Do more than just exist. We all exist. The question is: Do you live?
About 15 years ago, I had an intervention with myself. I sat down at the local library on a Saturday morning and read through hundreds of archived entries in my journal. Specifically, I was looking for all the unfulfilled goals and visions for the future that I had jotted down over the years. And it didn’t take long before I realized that the entire course my life had taken up to that point had been the product of other people’s opinions and decisions. Every day I was just going through the motions, and doing what I was “supposed” to do, instead of what was right for ME.
Fast forward to today, and as I awoke this morning, I marveled at my life. Where once I woke with dread at the thought of a new day, now I wake with excitement to begin – grateful to be doing what I’m doing with my life. I’m so happy I did what I had to do, and struggled through the tough times and fears, and realigned my life with the activities and ideals that make me feel alive.
I tell you this because I know life can get pretty crazy at times. Sometimes it gets so busy that we forget how important it is to actually listen to ourselves, instead of others. But I’m happy to tell you that things can change if you want them to, at any age.
Just as I’ve turned things around for myself, I know hundreds of other people who have done the same. Through a decade of life, relationship, and small business coaching, I’ve witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages – 48-year-olds starting families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and so forth.
How did we do it? We insisted upon making changes, and we followed through.
Above all, what you need to remember is happiness is dependent upon ourselves, and there are some things in life you have to insist on doing, no matter what others say about it. For instance, you have to…
- Insist on making your life your own. – Most of us are not raised to actively seek our calling. We may not even know that we have one. As kids, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others – that we should find our happiness exactly as they have found theirs. Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are trained to ask others for permission. We are, in effect, schooled to live other people’s versions of our lives. Every day is designed and developed as told to us by someone else! And then one day when we break free to survey our dreams, seeking to fulfill ourselves, we see that most of our dreams have gone unfulfilled because we believed, and those around us believed, that what we wanted for ourselves was somehow beyond our reach. It’s time to unlearn these lies and make changes. It takes courage to grow wiser and become who you really are. And today is the first day of the rest of your life.
- Insist on subtracting what doesn’t belong in your life. – There’s so much you can let go of in life without losing a thing. It’s called growth. Letting go of the old makes way for the new. Letting go of what isn’t working makes way for what will. When the pain of holding on is worse than the pain of letting go, it’s time to let go and grow. In other words, start subtracting… the habits, routines and circumstances that are holding you back. You cannot discover new oceans unless you build up enough courage to lose sight of the old, familiar shoreline. Be brave. Follow your values. Make changes. Dare to be different. And don’t be afraid to like it. (Read A New Earth.)
- Insist on making passion a priority. – Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights your way. Without passion, it’s impossible to progress. The heart of human excellence begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning. Some resist this fact and think passion is just fluff. Well that’s nonsense! Honestly, the saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t have a deep passion about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there’s nothing meaningful behind it to make it last. So remember, if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it. Only passions – great passions – can elevate the soul to great heights. If there was ever a moment to follow your heart and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
- Insist on working hard for what you want most. – Sometimes you’ve got to create what you want to be a part of from the ground up – you’ve got to work harder than ever before to get more than you ever dreamed of. Be a dreamer. Be a doer. Know what is truly important to you and why. Then act on it with all your might. Dreams don’t just magically become realities; it takes a lot of determination, sweat, and hard work. And remember, tough circumstances don’t last; tough people do. Most obstacles melt away when we make up our minds to march boldly through them. If you have a strong commitment to your goals and dreams, and wake up every morning with a burning passion to work toward them, anything is possible. So dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams a working reality. (Read The War of Art.)
- Insist on saying what you need to say. – Dr. Seuss once said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement. Be cordial and reasonable, of course, but don’t tread carefully on every word you say. Push your concerns of what others might think aside and say what you need to say. Let the consequences of doing so unravel naturally. What you’ll find is that most of the time no one will be offended or irritated at all. And if they do get upset, it’s likely only because you’ve brought something important to their attention that forces them to think differently. Bottom line: When you don’t speak up, there’s a lot of important stuff that never gets said. And in the end, there’s no greater sadness than holding on to the words you never had the courage to speak.
