If the life you’re living seems awfully similar to the one someone else dreamed up for you, it’s time to take back ownership of your world.
Go to university. Get a stable, well-paid job. Start a family. It was these three universal life commandments that were instilled in Kathryn, 32, by her parents from a young age. But when she’d achieved all three, she realised she’d followed the path she felt was expected of her, rather than forging her own. “I never felt satisfi ed. I was good at my job but I wasn’t doing what I truly felt passionate about. I knew there was more waiting for me,” she says. If you feel like everyone from your boyfriend to your barista has a theory on how you should live your life, we’ve got a newsflash for you: you are the sole master of your destiny.
Why we do it
Not following the path we want can often stem from a desire to avoid conflict, says Emma Grey, director of work-life balance consultancy WorkLifeBliss. “Many of us have a well-developed need to be liked. We learn early in life that a way of achieving happiness is by pleasing others,” she explains. “When we grow up, we allow this to carry on, boosting our self-esteem like a sugar hit that, when it wears off , leaves us feeling unhappy.”
Fight the fear
The danger of not pursuing that job, guy or way of life you’re passionate about is that a sense of unfulfillment can seep into other areas of your life too. “I wasn’t able to enjoy living in the moment as I was always thinking about going to a job I hated the next day. I knew that I wasn’t living the life I was meant to,” admits Kathryn. “It was only when I began to make some changes that I started to feel better and my relationships improved.” The first step to following your own path? Face the fear that’s stopping you. “Ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that could happen if I take a risk and change things? You will usually find that the ‘worst’ isn’t so bad,” says Emma. “And be flexible in your approach. If something doesn’t work, try something else. Keep modifying what you’re doing until it works.”
Want to turn back the clock to a time when you could have followed your passions? Nadine Hamilton, director and principle psychologist at Positive Psych Solutions, says it’s best to look to the future. “Think about what you do want, rather than what you don’t. Imagine that you have woken up one day and you’re living the dream. Where would you be? Who would you be with? What might you be doing?” These questions will act as your compass and ensure you head in the right direction this time around.
Project “Reinventing You”
Ready for a change? Grab the steering wheel of your life and start driving!
WRITE A LIST
“In a notebook, jot down the times when you’ve been happiest. What were you doing? Who were you with? Focus on what it was that really ‘worked’ for you,” advises Emma. This will help you pinpoint the life you need to live in the future.
Keep in mind that you can’t steer your life towards its true destiny in one month, let alone one day. It’s going to take time. Don’t act on impulse; devise a plan. “Make sure you’re moving towards something better when you jump ship, and not merely running away from your current situation,” says Emma.
LET GO OF RESENTMENT
Rather than kick yourself (or someone else) for ignoring your passions for so long, look at the positives. “If you decide to make a change, remember that nothing you’ve done previously is wasted time. You’ve amassed knowledge, skills and experience through your study and career that will most likely transfer into another line of work,” reassures Emma.
STAND UP FOR YOU
Telling a loved one their life advice is about as useful as a dollar is to Beyoncé won’t be fun, but it will make your life transition easier. “Take responsibility for yourself – tell them you’re not happy with your life, and explain firmly what changes you’re going to make,” says Nadine.