Sometimes it doesn’t seem very easy to answer these questions, does it? It kind of depends on who you’re around. When you’re with strangers or co-workers, it’s not uncommon to wear a mask or adopt a persona. You become part of the crowd simply because that is the easiest way to get along. Living life on your terms doesn’t seem quite as important.
Around someone you know well, this might be a very different story. The mask drops, the persona fades. You become more real, more authentic. You’re quirky and a little odd, but a lot of fun. You’re you. Sometimes.
Even around people you know, it can be hard to let go. You might worry about what other people would think if they saw the real you. Or you might not even be sure yourself who you are anymore; it’s been so long since you’ve let go enough to find out.
If this sounds familiar, then it’s time for a journey into the world of YOU. A reality where it’s OK to be yourself, even if this means going against the grain every once in a while. Imagine being able to stay true to your values, preferences, and quirks and still thrive.
We’ll start you out with some reasons why it pays to be yourself. From there, you’re going to find out all of the ways the rest of society tries to hold you back. For example, you might stick to the status quo, rather than strive to escape conformity for the world of individuality.
You’ll also find some ways to answer those naysayers.
In the end, learning to live outside the lines is all about you and who you are inside. If you want success, if you want true happiness, you’re never going to find it by holding yourself back.
Let’s get started, beginning with why it’s always best to be you, instead of attempting to be someone else.
It Pays to Be Yourself
You do you. Perhaps you’ve heard the quote: be yourself everyone else is taken
As far as encouragement goes, these three words seem pretty clear. Some already told this quite a lot. In today’s world, being diverse is valued.
While on the surface, it might seem as though being yourself no matter what other people think is touted as being both genuine and authentic, in truth, not everyone is comfortable with individuality.
We are taught conformity as a way to make decisions. If you’re unsure what to do next because of a lack of knowledge or life experience, generally, our next step is to ask those closest to us. We pull her friends then make a decision based on what the majority of people say. This actually can work pretty well, and probably has even served you in the past.
But what about the time you chose a different path entirely?. You might have felt some pushback from those around you, especially from those who had no understanding of your goals. Think about how others reacted in this situation. Were they supportive? Or did they try to discourage you?
This isn’t to say following the crowd is a bad thing. There’s safety in numbers. When we work together in such a way, it’s easier to maintain discipline. We all know what’s expected of us. Society functions well when people conform to a particular set of rules.
What about the individual, though? Where do dreams and aspirations fit into society? How do you conduct change if everyone always does the same things? What drives new thoughts, innovation, and invention In these circumstances?
What drives us?
There comes a time when every person needs to be something more than just another face in the crowd. Individuality is where we gain our humanity. When we are our most authentic selves is when we are happiest. It is also when we achieve the most. In short, there can be no one size fits all life.
How do we know when to stay put and when to step out?
Conformity is Best
• When you’re trying to break a habit and need support
• When you’re trying to form a new habit and need support
• When you need complex organizations to work together in harmony
On the other hand, there comes a time when being one of the herd might be comfortable, but at the same time, very limiting. There’s a lot of essential things you would never be able to do if you never embraced you’re the quirky, unusual, wildly unique ‘you.’
Individuality is Best
• When you want to grow
• When you need to be creative
• When you need to make people care about an issue
• When you need to create diversity
With this in mind, maybe the question you truly need to answer right now is this: knowing how important it is to be yourself, how do you know when you’re your most authentic self?
You Know What You Believe In
What matters to you? When you step outside the lines, this question becomes crucial. Your thoughts, your opinions all matter. You live by your own set of values, upholding your moral code. Being true to yourself is the first step to individuality.
You Know What’s Important
By extension, you should have goals and dreams which go hand in hand with these values. Living life on your terms means striving for things that make sense to you.
You Don’t Compare
When you’re ready to stand out from the crowd, the last thing you need is to be looking to see what everyone else is doing. The accomplishments and rewards of others never matter in the least to the confident individual. Why should they? It doesn’t matter where anyone else is in their life. What matters is where you are in yours.
You’re Not Seeking Approval
At some point, when you let go and live outside the lines, it no longer makes any difference to you at all whether or not you’re getting likes on social media or attention and accolades from those around you. You’re doing what makes sense to you; no reward necessary.
You’re Doing What You Love
No more slogging you way through the day at a job you despise. Living life on your terms recognizes the need to do meaningful work that satisfies. This means focusing more on career and goals as a way to make a living.
You Know You Already Have Everything You Need
What are you capable of? When you’re following the crowd, you’re never challenged enough to find out. On the other hand, when you let go and embrace life, the first thing you’re going to realize is just how it feels to stretch your wings. With this in mind, you do activities just to see how far you can go, discovering all your amazing talents and capabilities along the way.
You Know What Success Looks Like
Perhaps the most significant thing you’re going to notice when you live life outside the lines is just how badly other people’s definition of success fits you. Don’t be surprised if what they think is the ultimate pinnacle of achievement doesn’t interest you at all. The real individual defines success for themselves. They know what they want out of life and are not afraid to go after it with confidence, and yes, even enthusiasm.