- Insist on leaving other people’s judgmental opinions alone. – When I first started writing on this blog, I’d agonize over whether people would think what I was writing was good enough. I desperately hoped they’d like it, and oftentimes I’d catch myself imagining they didn’t. Then one day I realized how much energy I was wasting worrying about it. So I’ve gradually learned to relax with simply not knowing. Some problems in life, such as not knowing what others think of you, are not really meant to be resolved. How people perceive you may have more to do with them than you anyway. They may even like or dislike you simply because you’ve triggered an association in their minds by reminding them of someone they liked or disliked from their past, which has absolutely nothing to do with you. So here’s a new mantra for you – say it, and then say it again: “This is my life, my choices, my mistakes and my lessons. As long as I’m not hurting people, I need not worry what they think of me.” (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Insist on being as weird as you are. – It’s human nature to attempt to mimic other humans we look up to – perhaps a parental figure or a celebrity – especially when we are feeling insecure in our own skin. But attempting to be someone else will always leave us feeling empty inside. Why? Because what we appreciate about the people we admire is their individuality – the qualities that make them unique. To really copy them, we need to develop our own individuality, and in that way, we would actually be less like them and more like our true selves. We all have quirks and a weirdness about us. The more relaxed you become with your own differences, the more comfortable you will start to feel just being YOU. Celebrate being different, off the beaten path, a little on the weird side… your own special creation. If you find yourself feeling like a fish out of water, by all means find a new river to swim in. But DO NOT change who you are; BE who you are.
How has the desire to “fit in” interfered with your life? What has it stopped you from doing or being? What do you need to start insisting on in your life? Leave a comment below and share your insights with us.
Photo by: Elena
Nailed it. A great morning read!
The observationalist says
Fantastic read and very inspirational!
I try to be different in every area of life: Instead of following others without question, I listen to the small still voice in me in making my choices.
Sometimes I feel afraid that I am different and that it is a negative thing. The feeling of being looked down for being mentally ill and strange triggers my biggest fear: of the thought that I am alone in this world.
However, I read positive things and surround myself with positive people to reassure and teach myself that my passionate and creative approach to life is something special that needs to be cherished.
Amen to that! I always say that each one of us are Unique in so many ways! Rather we have any health issues or not, we are all very Special, creative, awesome! We are all created equal or suppose to be! I am young woman that understands all things about loving everyone no matter what! Always love who you were created to be you are a gift to many! I read your comment! I can tell you are and amazing person inside and out! God created us all to love one another no Matter What! Live, love, be joyful, always! Linda
I understand where you are coming from when you talk about having a mental illness. You aren’t alone. I know it can feel like it, especially if you go through something like depression (in my case) because I’ve been there, (I have since been diagnosed with Bipolar II). It seemed like I had no real purpose, and all I could do at that time was lie in bed feeling worse and worse everyday. To make matters worse, I was coming down from being on a medicine that created manic behavior in me that I was taking for fibromyalgia. Turns out those with bipolar disorder shouldn’t take it because it can trigger mania (from what my psychiatrist told me). I understand what it’s like to not know what is wrong with you, but I also know what it’s like to get help. Not only did I pray a lot, but I knew I had to seek help if I ever wanted to live a normal life again.
I hope you’ve been able to get help too. There are so many of us out there who know the stigmas that can be attached to people with mental health issues, but it doesn’t mean those stigmas are warranted. They are placed on us because people don’t understand what’s going on in our heads, and that makes them uncomfortable, so they’d rather avoid the topic (or us) altogether. It hurts to be judged for something we were born with, that we had no control over.
I hope you find whatever you need to feel better. Have you tried counseling? I ask because I know it does help to get it all out in the open, at least it did with me, that and getting put on the right medicine has changed my whole outlook on life. I thank God for my turnaround and the people He led me to who have been invaluable in my treatment. I also wanted to say that you do have a purpose for being here. We all do. It’s just sometimes it can be really hard to find out what that is, but it “does” exist. Find out what makes you smile, something you can’t picture living without. That will put you in the right direction. God bless, and I wish you success.
Trying to fit has made me feel more confused and insecure. Fear has stopped me from being ME. This article was a nice read. It introduced me to a new perspective. Thank you.
I’ve always done my best to not follow the pack in most things in my life. Sometimes that’s worked in my favour and sometimes not but mostly I realize when it has not I was not in a place that would ever nurture my weird, playful, artsy side which ultimately brings me joy.
I play by the beat of my own drum and so should everyone (unless you are in a drum circle). Be yourself, love your beautiful individual self and take notice of the things that make you happy, that bring you and other people joy and move toward that. I’m working on doing that myself. It’s an everyday challenge but I’m determined to create a life where I wake up loving my work, doing my very best and weirdest creative stuff that makes people laugh and smile.
