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#MotivationalMonday: 5 Ways to Do You

For some of us, it is a continuous struggle to live life on our own terms. From my experience, finding out what you really want takes a lot of trial and error and most importantly, courage. Courage is so important because it requires you to often stand alone, move with incomplete information, and bare the burden of others’ limitations or expectations about how you ought to live.

To remain focused on living how you want to live despite what people think, here are five gentle reminders to help you keep “doing you” at all times.

1. In many cases, rules are simply suggestions.

I was having a conversation with a girlfriend the other day about life. She told me that she is a person that “follows the rules.” I looked around and asked in earnest, “Which rules?” Outside of speed limits and tax laws, where as a society, we (mostly) obey for national safety, I didn’t quite understand what she was talking about.

I asked her to elaborate. When we got into it, she listed all of the right things that she did with her life: she goes to church, she works hard, she puts herself last. When I asked her if she liked these rules she said, “No,” but felt that she had to continue to follow them because of how she was raised.

By the end of the conversation, I told my friend that my rules tend to work for me, change often, and allow me to feel some type of joy. And in the areas of my life that feel restricted and confining, I force myself to question my assumptions about those rules and their “rightness.” I often ask myself, “When did I learn this rule?” “Are there expectations to this rule?” “How does holding on to this rule help or hinder my goals of happiness, wealth, and peace?” With these reflective questions, I free myself to move more fluidly through life’s bumpy and uncertain terrain.

2. People speak through their lenses…and their limits. Recently, I learned not to fight with my mom about some of my professional and personal life choices. In the past, I would get so riled up when she wouldn’t validate or support how I approached a particular situation. Now, I’ve learned to accept it.  Why? Because we have different perspectives. While I admire all of the sacrifices that she made coming to this country from Antigua, I also understand that I wasn’t born in Antigua, nor was I raised in its British colonial mores of the 1940s and 1950s. I didn’t have to leave my home and become an immigrant in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. That was all her.

I , on the other hand, was born to a single mom in New York and raised as a first-generation American in the 1980s and 1990s. I knew nothing about villages and fetes, but I knew about blocks and block parties. We lived very different, yet both very valid life experiences. As an adult, it is my responsibility to appreciate where these experiences converge and where they diverge and sometimes realize (clutches my pearls) that mama won’t always know what’s right for me, but she will always be my mama and be loved. And that’s what really important.

3. Document your successes and failures on a regular basis. Having a clear track record of praise and lessons learned will fuel and ground you when you encounter naysayers and problem-finders. Not that you have to explain yourself, but depending on your mood and the relationship that you have with the person in question, it may be worth sharing how your life has greatly improved as a result of minding your own business and forging ahead toward the life that you want. It may inspire them to do the same or at least get off your back.

4. Remember that life’s short. Recently, I received an email from one of my former third grade students. He was prepping for his last year in high school. Almost a decade has passed, but I can still remember marveling at his writing skills like it was yesterday. But it wasn’t yesterday. That’s the important thing.  It wasn’t even two, three, or four years ago. It was ten full years. If you don’t live with intention, the time will pass anyway. Dying with regrets is probably one of my greatest fears. I use it to ensure that I won’t.

5. Security doesn’t negate freedom. When you have friends and family members giving you unsolicited advice about what you should do, it’s usually from a place of love and concern. They are trying to protect you from something, which often they can’t specifically name. In most cases, they don’t want you homeless and ashy on the street, which is admirable and quite understandable.

What they fail to realize is that your decision to pursue an unconventional path does not equate to you being without financial and personal security. In many cases, the pursuit of security over authenticity actually negatively affects your bottom line in the long run. There are many examples of people that suspend short-term security (leaving an unfulfilling job or relationship) to search for what works best for them. These “risk-takers” actually attract what they really want, and end up with a greater sense of security.

Being true to yourself is a lifelong process worth pursuing without apology. If you find that you are figuratively or literally saying “Sorry” for who you are and the decisions that you are making with your life, check your courage muscles. They may be underdeveloped.