With all this in mind, it’s no wonder you want to live life on your terms. Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn’t going to be quite so enthusiastic about your plan. Next up? A few roadblocks you’re going to have to get through first, and a few tips on how to sidestep the lines everyone seems so eager to draw for you.
The Lines They Draw for Us
Society loves it when we stay within the lines.
We’re encouraged from the time we are small to act in ways that fit in with everyone else. In kindergarten, we’re put on a strict schedule, taught to stand in nice and straight lines, and to do what everyone else around you is doing, whether you’re creating art, learning your letters, or taking a nap.
Individuality is not exactly encouraged.
While there’s a time and place for conformity, living your entire life in this kind of sameness takes a toll. If nothing around you ever changes, least of all yourself, it’s easy to grow bored and disillusioned. Life can look pretty dull. Worse, after a while, we start to forget who we are.
But when we push back? We’re immediately told ‘no.’ Comments we make about wanting to be an artist or musician is immediately redirected into a ‘dream’ job. We start seeing how people who act ‘differently’ are excluded. When we try it just to see if we get any better results, we’re bullied, shamed, or made to feel small until we retreat into the world of status quo.
We learn not to try.
We’re striking back against societal norms. In the section which follows, you’re going to find several commonly held beliefs people have. Only rather than accept these statements at face value, we’re going to challenge them, and discover why this might not be the great advice our well-meaning friends think it is.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
You Need to Be Here by Age X
Don’t you just hate when people ask your age? First of all, it is no one’s business. Second? The only reason people do it is so they can establish in their minds if you’ve hit the milestones properly or not yet.
It’s a game people play, where they want to measure your success against their own. If they play it right, they win and come out feeling better about themselves. If you win? Well, don’t expect to be making a new friend.
Of course, these kinds of people aren’t friends, to begin with.
Stories come with a hint of superiority, as though their experience, and hence, their baby is somehow better. Now it’s game on, whether you ever wanted to play or not.
From the moment you’re born, you’re compared with others. Are you walking or talking at the same time as everyone else? Earlier? Later? These milestones are followed by others, one after another.
And just so you know? You’re supposed to hit all of these in order and by certain ages, or you can never possibly be measured as a success. Hit them early, and you’re a superstar. Hit them late or not at all, and you’re beneath notice. Don’t even try to do them out of order.
The problem is, we’re not all the same. Some people don’t want kids at all. Others start early with kids and maybe skip college for the sake of settling down with family, choosing not to go at all, or going later, when kids are older. There’s an infinite variety to how one can live their life.
Meaning, you’re already doing it exactly right.
The Action Plan
So how should you live yours? You start by figuring out what you want most in life and do that next. Try these steps and put yourself on your schedule, not someone else’s:
Choose the Life You Want
You start with your goals and go from there. What does your ultimate, best life look like to you? What do you want to do? Where would you like to live? Who do you want to have around you?
Take a Reality Check
OK, some parts of your dream might not be possible. Some are. Consider those parts now. Which goals are attainable?
What Have You Already Done?
Have you attempted any of these goals previously? What did this look like? How can you use this experience to help you now?
What can you do right now to put yourself closer to your goals? Don’t forget to consider if you might need further information or even education to get where you want to go. Or whether you might need to put some work in elsewhere, such as paying off outstanding debt.
No, you’re not looking for a general opinion on social media. Instead, think about people who have accomplished similar goals or whose advice you trust. See what they have to say. Maybe enlist someone as an accountability partner if you need one.
Craft a Plan
Now you have reliable information, the materials you need, and a goal in mind. Here’s where you build your roadmap to get there. Break down your goal into several actionable steps.
A plan is useless unless you get out there and try. It’s time to take action!
Once You Are Successful, You’ll Be Happy
You learn all through life; if you work hard and end up successful, you will be happy. The very thought behind the idea of retirement caters to this belief in the way we talk about it. We’re just ‘saving the best for last.’ All we need to do to get there is to work hard and make lots of money. Happiness follows.
But is this even true?
We certainly like to think so. Everywhere you look, you see smiling happy people enjoying life in a very luxurious way linked with the idea of success. As though somehow money does buy happiness after all.
Consider this: if success truly does create happiness, then why do you hear about celebrities who have substance abuse problems? How many interviews have you heard with people who still had problems despite all their wealth and fame? Maybe success doesn’t always lead to happiness, after all. It could even be argued success is sometimes what makes it hard to hold onto happiness.
If this is true, then all that well-intentioned advice is backward. Consider this: What if success doesn’t lead to happiness, but happiness leads to success?
Think about this for a minute. When we’re doing something we genuinely love and are passionate about, we put all our drive and determination into it. We work long hours just to make our dreams come true. We drive ourselves toward success simply because we’re so engaged and interested we can’t help but do it.
