Shackles of freedom – Guest Post by Steve

Paradoxically the more freedom we have the less definition we have. In nature we can not see anything if we allow the light to scatter in any direction it is only when we focus the light coming from an object that we can see what and where it is. It is the lack of freedom which allows us to observe and interact with our environment.

Freedom is the enemy of perception, this may sound bizarre but we are often defined by our expertise, limits, boundaries or flexibility (the ability to tolerate change).

In metallurgy, metals are often characterised by their tensile strength, the point or limits at which they break, their ability to be compressed and stretched, malleability.

We tend to define ourselves, culturally and in the work place by our perceived limits and boundaries. The idea of freedom is appealing and often desired yet we can easily lose ourselves and our direction in a truly free environment.

When night diving or cave diving it is very easy to lose your bearings and forget which way is up. This is easy to do in cave dives when the silty bottom is stirred up and visibility approaches zero. Boundaries and physical limitations are your only true friend in such an instance, with the realisation that bubbles float to the surface. Simple physics becomes life saving as do the universal laws (rules) and boundaries.

Freedom is desirable to a degree, but not completely, despite how well you may think you are at self-discipline, motivation and regulation; the inevitable result will be a state of inertia and comfort. Not bad you may say but ultimately boring and destructive.

Pressure makes diamonds; Necessity is the mother of invention, these phrases ring with truth because, if left to our own devices, we would tend towards the comfortable, safe, known and easy tasks and avoid failure and discomfort. Work means effort and effort means expenditure of energy; which from an evolutionary stand point means it becomes harder to survive because you need to replace the energy used as well store energy for reproduction. The energy cost is known; the ability to replenish the consumed energy is unknown. This results in a state of uncertainty about your continued existence, not a good place to be evolutionarily speaking, therefore often inaction or the avoidance of work is a desirable state.

This is one of the reasons people tend to disengage when they can choose to do so. Collaboration is effort with an unknown amount of benefit. Therefore, if you have total freedom to work how you wish, most and eventually all of us, would spiral towards a state of isolation and non-collaboration. This enhances the feeling of self-importance but eventually if left unchecked would undermine our feelings of self-worth and esteem. This is because we are defined by our boundaries and interactions and the more intricate and stimulating they are, the more we rise to the challenge. In “hardship” our true nature is defined and distilled so we get to know not only ourselves but also others and the environment around us. Armed with this knowledge, direction and goals can be determined and attained.

Total freedom leads to the extinction of striving to develop beyond our present state and to attain “the next level”.

The ability to exist in a vacuum is not something people have nor should it be desired, we are a point on a graph and we are only defined by our relationships to the other points.

So what is the point? If we allow teams or individuals to be truly free we would eventually see the devolution of what ever we are trying to achieve; yet if teams and individuals have guidance, support and interactions then this alone could help attain the goals sought. The hard part is the realisation that everyone is different and therefore every team will work differently and be in a constant state of flux. The balancing of ease versus challenge; comfort versus discomfort; collaboration versus autonomous action will need a great deal of skill and awareness of the environment. This means that total freedom can not be tolerated but choice can and should be encouraged.

Choices define us and allow us to determine our own form and place in the universe.