I’ve realised I need a checklist of principles to refer to that guide me to live the life I want.
Here are 7 Principles I use to help me live an Autonomous life. I hope you find them helpful.
Autonomous living means choosing your own personal path without yielding to outside pressure.
It’s about knowing oneself, making intentional choices, and being self-sufficient and adaptable.
It’s a journey of self-governance.
You’re in control, deciding how you want to live your life.
Seven Principles of Autonomous Living
1. Freedom from External Constraints: Choose your own path, not what others expect.
2. Self-sufficiency: Take care of yourself without always needing others.
3. Intentional Living: Make choices on purpose, not by accident.
4. Self-awareness and Growth: Know yourself and always look to get better.
5. Responsibility: Own your actions and their results.
6. Decision-making Power: Feel free to make your own choices.
7. Flexibility and Adaptability: Be ready to change when life throws curveballs.
There’s a lot of depth beneath each of these Principles, but even at a surface level, they make sense to me.
They serve as guardrails, making it easier to navigate my path through life.
Other writers have explored these principles in more detail in their own writing. But for now, this compilation is working for me.
Your perspectives may differ, so take what you want and leave the rest.
Freedom from External Constraints
This refers to living without being bound by societal pressures, expectations, or norms.
That is, you should follow a path of your choosing, not one chosen for you by your parents, society or friends.
This is damn hard.
I was the first in my family to get a university education. And because my parents were self-employed business owners, it had to be a business degree.
It was a given that I would return to the family business.
And after a few years of obligatory “real-world experience” to round out my skills, I did precisely that.
For four years.
Until various factors made it impossible for me to stay.
Gary V always talks about subverting the expectations of your parents. His videos on this topic resonate with me.
But remember, it’s not only your parents’ expectations you must subvert.
Society and friends will all pressure you to choose a path of their choosing, not yours.
Choose your own path.
This is about providing for yourself financially, emotionally, or otherwise.
It’s essential to recognise that self-sufficiency doesn’t mean isolation.
Instead, it’s about having the skills, knowledge, and resources to support oneself without reliance on others.
For many of us, this meant going to uni or getting a trade qualification, so we were employable. I.e. Getting a job so your parents didn’t need to support you.
For me, it means I need to develop skills and knowledge which I can use to create value that others will pay for.
It also means I won’t have to get a traditional job.
Autonomous living displays intentionality.
You make every action, decision, or choice with a certain level of mindfulness.
People living autonomously don’t just float through life. They actively shape it based on their beliefs and dreams.
It’s never too late to learn to live with intention.
I was 37 years old before I recognised that I was forever going with the flow and that I had to get my shit together and be intentional about my path through life.
Self Awareness & Growth
A crucial part of living autonomously is striving to have a deeper and better understanding of yourself.
If you don’t commit to knowing yourself and seeking to grow as a person, you doom yourself to repeating past mistakes.
Understand your strengths, weaknesses, desires, and fears; what makes you tick and take action on them.
Self-awareness is what allows for continuous personal growth.
With autonomy comes responsibility.
Living an autonomous life means taking ownership of one’s actions and their consequences.
You need to be accountable for your own life, both the good and the bad.
And this can be hard.
Don’t complain. Don’t blame. Both of those behaviours try to put the responsibility on someone else.
And you cannot control other people.
You can only control how you feel and how you react.
Own it. Change it.
At its heart, autonomy is about having the power to decide for oneself.
An autonomous person makes choices about career, relationships and habits independently.
It’s not to say you can’t seek out advice. But ultimate decision-making power resides with you.
This is empowering.
Because the converse would mean that you had zero power to make decisions to improve your own life.
Isn’t that awesome?
Flexibility and Adaptability
Autonomy also requires adapting to unexpected changes and challenges.
Autonomous individuals are not rigid; they are flexible and can pivot when necessary.
But they do so with an eye on their broader goals and values.
Some of you find change challenging and even terrifying.
But change has become a key feature of modern society and business.
Cultivate a warrior mindset toward change that will allow you to embrace it, adapt and make it your own.
What does this mean in Practice?
To help me live by these principles, my mentor advised me to make them as real as possible.
To list out what the actual lived behaviours these principles represent.
So here they are.
Freedom from External Constraints
- I own and operate two e-commerce brands with my wife, which give us financial freedom and lifestyle flexibility. I’m always looking for new opportunities that let me live according to these principles.
- I no longer sell SEO services under my Online Kickstart brand, something I’ve done since 2014. Instead, I’m embracing my new “creator economy persona”, subverting the expectations I “think” others have about my actions. Hint – I’m pretty sure no one cares.
- No one owns my calendar. I’ve removed the ability for anyone to jump on my calendar unless I want them to.
- I no longer have to wake up and work to deliver SEO services for clients. I’ve done that for so long that it no longer rings my bell. Apart from the last few clients I’m working with, SEO services are a thing of the past.
- I’m using the knowledge and skills I’ve cultivated to help build and grow businesses that provide financial and lifestyle freedom for myself and my family.
- I’m working to develop new skills outside of the traditional SEO skills that defined my agency career. This is so I can remain self-sufficient. Skills and passion for work degrade over time or become less important. I’m committing myself to constant practical learning and evolution. An example of this is regular writing and publishing on this and other platforms.
I’m 53 years old with four children.
I have a certain level of financial commitments and goals and a declining amount of time to achieve them.
Everything I’m doing has to be intentional if I want to live and work according to my plan.
This means I’m trying not to make stupid business and financial decisions that take me off my path.
Self-awareness and Growth
- I’m much more aware of my health and am trying to make good food and exercise choices that will allow me to live a long and productive life.
- I’ve taken much more responsibility for my mental health. I see a psychologist to work on “me” issues that impact my relationships, family, and work. I’m trying to mitigate the issues that do not serve my personal and financial goals.
- I recognise that seeing myself as an SEO specialist is limiting. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony, so I’m working to expand my core competencies beyond “what” I’ve been doing.
- I’ve made some stupid financial decisions in my life, and I can’t wholly blame the shitty partners I chose to work with. My “nice guy syndrome” let me abdicate responsibility for myself and put my family’s needs second to the needs of others I didn’t care about. Well, not any more. Now, my go-to response is “no”. I’m less accommodating of unreasonable requests. I’m unapologetic and stand up for myself and my family. These are the new behaviours I’m striving to live by. I don’t always get them right, but I’m a work in progress.
- For some reason, I felt internal resistance to shuttering my agency brand. “What would people think?” “Am I throwing away years of brand equity?” Questions like that give the power to decide to personas outside of myself. I’ve recognised this and decided on my future regardless of the little voice in my head.
- The decision to build my own personal brand, to work on existing and new e-commerce businesses and to explore new opportunities are mine alone and not forced onto me by economic necessity, the loss of a job or the collapse of the economy. Having that choice is liberating and freeing, and I’m grateful. Many people don’t.
Flexibility and Adaptability
- My agency revenue took a major hit two years ago when I took on the responsibility of full-time care for an elderly parent. It put a lot of financial pressure on us and was a major lifestyle change. But I’m adapting and embracing new opportunities, and luckily, my wife and I had our e-commerce businesses to keep the lights on.
- The change does not sadden me. I’m excited and invigorated and am glad that I have the core skills to make these changes. Not only that, I’m excited by the new opportunities that these changes represent.
What about you?
It’s never too late to get busy living a life autonomous.