Put more simply? We’re doing what we love, and because it makes us happy, we put in the long hours to make our dreams a reality.
Happiness -> -> -> Success
Not the other way around.
And those celebrities we were just talking about? Consider this: most of the time, when people who achieve great success start struggling, it’s because of one crucial fact.
They lose the passion for what they’re doing. Without this to drive them, happiness fades. Reality sets in. Success isn’t enough to sustain them. Which means, your passion, and your happiness need to be protected at all costs.
The Action Plan
If you’re truly ready to live outside the lines in this regard, you’re going to have to find your passion. Only by doing what you love will you find the happiness and drive which you need to succeed.
Start with the Obvious
What do you love to do? You might already know.
Explore the Options
If you’re not sure what you’re passionate about, maybe it’s because you haven’t found it yet. Try things. Take classes, engage in new experiences. Do everything.
Talk to Others
Ask your friends what you’re passionate about. They likely already know as they’ve heard you talking about it more than a few times already.
Give it a Try
If you think you’ve nailed down your passion, spend some time in. Do you become more or less interested as you explore this?
Embrace the Feelings
If you find you’re enjoying something and you’re even feeling kind of happy as you indulge in this new passion, give yourself room to fall in love. Don’t bury the emotions which come up, but instead celebrate them and give them room to grow.
This Is the Way Things Are Done
How any traditionalists does it take to change a lightbulb? None. They like the old one better.
The joke might be old, but how many times have you heard, “The old way was better”? Generally, this is said anytime, something new comes out. It applies to an operating system on your phone, the new layout on Facebook, the work they’re doing to put a roundabout in where an intersection used to be, or even something so small as a packaging change on the detergent you use.
Let’s face it; the majority of people resist change in their lives. It doesn’t matter how much the new way might be more streamlined or beneficial, the very fact it’s different means it needs to be fought. And they will fight. You might have bigger and better ideas, but someone will always step forward and remind you gently, “this is the way things are done” and refuse to budge another inch.
Are they right?
More often than not, the status quo works. It’s the status quo only because it works. The beautiful thing about the status quo is just how predictable and uneventful it is. In other words, it doesn’t cause problems. Or if it does, they’re problems which we’ve seen before. We already know how to solve them.
The problem is, things can’t stay the same. The status quo might be reasonably comfortable, but it’s also stagnant. There comes a time to step out from the crowd and do what’s different, and most authentic to yourself. Only then will you have stepped outside the lines.
Money and Possessions Mean Success
Earlier, we talked about the idea of happiness coming from success. To some, success needs to be measured by other means. To them, life is a game, and you can tell if you’ve won strictly by how much money is in your bank account and by what ‘toys’ you own.
Here’s a pro-tip: to people like this, their stuff becomes their motivation. They’re never going to understand your dreams and goals unless there’s a price tag attached somewhere.
Think about how this makes you feel for a minute.
You want to live life on your terms. This also means being able to define success for yourself in a way that makes sense for you. It’s OK if you’re not into using your stuff to define who you are. There are other things you can measure your success by, such as how happy you are in life, or by whether or not you’re achieving your goals or have time with your family. Remember, so long as you measure life by your standards, you’re right.
What’s Next for You?
There was a story about a church where every Sunday morning, all the parishioners would file inside and sit on the right side of the church only. Exactly halfway through the surface, everyone would get up and move to the left side of the church. A visitor once asked about this as it seemed quite an unusual behavior. It took some digging to find out why.
As it turned out, there used to be an old wood-burning stove on the right side of the church. In the winter, when it was cold out, people would come in and want to sit near the stove; just stay warm. But as the service progressed, it became too hot to sit near the stove and so they moved to the other side of the church to cool off. The wood stove had been removed from the church 80 years previously, but the members of the congregation still faithfully moved from one side of the church to the other halfway through the service without knowing why.
Doing what’s expected of you all the time is not always sensible or even healthy.
There comes a time when you need to sit back and question why you are following the status quo. Ask how it serves you to go with the crowd, and don’t be afraid to dig deep and see if maybe it’s time to step outside the lines.
Hopefully, by now, you have an idea of how to do this. You’ve learned a little about the value of being yourself, and even about the expectations, the world has upon us. Even more importantly, you’ve figured out how to lay aside these expectations when they no longer serve you and do what you want to begin living life on your terms. What remains is for you to put this into practice.
By following what’s been set out here, you should have some ideas already forming in just how to do this in a way that remains truest to your vision of yourself. The key? Intentionality and a lot of follow-throughs. Then the sky is the limit!
Living life on your terms will lead to living a lifestyle by design. It took me to age 50 to understand the importance of this for myself. Now I help others to discover who they are and what they want from their lives.
I’m author, publisher, and entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green and would love to connect with you. If you are new to the world of online entrepreneurship please check out my comprehensive training on how to set up Funnels That Click and learn how to gain an unfair advantage when it comes to building a lucrative online business.