Is Your Life Your Own?
If you are even a little bit unhappy with how your life is going right now then perhaps it has something to do with the fact that you’re not really living your own life. You might actually be living life on the “default” setting, and in some small or large way you have adopted the life of your parents, your siblings, your friends, your culture or your society.
Examine each of the areas below and decide whether this part of your life has been actively created and chosen by you, or whether you live this part of your life as a hand-me-down or as an imitation of what you have seen others do. If you cannot honestly say that you have created how you live, then you aren’t really authentically you. In this case it is highly likely that the real you is screaming for change, and the unhappiness or lack of fulfillment you feel is caused by the dissenting authentic you.
Where You Live
Where are you living right now? Do you live near to where you grew up? Are you renting or are you paying off a mortgage? Do you live in an apartment, or a large two storey house? You may not be living in the kind of abode you’ve dreamed of living in, and this might be for many different reasons. You might not be in the financial situation you need to be so that you can live where you want or you might be living where your partner needs to be right now. But what if you’re living somewhere that is stressing you out and making you unhappy because it doesn’t really suit you?
Perhaps your parents taught you that buying property is the “proper” way to live life as a successful adult. Perhaps your parents taught you that buying property is too restrictive and hampers your freedom and that renting is the only way to live flexibly. Perhaps you look around you and see your friends buying houses that are huge, and although that much space seems so wasteful, and a mortgage that large too stressful, you feel compelled to buy the same sort of house. Maybe you’ve bought a house on a block far from your city centre, when really you yearn to live closer to the energy of your city in a hassle free apartment. Maybe you live close to the city to be close to work but really dream of a house on a large block of land on the outskirts of your city.
Think about where you live and why you live there. Is it really you? Have you made choices based on your own preferences, or have you adopted the preferences of others around you?
Your Working Life
Are you working in the field of your choosing? Do you have the kind of flexible work you enjoy? Do you need to work as much as you do? Have you ever stopped to think about how you spend these 8 to 10 hours each day and wondered if this is the only way?
Maybe your teachers and career advisors told you not to aim so high and to settle for a career path that you now don’t enjoy. Maybe those around you told you that you’re too intelligent to waste your time on a particular career and that you should be a doctor or lawyer instead. Maybe your whole family is in the medical profession and you chose that field too, by default. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to travel around the world doing seasonal work as you go, but everyone you know tells you to be more sensible and responsible. Maybe you deeply yearn to open your own business but everywhere you turn you hear the doom and gloom about the economy and everyone is telling you it will be too much work. Or do you work just because you haven’t stopped to think about all the other possibilities about how you could spend your time? Maybe you don’t need to work but feel obliged to “contribute” to society in the normal 9 to 5 way.
If you chose your current career under the (mis)guidance of others when you actually wanted to be in another field entirely, then you’re not being authentically you. You can only keep going in this way for so long before you seriously begin to resent yourself and how you are spending your time. If you want to work part time, or try to turn your hobby into a sustainable income, or travel or start your own business, then you have to listen to this inner calling before you make yourself ill.
Your initial career choice might not have been your own, but why do you continue to choose something that isn’t you and isn’t really what you want?
What You Eat
Do you eat what’s fastest and easiest to prepare because you don’t have enough time to devote to preparing meals? Do you cook multiple dishes, cooking too much food, because this is how you were taught was the right way to feed people? Do you to stick to tried and true recipes when really you’d love to cook Indian or Vietnamese? Have you always wanted to eat Vegetarian but in a household of meat lovers can’t quite build up the courage?
It is highly possible that you’ve adopted the eating habits of your family or even your partner’s family. You need to take the time to explore what style of cuisine interests you and turn this everyday necessary activity into something that more truly reflects who you are. If you haven’t made time in your life to nourish yourself as you deserve, then consider making this a priority.
Do you spend time with people because you feel obliged to? Maybe you still hang out with your friends from school even though you feel you’ve outgrown them. Maybe you spend time with certain members of your family, simply because they are family, not because you necessarily like them or have anything in common. Are you feeling pressured to find a partner of a particular ethnicity or with a particular background?
You don’t choose your family and often you don’t get to choose which school you go to. Once you’re out there in the world there is no reason that you can’t meet the people you want to meet. You don’t need to be with people who you have outgrown or whose values and interests aren’t in line with who you are. If spending time with a certain group of people or an individual seems draining and almost like a chore then it’s time to move on. Make a conscious decision to spend time with people who make you feel energised, interested and interesting, and don’t stop looking until you find them.
How You Spend Your Free Time
What do you do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or after work or on a Saturday night? Are you hanging around bars or clubs, drinking more than you want to because that is just what people do? Are you watching copious amounts of TV or playing computer games because you can’t think of anything else to do? Are you slogging it out at the gym because you feel you need your body to look a certain way? Do you read about upcoming events in your city, think how great they sound but don’t attend because they’re on a week night?
Your free time is probably quite limited, especially if you work a full time job. How you spend it says a lot about who you are and who you intend to be. If you’d rather be at home reading a book than hanging with the crowd at the local bar, engaged in superficial conversations, then have the courage to decline the next invite. If you want to go dancing on a Tuesday night, rather than sit in front of the same old tired TV program, then plan to make this happen. If you’d rather take a gentle stroll down at the beach than slog it out at the gym, change it up today. Don’t save your energy for a job that you’re not all that into, save it for the event you’d like to attend tonight.
Whether you practise your religion or not, it is likely that it was handed down to you from your parents. Do you feel guilty every Sunday for not attending a church service? Do you long to meditate at a Buddhist temple? Would you like to incorporate the best bits from each religion into your life? Do you secretly acknowledge that religion is meaningless to you but can’t face telling your friends and family?
You may be slowly suffocating under the weight of the imposed morals and traditions of your religion and you have to summons the courage to walk away. Your adopted religion may no longer hold meaning for you and you want a more liberal, new-age spiritual experience. You have to realise it is your right to experiment with new experiences. If you’ve decided you’re an atheist (as I have) then embrace your decision and meet with fellow atheists to help you transition and to discuss your world view.
Your Ten Year Plan
What do the next ten years hold for you? Do you think it is inevitable that you will start paying off a mortgage, marry and have children, just because this is what people do? Can you not see any change occurring in the next ten years, even though you’d love everything to change? Do you feel that your plans for the next ten years are too far out of reach? Are you basing your ten year plan on how old you will be?
Ten years is significantly long enough to change your whole life radically, if this is what you choose to do. If you intend to make small changes then it is plenty of time. The next ten years can be whatever you want them to be and there is no predetermined setting for what your life will have to be like. If you are in your twenties right now you might assume that you will be married with children, but is this what you really want? Will this create the freedom you need? Do you assume that life just continues on as it is and you don’t feel like you are in a position to steer the direction? Begin experimenting today with how you can change the direction of your life. What you can achieve in the next ten years isn’t based on your age or stage of life, it is based on your mindset, your creativity and your own authentic intentions.
So, are you really authentically you?