I recently did something new for the very first time. I’m talking about heart-rate- increasing, sweat-inducing, mild-dose-of-anxiety-generating, blood-pumping new. I stepped outside of my comfort zone, found myself in a situation I’d never been in before, took a chance, and put myself out there. As a 29-year-old, I can say with some confidence that there is less of a desire for people my age to experience the new and more of a heavy-handed pressure for us to figure it all out.
It’s an unfortunate fact, but oftentimes a predetermined list of socially acceptable life to-dos and the pressure to check those items off in a timely manner trumps any perceived value in pushing against the grain in order to experience the world from a completely new perspective. This list reads: land a job, get married, buy a house, make money, have kids, make some more money, become viewed by your peers as successful, and then inundate all forms of social media with posts about your amazing job, marriage, home, kids, and general life-winning success.
And so we jump into life headfirst. We plan, we prepare, we work, and then we bust our asses a little bit more. We check certain items off the list while drawing big fat red circles around the others and ask ourselves repeatedly, “What the heck can I do to make this happen?” Focus, attention to detail, commitment, and sheer determination are what it takes if you want to eventually flip that to-do list the bird while riding off into the sunset of success and then posting it on Instagram for all the world to see.
Don’t get me wrong: These are all wonderful, amazing, worthwhile goals (some of which I even plan to conquer one day). My issue is that we get so tied up in creating a reality for ourselves based on what we think life is supposed to look like, that any time we stray from this ideal we feel as though we’ve failed. What we don’t realize is that by subscribing to this notion of the ideal life, we’ve actually placed ourselves into a teeny-tiny itty-bitty box and eliminated countless possibilities of what our lives could be.
Ask yourself this: When was the last time you felt really, truly, and completely alive? When was the last time you were so consumed in something (or by someone) that hours passed and it felt like merely minutes? When was the last time you felt the blood rushing through your veins, quickening your heart rate, heightening all of your senses, and giving you a burst of adrenaline that made you simultaneously feel as though you were going to puke and conquer the world?
Ditch the list of things you’re supposed to be, do, or accomplish and just follow your heart. Forget expectations and be your authentic self, whatever that looks like. Trust your instincts and have faith that you will achieve the goals you set for yourself, regardless of anyone else’s opinion, judgment, or beliefs. Follow whatever path your heart leads you down, because that is the only one that will shake you to your core, pump the blood through your veins, and set your soul on fire.
What I’ve learned is that my happiness can’t be confined by such a limited definition of success. What I’m in pursuit of is a life of passionate purpose. I want to feel proud, be challenged, get inspired, and wake up every morning with a reason to put my feet on the ground. The opinions, views, and judgments others might cast on me as they compare my life journey against their own are not my concern.
I dare you to stop giving a shit about what other people expect of you, do something that you’ve never done before, sweat a little, get your blood pumping, feel the vulnerability that comes with standing in front of unlimited possibilities, and live a life according to your own damn list.
Fear of the unknown is what keeps us believing that there is only one way to achieve success in life, when really it’s in the uncharted territories that you will discover anything is possible.