The Freedom of Unstructured People or One Simple Step to a Self-Induced Panic Attack

That week, I had decided to give myself a bit more freedom in my work, choosing not to have a precise and detailed plan as I normally do. I thought I’d go as I felt and see what would come out of such a week. Who knows, maybe what I assumed was “exaggerated rigidity” at the moment this new great idea came up to my mind was keeping me away from a world of greatness.

The Day Before...

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The evening prior to a brand new week, I normally pause and throw all my short, medium and long-term goals on paper. It’s a very beautiful, almost meditative ritual I created many years ago, not only on the eve of a new week but in order to start any new chapter of my life with clear intentions and a structured method. I use the term “structured” as it is not impermeable to changes. A structure can be adapted to suit the ever-changing need of the environment we are coping with. For example, a world-class athlete or any CEO of a billion-dollar corporation won’t get anywhere near summits if they don’t adapt their method along the way. 

Some people have more flexibility of adaptation than others and I consider myself in the latter group; however, being conscious of any possible lack, I try to remain open and alert, within a certain range to modify the road I had previously drawn. I call it my "schedule plasticity".

As a very disciplined and "professional list maker", apart from being a borderline control freak, not taking this precious time to structure my week and visualize where I wanted to be at the end of this time-lapse was my first big mistake. I am normally thrilled looking at a new blank page of opportunities, anything new, from moving to a new continent to starting a big creation for a precise project or just undertaking a new week. This time I felt a bit lost and my usual energy towards anything challenging was absent. That alone put me in a state on anxiety. For a reason I couldn’t quite identify, never having experienced such thing, I even faced what I later learned was the same symptoms one experiences during a panic attack: shortness of breath, heartbeat acceleration ... On a calm Sunday night, talk about a great meditative evening!

Day One: False start?

Day one started as usual but there was no efficiency in my day. I felt overwhelmed by everything there was to do. I knew at what time I was going to practice but not having fixed more than this, the rest of my day lacked focus. Normally, when it comes to training, the first day of a given period is my strongest day since I normally start on a rested tool. This time, I found myself trying to work on a weak physique. Looking back, I'm quite sure my physical body was in a perfect shape that day and could have been a great tool to accomplish a lot, but my mind shut it down and seemed to be convincing enough to make it blind to its usual capabilities. I felt tired and not very strong - and had no idea why. I ended up cutting my training short by 30 minutes and went home without any sense of accomplishment.

Day Two: Imaginary reasons

The next morning, I had set my alarm clock a little bit later than usual but still woke up sluggishly and felt tired, without locating any trace of motivation. 

Throughout the years I have developed many tricks to find the motivation or fire I need when it’s not coming easily. I have a series of exercises and questions to go through if needed but normally, just sticking to my day plan is enough to get me started, and by doing, I create a flow and the energy starts manifesting again. Since nothing was actually working and my strongest tool - a purpose- was not in the picture, I thought I was so tired that my body maybe wanted to signal me that something was wrong, and that I should take a day off training and concentrate on other areas of work and life. I obeyedwhat I thought was an early sign of exhaustion, and later in the day  felt guilty about this decision, since I had no explanation why I should be taking a day off training. And day two ended more lost than it had started, and now with a tingeof guilt over my apparent laziness.

Day Three: Right into the wall

On day three, I woke up in a much better state and started working on many projects in the first part of my day. When the time came for my first training session, I started to be all whiny and instead of commencing with energy and power, I went through training like someone was forcing me to do so. I was happy afterwards but whenthe second and more intense practice session started, I hit a psychological wall and many thoughts I wouldn’t even dare sharing bombarded my mind. I managed to ignore them and walked 20 minutes to reach my training place.  Once there, I sat and stared atthe wall, not finding the energy to put on my training clothes and get started witha 3-hours session. After staring at the wall some more, I went back home withproof that there was something wrong with me. 

Fortunately enough, in any failing situation, as low as I can get, I have a natural instinct tonot stay in a negative state or destroying environment for too long … and these 3 days wasted had definitely been too long. My endurance level is very low for this kind of time-consuming nonsense so I actively searched for facts, reasons and solutions. Here I was on day three of what should’ve been an amazing week of achievements, learning the lesson (let’s hope once and for all) that my call-it-crazy-if-you-want habit of planning, structuring, calculating, list-making, foreseeing everything has a reason to be. I already knew that one of the keys to my humble achievements is my precise methodology and focus on every single part of my life, and especially when it comes to training. Repeatedly in my life, I have been criticized by people close to me on a personal and professional level that I am too rigid with myself, that I should "enjoy" life more. Luckily enough, I've always persisted the way I am comfortable with, being quite hard to influence, especially when it comes to my life habits. 

Still Aiming for More Freedom?

I have probably the most unstable life you can find as a freelance performer "living" on different continents, in different time-frames and business contexts, but sticking to my methodology is a winning strategy that I can control fully at any day, time and place.

In order to achieve anything, as simple as it might be, I believe one must have a precise vision of the destination, the goal. Trying to unlock any door in pure darkness, let alone find the right key in the loaded keyring is abstract suicide.