Each of us lives life to a certain set of rules.
We hold ourselves to a particular standard. We judge based on hand-picked criteria.
When you evaluate the success of your life, whose standard are you measuring against? Is it your mother's? Your spouse's? Your “perfect” sibling's or boss'? Perhaps it's the neighbor with the dream home and manicured lawn and brand new car in the garage. Or the artificial, stylized ideal you see staring back at you from Facebook or a beauty magazine.
I've been guilty of all those. But, over time, I realized the standard that matters most is the one I created for myself.
When I realized that my definition of success was best based on my own unique set of priorities and values, so much in my life shifted: I began living for myself. My judgments became less black-and-white and much more loving. The comparisons stopped (well, most of them, anyway). I became less focused on the reinforcement I got from the outside world and better able to consider myself happy based on how I felt in simple moments.
What if you were to create a new standard for your life based on what's important to you, at this point in your life (recognizing, of course, that what's front and center today may not even have been on your radar five years ago)?
What if you lived by your personal definitions of meaning and value, instead of the external and artificial ones, and you used those to determine how/where you apportion (or re-apportion) your life's currency of time, energy, money, emotional capacity, creativity and talent?
My own experience has taught me that living by your own rules can free you from the complicating bondage of what others might think and illuminate new pathways to expressing yourself, earning a living and, just maybe, feeling happier than you have in years.
Give it a try?
Here's your four-step homework.
- Outline the way you currently measure yourself, your value, your success. Consider things like titles, salaries, material possessions, invitations, status and more.
- Make a second list of how you might think about life if you were to take all those first-list things away, not even allowing them to be measuring sticks. Consider instead things like how you want to feel when your head hits the pillow at night or when you rise in the morning, experiences you want to have, and how you can use your unique talents to serve others.
- Contemplate the gap that exists between List 1 and List 2, and consider what actions or changes need to take place to move you from one to the other. Map out a plan. Take ownership of your actions.
- Put the plan in motion, taking the first step — however small it may be — right away. When we wait, we lose momentum; when we act, we build it.
Armed with a plan and a sense of direction, you're off! As Dr. Seuss writes in “Oh, The Places You'll Go!”
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.”
And, as Mandy Hale says: “Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it.”