness. And if you ask me that is less secure than investing that time in yourself.
My work and fortunes have often gone in an up-and-down fashion. I have experienced having less than £2.50 spending money in my pocket whilst living abroad and no income. Then other times, my work and career flourishes and money flows. It’s really not worth thinking about which stage you are in. That can change. More important, is the course you have set and whether you are working towards it little by little.
The path towards freedom.
If you have invested some time into skills on the side, you can learn flexibility. You may have something that could bail you out later on when going through lean times. That skill may put food on the plate.
I knew one guy who embarked in a side hobby of diving. He trained and picked up a licence to teach it. He may not do it as a primary job, but the option is always there.
Years ago, I wanted to develop my public speaking skills. So I designed a course of health talks to give for free at the hospice I worked at. In preparation, I studied books on speaking by Brian Tracy. I also researched my material and learnt how to create powerpoint presentations.
My material was good, but my audience was small. At one session, only one person came. I hadn’t put enough time into promoting it. Or maybe the theme just wasn’t as popular as I hoped. I still did the talks anyway, even to that one person. It was hard work designing weekly talks, but it helped me grow and develop new skills.
In the last few years, I have worked on developing new skills, such as book publishing, website building, blog writing and now video making. I have also been able to spend more time with my kids. Though, I have some way to go till I achieve my goal of freedom as I define, it is a course I have set.
This is why, it is a worthy step to train in a new field like complementary therapies. Or anything that can open up new doors. Maybe not immediately, but later on. And more importantly, it is the path towards freedom. And even if you don’t do anything with your skill, you have made a new step in the direction of a life of freedom.
Japanese photographer – Silvia Lüthi. akupunkturplus.ch
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