We are almost a month into 2015, a time when we begin to reconsider our New Year’s resolutions; did we make realistic ones, can we continue with them for the entire year? There is one resolution most of us do not consider, but I want to earnestly invite you to put it on your list, because it is crucial for this and every new year: let us resolve to live our own lives – the one God has given only to us – not someone else’s.
In a commencements address at Stanford University in 1995, the amazing Steve Jobs said:
“Your time is limited. Don’t waste it trying to live someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”,
As the founder of Apple, he certainly marched to his own drummer and did what he felt called to do.
God wants us to spend our lives being who He has created us to be as we try to live into the teachings of Jesus. Each of us is a unique people; there is only one person with your DNA and your set of life circumstances – you.
You will never happen again. There’s something you can contribute to this moment that no one else has to offer. You view each day in a way that is different from any other person. Don’t settle for merely doing the same thing as anyone else, or mimicking the opinions, desires and dreams of others. Live your own life, and explore the unique beauty of your very own dreams, thoughts, opinions and interests. The greatest value you can truly give the universe, as well as to those you love, is to be truly who you are. Know the true joy of being your uniqueness. Honor and appreciate all of life by fully and authentically living the one very special life that is yours.
In order to live your own life, you must begin to identify and prioritize the things in your life that are the most meaningful to you. Ask yourself if you are truly living the life you want to lead and were meant to lead. Are you making your life choices based on your own desires, beliefs, and values, or are you living your life based on the expectations of those around you and ‘prescriptions’?
In other words, whose life are you really living? Finding your own unique path can take time and involve a lot of trial and error. The process of becoming your true self is a lifelong journey. Our personalities, interests and abilities are not set in stone; humans are always capable of change. However, in order to change our lives or ourselves, we have to understand ourselves first as completely as possible.
Five Steps to Living Your Own Life
- 1. Think About What You Really Want in Life
For many of us, just knowing what we want in life can be a challenge. However, it is not possible to live your own life on your own terms, unless you define what your terms are. Being in touch with what you want and what matters to you helps you prioritize, develop goals and ultimately get where you want to go. Once you know what you want, you have a destination, and you can set a course in that direction.
Discover what you truly want by asking yourself the following questions: What really gets me excited? What matters most to me?
Allow yourself to think freely, as you answer these questions instead of getting caught up in what you think you ‘should’ be doing or what others ‘expect’ you to do.
We often make the mistake of thinking that we are selfish if we spend time contemplating what we want, however that is how we get to know ourselves. Asking yourself what your principles are doesn’t mean that you will ignore everyone else’s. On the contrary, deciding what matters to you includes recognizing the people who matter to you and acknowledging that they are a priority in your life and that caring for them is big part of what makes you happy and gives your life meaning. Plus, according to Dr. Lisa Firestone in her six-weeks course Overcome Your Inner Critic: How to Free Yourself from Imagined Limitations, “You have the most value in the world around you when you find and invest in the gifts that you uniquely have to offer.”
Advice such as “follow your passion” may sound cliché, however research has actually proven that people are not only happier when they follow their passions, they are also more likely to excel in their chosen careers and activities. A recent study on the effects of motivation found that the stronger the internal motivation for doing something, rather than the external rewards, the more likely people were to succeed. So, think about what is meaningful to you!
- 2. Differentiate Yourself
We are all born genetically unique individuals. However, much of our identity is created by our early environment; we internalize characteristics of our caretakers and often take on their personalities rather than developing our own. In this sense, we often spend more time reliving the lives of others rather than living our own lives. In order to live our own lives and fulfill our destinies, we must ameliorate destructive environmental influences.
Throughout our development, we adapt ourselves to cope with pain and fears as they arise. We adapt so that we can deal with our early environment and get our essential needs met. Most people either take on the value systems and beliefs of the family and culture they grew up in, or they rebel and form defiant attitudes in direct opposition to their family and culture. However, in order to live our own life, it is important to develop our own personal values and beliefs, rather than simply accepting or rejecting the values and beliefs of our early influencers. Distancing ourselves from the negative influences and identities of our past allows us to become who we truly are. When we develop our own unique identities and follow our own unique desires, we will be able to live our most fulfilling lives. We must strive to live our own lives rather than the lives prescribed by our parents, our families or our society.
- 3. Set Goals
Once you are in touch with what you want and what your core values are, it is important to set some goals for yourself. What do you need to accomplish to live your own life? It is helpful to write down your goals; start with just a few that you would like to change. Think about specific actions you can take to achieve your goals. Start small and set mini-goals that you can accomplish along the way.
A recent study showed that people were significantly more likely to accomplish their goals if they wrote them down, planned actions to achieve them and recorded weekly progress against those goals. This may seem silly or tedious to you, but it an overt and important act that will bring into reality your inner thoughts and musings. If you want to live your own life, you must be proactive about creating that life.
- 4. Stop Listening to Your Inner Critic
As you begin to take actions toward your goals, be aware that roadblocks will arise along the way. The first enemy you will encounter is your “critical inner voice.” It consists of negative thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that oppose our best interests and diminish our self-esteem. It is our own worst enemy. It warns us about going after the things we want. The inner critic attempts to keep you feeling “safe” by reinforcing the familiar old identity you grew up with. It is essential that you break free from your inner critic and stop listening to its bad advice.
If you really want to change your life for the better, you must adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward your inner critic. As soon as you notice that you are starting to attack yourself, interrupt that negative thinking immediately! Pay attention to what triggers these negative thinking. Don’t be fooled by your negative voices—they are seldom acting in your best interest!
- 5. Harness Your Personal Power
As you overcome your inner critic, you will develop more personal power. Harnessing your personal power is essential if you want to live your own life. It is a healthy form of self-assertion that reflects a natural striving for love, success, satisfaction and meaning in one’s life. Personal power is an expression of the real-self, and it is characterized by movement toward self-realization and achieving your goals in life.
Personal power is “an attitude or state of mind”; it is fearless and firm in self-knowledge and inner peace. It is something that we can develop through personal exploration and honesty.
There is no greater challenge and no greater reward than to be the master of your own life, but be flexible as life unfolds. There are things that are going to come up which you hadn’t foreseen that just might be a new direction you may be called to take. Listen to your ‘heart’ – your inner sense of joy, truth and harmony.
Lastly, the only comparison you should ever make in your life is not to the lives of others but to the life you want to live. Realize that the only life you control is your own. Make your own choices, choose your own dreams, live your own life.
And, remember, it’s not so much what you are given or not given in life, it is what you do with it that’s important.
Adapted from “Live Your Own Life: How to Create the Life of Your Dreams”, http://www.PsychAlive.org