the freedom/responsibility curve


Lane and I are in my office this evening, and we just heard a staff member and a student having a discussion in the hallway. The staff member was (I think) talking about his small child, and he was bemoaning the fact the child seems not to appreciate how good his or her life is.

In an aggravated tone, the staff member said "I mean, you get the first five years of your life free, and maybe the last five years, and the rest of the time in between you're working your ass off at school or at work. Why can't kids appreciate how good they've got it during those first five years?"

Lane looked at me and said "It's true, isn't it?"

And I said "Not if you pick the right job."

We talked about it a bit, and I ended up drawing this curve on my whiteboard:


Little kids, I told him, have few responsiblities, it's true. No school, no work. But they have very little freedom to match that. Other people tell them what to do, and how and when to do it.

As you get older, your responsibilities increase, but along with it so does your freedom.

If your responsiblities get too overwhelming, your freedom starts to decrease again, to where you have no time to do anything than what's required of you by others.

So, somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot...where you've got enough responsibility to be able to earn your freedom, but not so much that you're trapped by it.


You're such a great & wise Mom!!
My solution to the world's problems:
1)Everyone has a job they love
2)Everyone gets a massag once a month!
Welcome home!

Wow, this was great. I'm both excited AND terrified of my children being old enough to have this type of conversation with!

Forrest and I worked hard and our children saw all that...but what we showed them was that with adulthood came the freedom to be in charge of your own life...and when it is your decision to work hard and make all those is the freedom that is the real joy. We asked them both to get jobs in college so they had the freedom to choose how their disposable income was spent, and they didn't have to write home for funds justifying their expenditures...freedom is a powerful motivator. Consequently, they have done some wonderful things with their income...and they have themselves to thank for that...not their parents...I agree earning your freedom makes life so much sweeter.

Thanks for the travel log...I enjoyed every word of it...Erhardt said that he gave you his journal address about Russia...I trust you have enjoyed his blog...there is more to come...right now he is enjoying living the experience every moment he can...and will write about it later...

The best to you and your family, Erhardt's mom

Liz, that's so perfect. And that's an issue I've been struggling with for a while. How do you know you've hit the sweet spot? I think everyone should think long and hard before taking that promotion/new job. They may already be in the sweet spot.

Nice graph! Makes sense to me! I don't think my mom ever drew graphs on a whiteboard to explain things to me though. :-)

Sometimes I dream to become the child again...why? because this wonderful time where was unique a problem to congratulate the grandmother on day a birth and even it seemed enormous i dream to become the child to get rid from responsiblitim but when i was child i dream to become the adult to get more freedom...interesting situation with this freedom and responsibility=)

Okay... I'm struggling with the graph. I must be a dummy and/or reading too much into it. Is the X-axis a timeline or responsibility? I believe you describe it as a timeline. If it's Responsibility, then it says, "as responsibility continues to increase, you hit a point where freedom decreases, but responsibility continues to increase.

...okay, I'm thinking WAY too much. Welcome back Prof.

Yes, you're definitely overthinking it. :)

The x-axis is supposed to be responsibility, with the meaning that you suggest...but one could overlay a timeline on top of it for most people, since we typically start with very little responsiblity and have it increase over time. Not everybody pushes to the point where the curve slides back down, however.

And thanks for the welcome!

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on August 3, 2006 5:06 PM.

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