Just know that there will undoubtedly be people in your life that don’t get it, won’t appreciate your quirkiness or will just try to cut you down for living life on your own terms and not falling ‘in line’ with the rest of the pack. Don’t let them lead your destiny. And don’t be afraid to just be who you are, love who you are and let those who don’t appreciate it take off on their own journey. Surround yourself with those who love and support you and you can do most anything.
I found out about you just recently and all of your articles are so accurate and easy to understand and to get. You hit in the exact point every time and make a lot of people feel better, and you give us a clear idea of the path we should take to see things in a different way. Thank you and keep up the good work!!
My problem is not to want to fit in… I always go with the flow, life is passing by . I’m certainly not unhappy but I know I’m not complete. There is more to live, more to experience, more to me. I just can’t find it…
I’ve always been a little “left of center” which is my style and part of my DNA. And rarely afraid to be myself and or silly at just the right time. Someone said that “Life has an expiration date!” Greet each day that way and regret nothing….
I struggle to fit into a team where I am not passionate about the outcome objectives. For a long time I distorted myself to fit. It was unhappy and unhealthy. Now I don’t. I am much happier and fulfilled.
Good for you! Stay positive, namaste 🙂
This was a great read! I feel like I’m on a self improvement journey, and I keep finding these great resources (online and off), that are really inspiring and motivational. “9 rules of a serial goal digger” by Abdel Russell is a great jump starter for anyone that likes this blog post. Thank you for posting this, namaste 🙂
Thank you for your comment and book recommendation Janet. I’m new to this blog and am finding it and those who comment very inspiring.
Thank you, Thank you. I am dealing with a long term relationship with an assorted pot of Narcissistic family and thinking of finally going NC. The constant belittlement behind my back and even in front of my young son had driven me to extreme self doubt and very low self esteem. Staying up many nights asking myself what I ever did to make them hate me so much!!!
I feel absolutely empowered by reading articles like this and am slowly opening my eyes to the fact that I am different and unique, artistic, sometimes weird, in love with the world, and sensitive and faithful to a fault. I am stubborn, sometimes crazy, a good cook and I love my son beyond words. If you like me then HEY lets dance, if you don’t….OK see ya around. FINALLY finding ME. OMG I thought I would never get here. Thanks for the wisdom!!!!!!!
So nice to read your perspectives thank you for sharing! This has a quality of rare depth…worthy of sharing & is in alignment with much I already hold to be truth. Peace.
Devoured every morsel. Bang-on and to the point! Thank you 🙂
Teresa Oefinger says
Well said and gives me wonderful ideas to ponder. I relate to #6 about the judgements of others. I also constrict a bit when I hear the word passion. There are folks that I coach that I can feel shrinking when the word passion is brought up. Perhaps the word interests is less intimidating and can help build on a sense of purpose. Truly wonderful site.
A great read and well said!
I’ve never been a follower and always knew at a young age what I wanted.
My goal at the age of 15 was to travel by combining living and working in different countries. At age 18, I began my journey, it continued for close to 40 years, and loved every part of my adventure.
It was challenging, exciting and enriching.
Today I can look back at all the memories and think, yes, I did it!
I’ve learned over the years not to be a ‘Yes’ person, I’ve learned to back right off when I felt I was being taken advantage of.
Most of all, I’m happy to be me. Life is too short not to take chances/makes changes. Live it to the full!
Thank you! You hit the nail on the head! I have been struggling with living MY life and the “aha” moment was when I woke up and realized I had lost my passion and purpose! We get lost in “Life” by accommodating everyone else. Two years ago at age 49, I went back to school for my Executive MBA, and it was a life saver for me. It woke me up and now at age 51 with an MBA, not only have I improved myself academically and professionally, I have rediscovered my passion and God’s purpose for my life! I’m taking life “On to the Next!”
Martha Harrell says
I wanted to grow up and be my own self from my teens on, but got a rude awakening in my twenties. Not only was this contrary to the tracks of the majority of people, it was not part of their plans for me. I was stunned to find out how calculating and manipulating they were. I am talking relatives here. Suffice it to say, appearances can be deceiving. Yet you are supposed to be “one big happy family.”
Judy Cotter says
Fantastic read. I am on a path of discovery and this article will help me find the right paving stones. Thank you.
Am always worried about what people will think or say when I say or do something. This has really prevented me from doing a lot of things. It has even affected the way I talk and is a problem for me even in my presentations. Believe me when I say I am wondering what people are gonna say or think about me when I post this reply. The article must have made an impact cos guess what? Am posting this comment!
