How to Live a Life of Freedom

Freedom is like fresh air.

It is so basic that you took it for granted since you were born and you never questioned its existence.

Until one day it’s taken from you.

It might not resonate with you if you come from the western culture – not until the pandemic hit you.

That was basic freedom of living being violated.

But being a Hong Konger, I have something worse to worry about.

Here comes my self-defined 4 layers of freedom in life, in necessity order:

1 freedom of speech

2 freedom to choose where to live and work

3 freedom to make decisions without waiting for anyone’s help or approval

4 freedom of living a happy life (healthy relationships with closed ones and society)

They all seem very basic that you won’t even give a thought about each of them. But what happened in the past year made me question everything in life.

Let’s dive into it.

1 Freedom of Speech

I envy western societies. But studying history makes me realise the world today – the mindset, work mode, even feminism – is the result of what people have been fighting for decades. Wars and revolutions. Blood and tears. Sadly no one remembers the losers. While advancement is thought to be natural, Hong Kong is experiencing a fall back in freedom of speech, press and assembly, however you define them. This week many international media described “Hong Kong is Dead”, following the announcement of national security law imposed by Beijing. For example check out The Washington Post here

My mental health status has hit a new low this week. It is now 2020 for God’s sake and somehow we are going back to the 60s. The ridiculous news and injustice frustrate me a lot. I consider this level of freedom to be the foundation of living. Without this, there is no “life”. Imagine a world where you cannot express anti-government opinions and all your social media accounts are being monitored. Or worse, you are being sent to “re-education camps” because your mindset is “wrong”. Yep I think I can’t imagine it either.

2 Freedom of living and working freely

This is debatable. I think this level of freedom is highly achievable physically but the mental barrier is great so people don’t think it’s possible. For example all you need is money, and possibly a visa to relocate to another country to study, work or just enjoy life. You might not have the skill and expertise desired by another country but you can always get a job somewhere no matter if you like it or not. Tim Ferris has mentioned in his book “The 4-Hour Work Week” it is completely possible to live in Thailand, enjoy sunshine and beach every day with a cost lower than your Manhattan highrise apartment rental. It is totally doable. But few people do it. Why?

“Reponsibilities”, social obligations. It is until I left my corporate job as an accountant and became a student again that I realised I didn’t miss out anything. Most of my friends are a few years in the workforce just like me, and I have observed them – they actually don’t enjoy their lives. Maybe it is because most of them are in the commercial field. I somehow think it might not be the case for healthcare professionals. Here is where the problem is. If people don’t like their current statuses, why are they still there? Why are they willing to sacrifice 40-50 hours every week in a place they don’t want to be in? Whenever I ask these questions I always get the “mortage and family responsibilities” answer. I am not here to argue that they are not important. I just believe there is a better way to balance everything in life. You can certainly “have it all” while enjoying life. I am still in the process so I will update you guys later. My point being it is totally possible to choose where to live and work. You can negotiate with you company to let you work in their overseas division, or if you are under 30 years of age, get a working holiday visa and go somewhere you like. The possibilities are endless. But as I said, it is always the mental barrier and the voice in your head stopping you.

For me – I took the leap this year to quit the job, possibly quitting the whole profession as well and am now a student in a totally different field. It is scary yet refreshing. I have never found joy and fulfillment in studying until this point. Isn’t this what life is supposed to be like? When work doesn’t feel like work. The future is full of uncertainties anyway. You have nothing to lose if you get out of the certain misery and enter to a new unexplored territory.

I am not sure if financial freedom fits into this category. Somehow I feel like it is the end goal because of the tangible monetary value you define yours. But the layers of freedom here are continuous status. I might change my mind later.

3 Freedom to make decisions without waiting for anyone's help or approval

This sounds a bit odd. Let me explain.

Have you ever felt annoyed when you are working on task because you are waiting for someone else to finish their part? Most of the time your whole schedule is delayed because of that. Also for approval. Then there are also situations when you don’t even let your imagination wander because you know the reality and obligations keep you tied on the ground. I do think the line between seeking for freedom and being selfish is too thin in this case. Balance is key, if possible. There are parents who live on a boat or van with their first-borns. But indeed at my age it is easier to make spontaneous decisions without caring other people’s opinions or feelings.

4 Freedom of living a happy life (healthy relationships with closed ones and society)

I put this one at last because it is hardest for me to achieve. But if you are generally the optimistic type you are probably already enjoying this freedom. In extreme cases you can live happily even when you don’t have freedom of speech. I do understand that happiness comes from within. And mood is just a temporal state that can be easily affected by environment and others. Happiness has intrinsic value. But I have a hard time finding it. It took me so long to realise happiness is a process and a state, not the end goal. If I don’t learn to be grateful and enjoy the process, I will be unhappy and dissatisfied even when I have achieved my goals. Recently I also realised sometimes it’s not the relationships that are toxic. The toxicity comes from my inner thoughts and has nothing to do with other people. Hence I have the urgency to get rid of the negativities within me. I want to be FREE from those worries and toxic thoughts. I want to build and nurture relationships in which both sides grow, learn and support each other. I am still on my way.

Final Thoughts

Nothing comes easy. Especially good things.

I bet you feel so grateful and refreshed when you can finally enjoy your usual cup of coffee in your favourite local restaurant, not buying takeaways for the 7th time this month. This is how I feel. Freedom that I never thought would be taken away from me.

Please treasure what you have.


1 How do you define freedom in life? Did anything in the post resonate with you?

2 What would you like to change now so you can move onto another stage in life and possibly closer to your goals?