“Martin, you’re throwing away the best years of your life.”
“You’re in your 20’s, you should be out seeing the world, chasing girls, experiencing life.
“It is such a waste, such a shame, that a man like you is locked away in a monastery.”
I liked him. His name was Jos, and he was the neighbour of our monastery.
I’d visit him and his wife a few times a week, and they’d feed me Belgian beer and teach me French.
It’s not that I disagreed with his opinion – I just knew, somehow, that living in a monastery was what I needed.
And yes, I had given up everything.
Life was extremely restricted, what with all the vows I had taken.
Poverty, 7 rituals a day, obedience, and yes: celibacy.
Which, if you do it right, goes beyond simply ‘no sex’.
Meaning, a complete sacrifice of personal relationships of any kind.
I had no friends – only brothers.
So yeah, I threw away a lot.
Life was very, very limited.
And yet, in that extreme limitation, I found enormous freedom.
A freedom that people in general don’t know about.
See, there’s a problem with the way we’re being sold ‘individual freedom’.
‘The freedom to live the life you want, the business you choose!’
‘The freedom to do whatever you damn well please!’
Doing whatever you want isn’t freedom: that is the prison of self-interest.
Bear with me here, because I’m not going to get spiritual on you.
I’m talking about psychology, and learning the difference between true freedom and fake freedom can help you a LOT.
It can help you be happier, more at peace, and that can help you to be more efficient, effective, successful, and prosperous.
The reason a monastic regime brings so much freedom is that every possible decision about your life and you day-to-day has been made.
You know what clothes you wear: the same you wore yesterday.
You know what you’ll eat: what the cook puts on the table.
You know what you’ll be doing every hour of the day: work, or meditate.
And in that complete absence of choice, suddenly the mind is utterly free to focus on what matters.
In our case, that was introspection.
In your case, that will probably mean creativity and creation.
So that’s why I’m telling you this:
If you can find systems, and build habits, and automate everything that isn’t necessary to think about, you suddenly find an enormous inner freedom.
For example, our abbot: he was a master at automating things.
He had a suitcase full of little bags and pouches. Each one made specifically for an item: socks, underwear, toothbrush, comb, keys – literally everything he needed to travel had its own container.
Which meant that whenever he had to travel, he could pack his bag in no time at all, and he’d never forget anything.
If there was an empty bag or pouch left, he knew he was about to forget something.
Packing for him was totally automatic, required no thought whatsoever.
Myself, I have a system that automates my ideas: my wallet is a leather pouch that holds credit cards, money, index cards and a fountain pen.
I’m never ever without a writing utensil, and therefore any time I have an idea or need to remember something, I can record it.
That simple trick has done wonders for my creativity and my writing.
Writing in my journal: I used to keep putting it off, but these days I bring it with me on my morning walk, and sit on the beach at dawn to write. Fixed.
Or doing laundry: it’s easy for me to forget that there’s a load in the machine, which means that after a few hours in this climate the laundry smells stale.
My system, to not forget? I leave the door to the laundry room ajar instead of shut.
If you think about it, there are tons of things that you can automate.
Things that you can create failsafe systems for.
Last year, the mailman had a package for me.
I stepped into the hall to sign for it, and then the wind blew the door shut.
Which was a real bother, because I’d just showered and was wearing nothing but a towel.
The mailman thought it was hilarious and said “No te preocupes! There’s a locksmith downtown!”
Yeah right, as if I’m going to go through town in a towel.
I’m not, like, Arthur Dent, you know?
He was nice, he found me a stiff piece of plastic I used to jimmy open the lock.
But these days, I never forget my keys, under any sort of circumstance: The moment I get home, I stick them in the lock, so each time I leave, taking them is the most logical thing to do.
The paradox: clever self-imposed limitations increase freedom.
Automate things, systematise, take a load off your mind.
Be free, more creative, and happier.
There’s actually a whole bunch of psychological research behind the reason habits and limitations are so effective for well-being and success.
You can get my 16-page report on why, and how to use the power of habits and systems for your own benefit, in the next LEAP newsletter –> http://martinstellar.com/leap-to-more-sales/