I HATE scheduling things on my calendar. And yet I live by my calendar. I love the structure and safety of knowing precisely what I’ve committed to. Still, my favorite moments are when I open my calendar and I discover a whole block of unscheduled time. If I’m lucky, a whole unscheduled day. Wow, now I get to work on whatever I want!

The underlying reason is obvious - it’s freedom. Freedom feels great. Committing to things in the future limits optionality, and hence limits freedom. So why commit to anything?

Committing to something gives others the gift of structure and certainty. It seems most people don’t like it very much when you answer with “sorry I don’t schedule things, text me on the day and I’ll see if I’m available”.

So what’s really going on here is a trade-off between self and other. Between selfishness and generosity. I can remove a quantum of freedom and optionality from my own day and convert it into a quantum of structure and certainty for someone else. In some sense it’s a gift of energy.

But I’ve also learned that it’s hard to impact the world in a big way, or even a small way, alone. So it’s not entirely altruistic to gift this certainty to others. Co-ordinating with this giant interconnected network of human beings gives us the leverage to further our own goals. Becoming a recluse would provide plenty or freedom and optionality, but how long before the nagging desire to go and do something in the world takes hold.

My wife once said to me that a measure of your power is your capacity to take responsibility for others. This can be easily calculated by the number of people whose livelihoods depend on you in some way. If you’re the boss of a big company, the president of a country, or a parent to a young child, you have people’s livelihoods depending on your decisions and actions. And what a privilege it is to have the trust of those people.

With great power comes great responsibility. You can choose freedom or power. Or maybe the practice is increasing our capacity to find freedom within that power.