Are You Living According to Someone Else’s Values?
When I was a teenager, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or how I wanted to live. My current lifestyle was the only one I knew, and I didn’t yet have the imagination to frame my life in a new and exciting way. I thought that if I did things “the right way”, I would be happy.
Growing up in a conservative family, “doing things right” meant going to college for a high paying (although possibly unfulfilling) career, marrying a rich conservative man, buying land out in the country, and making lots of babies. Just a few years into my college career, I realized that this plan wasn’t going to work for me. I’d have to find my own way.
Are you living according to someone else’s values?
The sad truth is that many people live through society’s or their families values for years, even decades, before they see the source of their unhappiness. How about you? Do your actions and decisions fill you with passion and purpose, or do you do them because you feel you ‘should’?
To some extent, all of us are a product of our environments. We rarely realize just how much the things we learn as children subconsciously shape our thoughts and opinions to this day. How many of these have you heard growing up?
- being sexual as a woman is disgraceful and misguided
- being a stay at home dad is not manly
- you must have a degree to be successful
- you can’t be a moral person without religion
- having a career when you are a mother is selfish and bad for your kids
- marriage and children are the only way to live a happy life
- men who can’t fix things are worthless
- having an only child is selfish and pitiful
How to Find Happiness in Your Life Decisions
Commit to discovering your own opinions at any cost.
This can be a very scary step. Many people worry that their friends and family may no longer support them if they go outside of the group culture- and in some cases they are right. Will your parents shun you if you don’t follow their religion? Will your friends mock you if you decide to pursue life outside of the standard university lifestyle? Will your family scream if you date someone outside of their culture or ethnicity? Maybe.
True happiness is a product of authenticity. Pretending to be someone you are not can never lead to happiness. You must decide for yourself who you will be and what you will stand for.
Stop pushing away the things you really want out of life.
Have you ever had a great thought that sparked a fire in your mind, and then quickly dismissed it out of the fear that it couldn’t possibly work for you? Fear is the greatest destroyer of dreams. It twists your mind in crazy ways and convinces you that your desires are wrong. Try to take notice when your brain does this, and give yourself permission to explore it further.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Decide to act on your true desires.
Move to that new city you’ve always dreamed of, leave your soul sucking career and start fresh somewhere else, travel to the countries everyone else says are too scary. As far as any of us know, we each have just one life. Years pass quickly, and there is little time to waste living someone else’s life.
Write out your true ideas and desires on paper to get them out into the open. Then, break down each of these into mini steps you can take in the coming weeks or months to get to where you want to be. Don’t let fear or rationalizing behavior stop you. This is your big chance!
Question: How do you think societal expectations affect our levels of happiness overall? Have you ever had to ditch one of these expectations in order to gain fulfillment in your life?