The 4 Pillars of Freedom

March 4, 2024

When I host a retreat or do a live workshop, one of the first things I like to do is have the group come up with a collective definition of wealth.

​If we are going to be going deep on a subject, it helps to have a shared concept of what it actually means.

​So, I start with the question, “What is wealth?”

​The first answers usually include some reference to money – having enough to meet/exceed expenses, for example. But as the discussion evolves, we always seem to center our definition of wealth around one word: freedom.

​I believe that everyone should define what wealth means to them – that way we when we focus on wealth-related goals we know what it is we are actually working toward.

My personal definition of wealth is freedom in 4 areas:

  1. Freedom of Health
  2. Freedom of Relationships
  3. Freedom of Time
  4. Freedom of Mind

​These four pillars work in harmony to create ultimate freedom, in ascending order of difficulty to fully embody.

Freedom of Health

​A common English proverb states, “A healthy man wants a thousand things, a sick man only one.”

​Even more directly, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American transcendentalist philosopher, said, “The first wealth is health” – and I agree.

​The great irony of the western financial system is that we are told that we must work our entire lives in order to generate enough money to eventually retire – when we can (finally!) enjoy ourselves and the fruits of our labor.

​The problem, of course, is that by the time most of us retire, we are no longer able to do the things that we would like to do because we have sacrificed our bodies on the altar of earning.

​We sit for 8+ hours a day, causing our muscles to atrophy. We eat ultra-processed food because it’s more convenient, poisoning our bodies in the process. Because something broke along the way, we stay in a state of constant stress because we are taught that work is never-ending, and with the rise of the smartphone, we must be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

​Bill Perkin’s seminal work Die with Zero makes a passionate call for us to wake up to the fact that we should be prioritizing experiences over accumulation – especially those experiences that require the blessing of youth to truly enjoy.

​The example he gives is a gap year backpacking across Europe. This formative experience in one’s early twenties doesn’t quite have the same impact at 65.

​For me, this looks like my annual non-negotiable heli-skiing trip to British Columbia. I know that at 43 I still have the ability to ride at my peak level of performance (though not quite the same as in my 20s). It would be easy to put this off as too expensive or something I can do later – but I know that in 20 years I won’t be able to ride at the same level. By prioritizing the experience now, I am not only gathering life experience that wouldn’t be the same later, but it also forces me to prioritize health, strength and flexbility so that I can enjoy performing at a high level well into the future.

​The beauty is that we can start prioritizing our health for free.

Still got it. 😉

Freedom of Relationships

​“Love allows us to be free, to be who we are in the world. A love that confines or controls is not love at all.” – Bell Hooks, American author

​For me, freedom of relationships means the freedom to show up in the world as my authentic self without fear of loss or an obligation to conform to the expectations of others.

​For so many of us, a lack of financial freedom also means a lack of freedom within our relationships. Perhaps this comes in the form of feeling stuck working for an abusive boss or left feeling trapped in an oppressive marriage because of a lack of financial control.

​So many of us are taught that money is a way to exert control. I recently spoke with a client who was told by his father as a young man that he would pay for college – as long as he studied to become a doctor. Now, I’m sure his father was well-intentioned; after all, don’t most of us only want the best for our children? And while this young man became a very successful doctor, I can’t help but wonder if it cost the world a brilliant creative writer or concert pianist.

​The freedom to choose our relationships and operate freely within them is often overlooked – but is foundational to an authentic life.

Freedom of Time

​As we ascend the ladder of freedom, we start to realize that time is our only non-renewable resource.

​Henry David Thoreau captures this idea with eloquence, stating, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

​The allegory of the American businessman and the Mexican fisherman, as recounted by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Workweek, illustrates the paradox of exchanging our time for money:

​An American businessman encounters a Mexican fisherman in a small coastal village. The fisherman, who spends his days leisurely fishing, playing with his children, taking siestas with his wife, and enjoying evenings with friends, catches just enough to sustain his family’s needs. The businessman, upon learning this, suggests that the fisherman should scale up his operations by investing in more boats, catch more fish, and eventually expand his business internationally. This expansion, the businessman argues, would allow the fisherman to eventually earn enough money to retire early, at which point he could enjoy leisurely days of fishing, spending time with his family, and relaxing with friends. The irony, of course, is that the fisherman is already living the simple, fulfilling life that the businessman envisions as the ultimate reward for years of hard work and business expansion.

​For most of us, decoupling our income with our time is one of the most impactful moves we will ever make – resulting in a freedom few ever have the privilege to experience.

Freedom of Mind

​The ultimate goal in the ascension is only possible once the other three have been unlocked.

​Self-actualization is the last step on the hierarchy of human needs. Freedom of mind encompasses several key elements from a self-actualization viewpoint:

Autonomy: The ability to act according to one’s true self, rather than being influenced by societal pressures or external validation. This means making choices that align with one’s personal values and desires.

Authenticity: Living in congruence with one’s true self, embracing one’s thoughts, feelings, and desires without pretense or façade. Authenticity is about being genuine and real with oneself and others.

Creativity: The freedom to explore and express one’s creativity without fear of judgment or failure. Self-actualized individuals often engage in creative pursuits purely for the joy and fulfillment it brings them, rather than for external rewards.

Openness to Experience: Embracing new experiences, ideas, and perspectives with an open and curious mind. This includes the willingness to grow, learn, and change as part of one’s journey towards self-actualization.

Emotional Freedom: The ability to understand, accept, and express one’s emotions in a healthy way. This involves being in touch with one’s feelings and using them as a guide for personal growth and decision-making.

Critical Thinking: The capacity to think independently and critically, questioning conventional wisdom and societal norms when they conflict with one’s principles or hinder personal growth.

Mindfulness and Presence: Living in the present moment, fully engaged with one’s experiences without being overly preoccupied with the past or anxious about the future.

​Freedom of mind, in the context of self-actualization, is ultimately about breaking free from the internal and external barriers that prevent individuals from living fully and realizing their highest potential. It involves a deep understanding of oneself, the courage to pursue one’s true path, and the resilience to overcome obstacles along the way. This concept is integral to achieving a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and well-being in life.

Your Personal Definition of Wealth

The four areas above are my own – but they don’t necessarily have to be yours. Finding your own definition of wealth can be a profound and illuminating experience and one that can help shift the direction of your life.

​Perhaps you can start with one of my favorite questions: Where am I not free?

​This is a question I revisit often – and every time, I find a new rabbit hole to explore. Consider this your invitation to dive in and find what wealth means to you – and start to lean into living your wealthy life.

​To finding your freedom,


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