A recent comment from a student of mine pointed out that an exercise I have students perform in my Ultimate Goal Planning Course helped him to realise that he was spending far too much time thinking about what other people wanted and not enough time about what he wanted.
I must confess that the exercise was not necessarily designed to elicit this response, but I realised he was right. We do spend far too much time thinking about what other people want.
Where did this come from?
Where this comes from I can only guess. It probably comes from when we are growing up and we are told that to think about ourselves too much is wrong and that we should always put the comforts and convenience of others first. And on the whole, when talking about good manners this is good advice. But for discovering what we want and what we want to achieve in life this advice is wrong. It is wrong to study medicine because your parents want you to. It is wrong to go to law school because your teachers told you that would be a good profession for you. These are wrong choices if none of those professions is what you want to do. These are right choices if these are the professions you want to go in to.
If you are going to build a life for yourself and create a life you will love, flourish and grow in, then you need to put yourself first. It does not matter what your parents, grandparents or friends want you to do. That’s what they want you to do. It is their desire. It is not necessarily your desire. If you do follow the path your parents want you to follow, sure you will make them happy, but you will not make you happy, and your happiness must always come first.
The only way to a life of joy and happiness is to build your own path.
The truth is if you want to lead of life of true happiness, joy and passion you must create your own path. You must decide for yourself what you want to achieve and you must decide for yourself what you want to do. Taking advice from parents, friends, teachers and professors is fine — I would say advisable — but in the end, the choice must be yours and yours alone.
I was very lucky growing up. My parents’ attitude was they would provide me with the education I needed and support me in higher education if I wanted support, but after that what I did was my choice. They never pushed their opinions on me and whenever I talked to them about what I wanted to do, they listened, asked questions, but never offered any opinions about what I should do, unless I asked for it. I had the freedom to make my own choices, but with that freedom came responsibility for my own life. Which on its own was a great life lesson. My life, my responsibility.
Your life. Your responsibility.
And that is the way it should be. Your life. Your responsibility. Just one look at the business pioneers in the last twenty years and the two top people; Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were both given the freedom to make their own decisions about their future. Of course, they made a few mistakes, took a few risks (dropping out of university might be considered a big risk) but they had the freedom to make their own choices and make their own mistakes and learn from those in a way that meant they had to accept full responsibility for those mistakes. There was no else to blame.
Until you are prepared to accept full responsibility for your own life, you are always going to be following in the footsteps of others. The problem here is what others want you to do might not be in your own best interests. I’ve seen so many people take positions in their companies that were not positions they really wanted to do but were told by their superiors that this position would suit them. Their superior’s motives were usually because that position needed filling and they were the only person available to take the position. Not only is this bad for your future career, it is also allowing others to dictate the direction your life goes in.
Saying “no” is hard but…
I know it is hard to say “no” to other people, but saying no is often in your own best interests. I know, you are risking disappointing other people, but when it comes to the direction your life goes in, that is far more important than you disappointing a few people. Their disappointment may last a couple of days, your “yes”, on the other hand, could cause a lifetime of disappointment and misery for you. When put that way, the decision you have to make is easy.
What are your fifty things?
To help you decide what is important to you, take some time to write out the fifty things you want to do in the next ten years. Make sure they are the things you want to do, and not things other people want you to do. This list is all about you and nobody else. Think about the places you want to visit, the work you want to do, the cars you want to buy and places you want to live. Everything you want to buy, want to visit or want to experience. Get them written down and start making them happen for you. You will find the first fifteen to twenty things are easy to write. After that things become more difficult because you have to go really deep inside yourself to really know what you want. This exercise will be the start of you building the life you want to live.
Your life, your responsibility
If you want to build a life for yourself, a life you can be proud of, a life of achievement and success on your own terms, then you are going to have to take responsibility for your life. Once you make the decision to break free from the voices of the people around you and start making choices about your future for yourself, you lose the opportunity to blame others when things go wrong, but you gain the freedom to build a life worth living on your terms.
If you want to know more about my Ultimate Guide To Goal Planning, you can get more information from the information page here.
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