Fashion photographer Bill Cunningham was known to decline payment for some of his magazine jobs. When a young student asked him about it, he said: “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.”

This was Cunningham’s way of keeping his artistic integrity.

But you don’t have to work in the world of art and glamour to be familiar with these compromises. We are constantly pressured to give up control over our life and work in exchange for advancement.

Some Compromises Demand Too Much From Us

My business partner and I decided to bootstrap our startup. We sacrificed short-term growth for long-term peace of mind.

Do you want serious seed money? Then you have to answer to a board of investors who don’t care about your vision and your moral compass.

If you prioritize money over everything else, you’ll soon end up on someone’s leash even if you’re an entrepreneur.

But money is just one of the temptations out there.

  • You’re asked to put up with unreasonable customers because you want a good reputation.
  • You get stuck trying to please a controlling boss because you want to climb the corporate ladder.
  • You dress in a specific way because you want to blend in. Worse yet, you spend time with people you dislike because you want to belong in their ranks.

Desire Makes You a Slave

“When you feel a burning desire for something that appears pleasureful, you are like a person under a spell. Instead of acting on impulse, take a step back — wait till the enchantment fades and you can see things as they are.”― Epictetus

Society curses us with the desire for fortune, fame, attention. In slick and subtle ways, the world around us makes us feel like we’re not good enough unless we give up our freedom for the sake of these desires.

But research shows the quest for money never ends — the rich are always worried about increasing their wealth. Click on any celeb news site, and you’ll see how fame messes people up.

A Tibetan monk visiting Times Square for the first time looked around him and said: “They are trying to steal my soul.” That is the world we live in — full of distractions, guilt-trips, and constant noise.

But we can stand up today and SAY NO.

Would You Rather Chase Wealth or Freedom?

Ideally, you’d choose to be a free spirit who can create wealth. That’s not an oxymoron, as long as you know how to use your strengths.

Free spirits are already rich in one currency: time.

When your time is not controlled by a boss, investors, customers, friends, when you’re not trying to keep up with the Joneses, you control your schedule. You control your life.

Choose the right partners, both personal and professional. Let your creativity flourish and make bold decisions.

Once you have your value system sorted out, it will be harder for anyone to control you or manipulate you.

Don’t Give in to Inertia

Even if things don’t always go as planned, you should be able to say: “I have no regrets because I did everything I could, within the limits of my capabilities.”

What’s worth it for you? What will ensure that, at the end of the year, you’ll look back and know you haven’t wasted any time?

You can figure the answers out right now.

Shut down your computer, switch off your mobile phone and ask yourself what you really want in life. Let the answer come from deep within you — and then let it be your guiding star.

Eric Sangerma is an entrepreneur, founder of and and co-host of The Wholistique Show which explores how to reach peak personal and professional performance while living a minimal and balanced life. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.





Image courtesy of Jeremy Bishop.