Both my parents are PhDs. This set many expectations in my life. - not in the “my parents always really wanted me to follow in their footsteps” kind of way, but in a “when you complete high school you go to University” kind of way. And so I did go to University, despite actively wishing I could get out of traditional learning environments from the earliest days of elementary school.
I have incredibly supportive parents who have never tried to push me to be someone I’m not and yet I held a deep-seated belief that life had ONE path - and to be successful, I had to take that path.
School – post secondary – good job/career with a solid plan to move up the ladder – house and car – marriage – kids – retire – relax.
That’s the path – the one that most people follow. You can be many things on this path, but there are very few options for detours in order to arrive at “success."
I jumped off and back on the path for years - knowing I wanted something different (jump off); but wanting to be successful (jump on); but hating how I felt (jump off); but wanting to prove I was smart and capable and grown up (jump on); and on it went.
I finally realized that “the path” was not my destiny and I jumped off permanently. I realized that I could create my own path and my own definition of success. Accepting that was the best and most empowering decision of my life.
Jumping off has landed me where I am today, as a business coach supporting small business owners (mostly women, often moms) in figuring out how to create their own paths as well. My own journey in helping others find their paths has clarified something for me – most people do not plan to live their lives intentionally.
Live life with intention
When was the last time you stopped and thought about your life - what you have, where you’re doing, what you’re trying to achieve, and why you have or desire it all?
What do you hope will be the rewards for all that you’re doing in life? How will you enjoy it?
Many of the people that I talk to don’t have much of a real plan or a real understanding of what they’re working so hard for.
They’re working towards the next big promotion, the nicer car and the bigger house out of habit rather than because they truly want it. I believe more people need to stop, breathe, and take the time to choose.
Don’t get bogged down in shoulds
Choosing sounds easy in theory, but I know that it’s not. There are so many things that impact what we think we should want.
I suggest that you need to really think through what you want in life and why. As you do this you’re going to hear all kinds of voices in your head, coming from a lifetime of messages from family, friends, and society at large:
“You SHOULD have a career if you’re going to be a strong independent woman.”
“You SHOULD stay home if you’re a caring and loving mom.”
“You SHOULD have a career that you love that brings in enough money for your kids to take all the activities they want, and be playing competitive level sports and still have time to throw amazing birthday parties and bake cakes that are beautiful enough to be on Cake Boss.”
Wow, those shoulds create a lot of pressure! And they’re a LOT of work.
If you’re going to work really hard for something, make sure it’s for something YOU want, not something you think society or the people around you expect of you.
What do you want?
If you haven’t taken the time to figure out what it is that you DO want… spend some time thinking about it. If you’re on the right track – AMAZING, keep doing that!
If you realize you aren’t entirely sure what you want or what you’re working so hard for… dig a bit deeper. If you could have more of only one thing – what would it be?
More beautiful things?
More pride in what you do?
If you realize you’re working really hard for someone else’s dreams… you need to get back on track. Make your own dreams!
My life by intention is about time more than anything else.
I have time with my kids – I work during my kids’ school hours and am home with them at least 7-8 weeks a year.
I have time for myself – I go away with my friends, I take time for art classes, I say no to being with people all the time.
We have less money than we could. If I had stayed on my career path over the last 10 years we would have had a lot more family income. Ditto if I had chosen to work more hours in my business. Instead, I chose to prioritize things differently.
My dream for my kids is that they can create success on their own terms – that there isn’t just one path in front of them that says “this is the way to a good life” – that there are a multitude of options. Truly, I want that for you, too; to see more people choose their life path and success by intention instead of by accident.
I won’t pretend my journey has been all easy or that my life is now perfect. But I love that I am making choices for ME.
I challenge you to consider all of this for yourself… do you know where you’re heading, and more importantly, why? Are you happy with it?
Create an intention and go for it (and share it with me in the comments!)
This post is part of The Whole Family Happiness Project, in partnership with Social Currents and the Low Carbon Economy Narrative Initiative. The Whole Family Happiness Project poses the question, “What is the connection between our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us?”
To learn more or get involved, visit Whole Family Happiness on Facebook. #wholefamilyhappiness