When I left my corporate job, I think it may have been for days like today. May. Eighty degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Sundress and sandals and freshly painted toes. Whole Foods tabbouleh for lunch and pineapple froyo for a well-deserved treat. (Apparently we only have Yagoot stores in Ohio! Too bad for you non-Ohioans because this flavor was a-ma-zing, almost exactly like the Dole Whip you get at Disney World!) Working from a shaded Starbucks patio table. I mean does it get any better than this? When your office is a patio table at Starbucks?!
Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that this is real. That I have all the permission I need to craft this life of mine any way I choose. I don’t have to recreate my corporate life to claim productivity. I don’t have to sit inside, at a desk, from 8 till 6, scheduling meetings and having phone calls and writing memos. I can live a bit more freely. I can meander a little. I can watch an amazing TED talk video in the morning. Chat with a friend. Work out in the middle of the day. You’d think this was obvious. I bought this freedom at a dear price when I left my corporate job.
But sometimes I’m like the elephant in this old story:
As a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.
He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.
My many years in a traditional work environment shaped the way I think about work. They were the years when I learned the difference between being productive and goofing off. But what if those distinctions are no longer useful in this life I’m living now? What if writing out here in the sunshine and going for mid-day runs and reading or watching work from inspiring people IS productive?
Today was a shining reminder to craft the life I want to live. As we head into spring, I’m going to challenge any imaginary boundaries I’ve placed on my life and make sure that I’m not letting old “ropes” tie my sandal-clad feet. Where can you do the same?