I enjoyed reading this article. Brings up a lot of great points for people to live by. I try to be friendly to everyone, and when someone is upset, I try to cheer them up. This is a part of who I am, being caring and empathetic. There have been times, though, where others’ have taken advantage of me because I am nice. They thought that just because I was nice that I didn’t have my own opinions about them, ones I kept my mouth shut about. There is a such thing as tact after all, something some people don’t seem to understand.
However, that aside, I now realize that my value doesn’t come even one bit from how others see me. I do the things I do because that is what I want to do, not to get others’ approval. I look to God for my purpose, and if He’s good with what I’m doing, then that’s all the approval I need. Being who I am, staying true to what I was born to do, is what really matters. I’ve gone through too much pain and lessons to get to this point in my life to ever let someone else, who has just as many issues that I have, to take that away from me.
This post nailed it for me.
I am 44yrs old and until recently i have been living my life to satisfy the people around me. family, colleagues, friends, you name it.
I used to think that i am a nurturer, that its part of my life to give and to support without taking anything in return, and to abide by the “Rules, Norms”, so as not to rock the boat for anyone or make anyone unhappy…
for the past 6 months i have stopped doing all of that, and my life has not been the same. a lot of people just walked out of my life as they couldnt find what they need any more, some are fighting for what they think is their rights and what i had been doing and promising for the past x years…its pathetic.
the only problem i am facing now is to clear my mind and dig deep into my self to find what i want adn just do it. i am going with my gut feeling and it feels great honestly. for the first time in years i feel FREE!
Your post hit home with me, Thank you for sharing your ideas!
Martha Erb says
Some how, some way your website landed in my lap. Just when I need it the most. After doing some reading on your site, I feel like there is some light at the end of the tunnel for me. I’m on a very tough journey trying to escape my depression and anxiety. It’s one I have been on my pretty much my whole life. So thank you for sharing you knowledge. I feel some empowerment and hope.
Fitting in…the whole course of my life changed because I tried to fit in back in high school.(I’m in my early 50’s now). My gym teacher noticed I was extremely talented at volleyball and asked me to join the team. It made me feel really confident about myself, so I did join. It would be really short lived. I didn’t fit in. All these girls made me feel like I was an outsider that didn’t belong, a different lower class than they were. After all I came from the other side of town where we didn’t live in fancy houses or have top of the line clothing. It just made me feel so bad about myself and my short burst of self esteem was gone. I quit the team and went back to mu group of friends where I fit in. All you had to do was “be cool” you know smoke cigarettes among other unhealthy activities and hang out with kids that did the same and wa la you’re in. Little did I know that, that fitting in would be effecting me now. About 7 years ago I was diagnosed with COPD caused by. smoking for all them years. I’m lucky that it was caught early, I quit smoking within 6 months of the diagnoses, but it has still impacted my life and functioning. I had to leave a good paying job because the environment was making my condition worse and advancing it. I have a relentless chronic cough that holds me back from finding new employment. I find myself avoiding social situations a lot too. I’ve been sitting in my house for 2 years now trying to figure out to move forward, but I have just spiraled into deep dark depression. I want nothing more than to regain control of my health physically and emotionally. I feel like stumbling upon this page has opened a little window for me to find some direction to the path of healing. Thanks for providing this helpful tool.
What is the best thing I can do for myself today? A good question to ask when in doubt…then follow one’s own advice…act on what you can and let go of the rest.
Incredible how you guys can help me. Your words are so much important to help me change my life, myself. Specially this article says everything I needed today. It’s really hard to be like I am without worry about people around me will think. But I’m trying. Thanks for helping!
Scarlett Campbell says
Beautiful comments! One of the areas that has helped me to build my self-esteem and helped me to come to love who I am, is to change my programming. You see, when we are kids, we are programmed by the messages we receive throughout our lives. Everyone in our life tells us who we are, what we are and what we can or cannot do and most of these messages are negative. Neuroscience has proven a way to change those programs that works. 1. monitor what you say to yourself for 2 days. Listen to what you say about yourself and make note of any negative self-talk.
2. The next 2 days edit what you are about to say to others and yourself about yourself. If it is negative, then stop and counteract with a positive. You must do this every time you say or think a negative. If you do this repetitively, over and over, you will start to chang your old programs to new ones…I guarantee.
swati paramhans says
Thank you for the awesome article at this time in my life I feel lost. I just finished the Developmental Service Worker program and can’t find a job and I don’t know where I stand in my relationship with my boyfriend of one year. I know how I feel about him but I don’t know if he feels the same way about me and I’m afraid he’s not feeling the same way about me and do not how to bring up the conversation. He goes from showing me affection to backing right off I think he is scared of his feelings too.