As a male citizen of the United States born into an upper-middle class family, there are certain expectations that are placed on me.
I’m told that I need a good, stable 9 to 5 job. I’m told that I need to have a college education in order to find that career. After all, I’m told I can’t settle for just any job, it has to have good benefits, and a sufficient salary to provide for my family. I’m told I need to have a house. Not an apartment, no, I’m told I need a yard, property, I need to own land. This property better have a garage too, because I’m told I need to have a car. Not just any car, though. I’m told I need to have a new luxury car. I’m told it should be at least as good as, if not better than, what the neighbors drive. I’m told I need to have about two children. I’m told they should be a boy and a girl, though of course I’m told such things are up to chance.
I’m told all of these things are what it takes to be a success in life.
Of course, with all the telling going on, I’ve noticed no ever thinks to stop and ask, “What do you actually want?”
This really shouldn’t be a novel idea. Yet, I constantly find more and more pressure placed on me to do what I’m expected to, regardless of my own wishes. My own wishes, in fact, seem to be entirely secondary to the opinions of others on how my life is best lived.
Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?
Live How You Want
All of that advice on how to live a successful life may have been relevent 50 years ago. Maybe even 20 years ago. The thing is, it’s not anymore. Now, in large part thanks to the Internet, there is no excuse not to be doing what you want to be doing.
Chances are though, you’ve been pushed into following a path in life that society wanted you to take, rather than what you wanted. How can you tell if you could be doing something more with your life?
Evaluate Your Priorities
Sit down for a momement and think about what things in your life are really important. It sounds kind of ‘self-helpey’, but taking a few minutes to sit down and list out all of the things you really want in life can make a big difference.
As an example, let’s look at a few of the things that are important to me and I want in life. I want to travel all over the world. I want to have the financial freedom to go wherever I want when I want. That doesn’t mean I need to be rich, just that I can’t be slave to a job that is location dependent. I want to constantly be improving myself, and helping others as much as I possibly can.
What’s most important to me is continually learning, improving myself and helping others.
Compare Those Priorities to Your Life
Look around you. Is the way you’re living right now congruent with the priorities you just wrote down? If you said your priority is spending time with family, how much time do you spend away from them each day? If you said you want to travel more, what are you doing right now to work toward that goal?
Chances are, the life you’re living isn’t one that’s actually going to move you toward what you really want.
I’ll use myself as an example. When I graduated college and Caroline and I got married, we had tons of plans for how we wanted to travel the world and start businessess and be location independent. So, what did we do?
We got a mortgage and bought a house with help from my grandparents.
Seriously. While I am bound and determined to turn it around and make the whole thing come out profitable in the end, I am amazed at how bad of a decision that was.
Our goal was to travel the world, so the very first thing we do after getting married is saddle ourselves with mortgage debt and chain ourselves to a house. I’m going to plea temporary insanity on this one.
Really, if you ask me now why we made that decision, it just seemed like the thing to do. I know that’s a ridiculous reason to buy a house, but that’s all I’ve got. Like I said, temporary insanity.
The point is that it’s really easy to get lost in the short-term and get pushed into what society expects you to do, rather than think in the long-term about what course of action will actually get you where you want to go.
We’re stuck now, because when buying the house we recieved a $16,000 tax credit. If we sell the house before two years time, we have to pay the government back the $16,000. We just can’t afford that kind of hit, and two years of mortgage payments works out to less than what we’d lose if we sold the house early, so we’re stuck with it.
Are we mad about our decision? No, not really. Sure, if we hadn’t bought it we would be closer to living our dreams – but it’s just one more hurdle making the fight to live life how we want a little more interesting. Wouldn’t be fun without a challenge, right?
Once you’ve figured out what you really want in your life – go for it!
It doesn’t matter if you look crazy or like a failure in society’s eyes, what’s important is that you’re following your dreams.
Posessions Vs. Experiences
When it comes down to it, a lot of the clashes between what society wants you to do to be successful and what you want for your life are an issue of possessions vs. experiences.
Society largely places its value in posessions. You should have a big house, a nice car, a fancy TV, and lots, and lots, and lots of expensive stuff. Society assigns value to a person largely based on what they own.
I value experiences. I’m of the opinion that life isn’t about what you own or how expensive it was, it’s about what you do. It’s about the people you meet, the places you see and the experiences you share with all the people you care about.
You don’t have to live your life the way you’re told to live it. Stop what you’re doing, take a look around, and start living the way you want to live.