With huge authority, the London Underground announcer said ‘Folks. Life is for living. Get your dancing shoes on and find your way!’ That was about half an hour ago as I negotiated my way home. There were a few ever so slight smiles, but for the most part, people shuffled on and up the escalators.
It’s at moments like this that I feel an intense sense of sadness for all those sleepwalking folk who don’t get to choose how they work and what they do. It strikes me that there is so much wasted talent out there focused on the wrong purpose.
We were tricked really. Too many of us were lured into thinking that life success equals upward social mobility, a 10 year plan for your career, getting richer, being admired for being good at your job, getter better at it and then retiring to go and spend all that money you’d made.
Now here’s the thing. Many of us are coming out now to admit that the lifestyle we were sold isn’t going to make us happy. So why do so many still cling on to the illusion?
Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark. ~ Zen Proverb
Working for yourself brings that awareness sharply into focus. You can’t hide behind the company brand or blame someone else for not enjoying your job. You’ve got to like what you do and get on with it.
Do you feel that you spend a lot of time going round in circles trying to work out who you are and what you should be doing? The answer is right there if you are open to it. But you’ve got to de-programme yourself in order to see it. And that’s harder than it sounds.
1. Stop trying to be normal.
Don’t underestimate how programmed we have all become. Society wouldn’t function properly if we were all running around doing our own thing, so there are social norms that make it work better and keep us content.
That is how so many of us end up disillusioned and frustrated with our jobs, because we are denying ourselves the right to be ourselves (and different).
We’d probably deny that was the case, but stop and think about it for a second and count the number of times that you have slotted in behind someone else just to keep everything ticking along.
You don’t have to be deliberately different. Just give yourself a chance to try not doing the same as everyone else once in a while.
2. No one is 100% nice
Recently, I had to acknowledge that sometimes I am not a good friend to have. The reality is that I let people down, sometimes a lot. It’s painful to think that I’m not always the perfect person, but the truth of the matter is that the alternative is to let myself down and, of late, I have learnt that sometimes that is necessary.
The point that I am making is that it isn’t possible to live a balanced life with purpose without breaking a few taboos, like opting to do it your way rather than fit in with the crowd.
3. Value your intuition
I recently wrote about how freelancers can face up to uncertainty. After all, it’s the nature of our game. The fact is that we are scared by uncertainty because we don’t know how to control it.
But my right brain says that uncertainty creates opportunity. Uncertainty allows space for you to think the unthinkable. We are essentially problem solvers that have got lazy because decisions are usually made for us.
4. Take the road less travelled
One of the many benefits of getting older and of life experience is that you start to care less about being the same. One key lesson that I have learned is that if I take the same path as everyone else, I will only ever be average because there will always be exceptional people who are better at it than me. I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I want to be remembered for.
Finding your own way is much more gratifying and who cares if you go a bit off course sometimes?
The alternative is to spend your life being disappointed because things haven’t turned out as you’d have liked.