We live in a society that glorifies commitment. The label “commitment phobe” is a put-down. However, what is a commitment? Based on a nearby dictionary, it is “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.”
An engagement that restricts freedom of action? How is this a good thing? It is my belief then that commitment-phobia is not something we should be ashamed of. Rather, I am a commitment phobe by choice.
Happiness is an elusive goal for many, but many studies show that an important component of happiness is freedom or autonomy. This is why I believe that the formula for freedom is based on commitment or obligation. If you have less obligation, you have more freedom, and more freedom means more happiness.
However, as many people point out, you cannot be completely free of all commitment or obligation. For example, there are necessities like food, water, clothing and shelter. However, necessities are no longer an obligation if it is someone else’s obligation to provide these to you.
This is where passive income comes in. If you hold shares, bonds, etc. then it is the obligation of borrowers or corporations to pay you.
Hence freedom depends on how much obligation others have to you versus how much obligation you have to others. You want to increase the obligations others have to you and reduce the obligations you have to others.
Commitmentphilia permeates society
About a week ago, during a Saturday, I commuted into the city to have dinner with a work colleague named Paul. We went to an Indian restaurant where I ate yellow lentil dahl with roti and basmati rice. I mostly eat a vegan diet, but when going to Indian restaurants I give myself the freedom to eat some dairy because there supposedly a considerably amount of dairy products such as ghee in Indian food. Paul, on the other hand, kept telling me he was on a low-carb diet, so he ate lamb. It was strange because Paul is quite an obese man, yet he was lecturing me on how carbohydrates make people fat, and I am a fairly slim man. Anyway, I didn’t want to come across as a crazy animal rights activist, so I didn’t talk much about his diet. The topic of conversation quickly moved to how I live with my mother.
Paul lives in the city. He rents an apartment for himself and pays about A$2000 (US$1600) per month for it. Meanwhile, I live out in the suburbs in my mother’s house (my parents are divorced). I pay about half the bills, and I commute to the city for work.
Many people try to shame me for living with my parents, and Paul was no exception. His first argument against me living with my mother is that it would be hard to date women, and I quickly agreed with him on this. My previous dates did not go well, and I am sure that living with my mother did not help. However, I am well aware of this, I accept that women don’t like men who live with their parents, so the solution is to simply not date. I haven’t been on a date in about three years.
My friend then asked me if I would ever date ever or whether I was going to go MGTOW. I simply told him that I do not commit to anything. I am actually open to dating, but I’m not going to make it a priority in life because, based on experience, I find dating to be quite a hassle. I will not commit myself to dating. I also won’t commit myself to not dating.
Paul was perplexed. He expected me to commit to something. He expected me to have my future planned out. He expected me to be clear about whether I was going to date in the future or not, but my position is that if some perfect girl drops into my lap while I’m going about my life, that’s great, but otherwise I am happy being single.
Paul then asked me if I planned to live with my mother forever or if I planned to move out, and yet again I have to repeat to him the fact that I have not committed to anything. I live with my mother now simply because I don’t want to pay for accommodation. I don’t want to rent nor do I want to buy a house because I do not want to be a slave to the banks. It is a purely economic decision based on an assessment of costs and benefits. I have taken into consideration the shame and stigma of living with parents as well as the inconvenience of living with others, and I have weighed this against the money I’ll save by not renting or buying.
I haven’t committed to living with my mother. Currently it is an arrangement that I like. My mother does not micromanage me that much. There are some moments when she treats me like a child, but she has a job and she is out of the house quite often, so I do have autonomy, and I do have my own car, so I often drive off elsewhere, e.g. work, the library, shopping, etc. There are many moments when my mother has annoyed me so much that I simply drove off.
Currently I accept the arrangement, but that doesn’t mean that I plan to live with my mother forever, nor do I plan to move out. I simply have not committed to anything. There is no benefit in commitment. It is better to simply see how things go and adjust if the cost-benefit analysis tells you that you should. For example, if my mother were really annoying me, so much so that I could not avoid it, then I will just move out, and I can easily rent a cheap one-bedroom apartment somewhere for about A$1000 (US$800) per month. Not only that but if I needed accommodation suddenly, there is always Airbnb, and I have performed numerous searches, and there is plenty of A$30 (US$25) per night accommodation out there. There is simply no need to commit yourself to anything when you live off dividends and rent everything you need as and if you need it.
Paul and I then spoke about something else, but then the topic of conversation veered into financial independence. Paul knew that I wanted to save money by living with my mother, but he asked me why in the world I was saving up so much money. He accepted that saving up allows you to retire early, but according to him, he loves his job, and if he didn’t have anything to do then he would be bored, so he would rather work.
Once again, Paul was showing me how brainwashed he was into the cult of commitment. He has committed himself to working in the future, and this was something he was telling himself so that he can rationalize not saving up for the future. Just because you save up money so that you are financially independent and are capable of retiring early, it doesn’t mean you will. You may be a millionaire but you may decide to work anyway. Nevertheless, being a millionaire who decides to work even though he doesn’t need to is better than a broke man who decided to work because he must (and has an incentive, for the sake of his own self-esteem, to convince himself that he loves his job).
Suppose you are broke and you are convinced that you love your work, so you don’t bother to save. You live paycheck-to-paycheck. You may love your work, but in ten or twenty years, will you still love it? Will the passion stay? What if the organization restructures and you lose your job? What if you get a new manager or new coworkers whom you do not like? Just because you feel one way one day, it doesn’t mean you will feel the same way the next day. However, if you are financially independent but choose to work, you have the option to quit. You can quit to try another job, you can retire, or you can simply not work hard. This is my plan. As I save up more and more, I will not work as hard. I may work part-time. I may even ask my manager if I can work remotely. Otherwise, I may quit and simply do freelance work from coworking spaces around the world such as Hubud, Beachub, or Angkor Hub. In fact, my ultimate dream is to travel the world and work in coworking spaces. Saving up is a necessary part of this dream because I will need to convince my employer if I can work remotely from a foreign country, and if I have saved up enough money to retire, I will not be concerned about whether my employer accepts or rejects my offer.
After my dinner with Paul, when I was on the train back home, I realized just how ingrained commitment is in people’s minds. A man is expected to completely commit his future so that everything is set in stone. There is a standard template for how you should live life, and you’re expected to plan everything out and know exactly if you’re going to move out, who you’ll marry, etc.
But I argue that it is simply better to commit to not committing. You do not know what will befall you in the future. Everything changes, and it is better to give yourself the freedom and choice to adjust yourself as things change.