Sometimes, restrictions lead to freedom

If you’re a student and your only immediate work is to study for your exams, you might theoretically have a lot of freedom in how you spend your time.

You can decide exactly what to do when. In the morning, you could play sports, sleep in, study, see friends, read a book, or do whatever else you want. In the afternoon, you have the same options, and in the evening too.

But choosing from so many options is exhausting. It takes lots of energy. You might actually be unhappy whichever option you choose. (This is the paradox of choice.)

In this case, limiting yourself—restricting your factual freedom—might improve your experienced freedom.

As a student, you could decide that, after sleeping in and eating breakfast, you will spend two hours studying no matter what. Then, the rest of the day, you can do whatever you feel like doing in the moment.

If you set up a routine for morning studying, you might enjoy your afternoons and evenings more. You won’t feel guilty for not having studied yet today. You won’t be stuck not giving yourself permission to do something fun, but not studying either because it’s hard to summon the willpower to work without a routine.

In fact, having a routine is a fantastic way to give yourself more freedom. (Many successful artists have recognized this.) Do the things that are important for your long-term happiness in a routine way so you’ll feel free to enjoy the moment the rest of your day.

Would you benefit from limiting yourself a little more—from setting up more of a routine? Or have you instead scheduled your days so strictly that you’d be happier with more flexibility?

Knowing which applies to you, and adjusting accordingly, goes a long way towards experiencing freedom now.


— Peter

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