Daring to Live Life on Your Own Terms

Living life on your own terms may take a bit of a rebel spirit. To me, being a rebel means living who you are without feeling the need to conform to anyone else’s standards. A rebel doesn’t always have to be bucking the system and going against the grain. They just need to be playing by their own rules.

My mom is a rebel. Maybe because she is the fourth of seven children so she needs a way to stand out. For as long as I can remember, she has lived life on her own terms. Granted, I came along in her “second family”. My parents had four boys in three years beginning when my mom was 20. Then, after a 14 year break from baby making, I came along. My sister followed 18 months later.

My brothers and I had very different childhoods. My mom was in her late 30’s when she had me, so she had figured things out a little more. Once you’ve gotten four sons into their teens, two daughters are a cake walk.

My mom knew when to go with the flow and when to put her foot down. She had a better sense of identity when parenting her daughters. I’m sure my brothers didn’t see my mom as the rebel that I saw. And that’s fine. My mom’s life experiences shaped her into the rebel that I grew up knowing. I love that about her.

We named our first dog Rebel. And he lived up to that name (actually all of our dogs have lived up to their names.) Rebel did what he wanted. He could be a giant pain in the ass but it cracked me up. He didn’t care if he got positive attention or negative attention. To him it was all good.

I put him in the bathroom on a timeout and he unrolled all of the toilet paper then started to eat it. Well played, dog. I didn’t do that again. Nothing made him happier then when he’d find a way to get out of our backyard. Then he go on a journey through the neighborhood until kind strangers would bring him home before we even realized he was gone. Even when he was 15 and could barely walk he found a way to get out of our fenced in yard. The he lumbered down the street slower than a turtle but his tail wagging in excitement the whole time. If you didn’t take the empty dog food bag out to the garbage immediately, that dog would get the bag stuck on his head in search of any morsel of food he could find in there.

As you can see, I like the rebel spirit. I like people that live who they are and march to the beat of their own drum.

Success isn’t one size fits all. Society wants to tell us there is one path to success. Become famous and make a lot of money. Whether you do that by getting an Ivy League education and creating the next best app that changes how we work and socialize or you make a sex tape that launches you into stardom doesn’t much matter anymore. Today’s culture sees them both as pretty much equals. A girl on Teen Mom can write a bestselling book just like a famed economist.

Don’t you think we have enough {insert whichever celebrity you’re tired of seeing here} wannabes in the world? Do we need another one? Or do we need you, just how you are.

I’m not gonna bag on you if you want to be the next Taylor Swift or Drake. I like them. If that’s what you want to be then go for it. But we have them already. So maybe the world just needs you.

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Decide what your vision of success is. Is it being rich and famous? Is it being followed by the paparazzi all the time? It is living off the grid detached from social media? Does your ideal life involve no debt? Do you want to wander the globe and see where your heart takes you? These are all great ideas of success, especially if they’re your idea. They might not be great to everyone but if they work for you then that is all that matters.

Get good grades. Go to college. Get a 9 to 5 job. That is fine for some people. But for others, school doesn’t come easy. Or it bores them to tears. College isn’t accessible to everyone nor does everyone need to go to college. Maybe a tech school is more appropriate. Maybe you need a gap year (or several) before going to school. And while some people can rock the heck out of a 9 to 5 job, there are those of us who thrive more in an environment where we make our own hours.

My dad’s idea of success was financial security. As an adult he asked me every time I saw him, “Are you making good money?” To him, being financially well off was the same as being happy. He group up during the Great Depression so that was his frame of reference.

There was no persuading him that you can be happy without making a butt load of money. So no matter how much or how little I was currently making, I always told him that I was making good money. I felt like this wasn’t lying because “good money” is pretty subjective. Then he didn’t worry and I didn’t have to go through the same conversations. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting, especially when there is no hope of ever coming to an agreement.

So, how do you forge your own path to success?

Believe in yourself. I know it can be hard to believe in yourself. Sometimes you feel like a fraud. Life wants to beat you down sometimes. People on the internet can be cruel. Our inner monologue can be even more cruel. No matter how poorly someone thinks of me, I will always think worse of myself. I can be my own worst critic and I know I’m not alone. Stop it!

When I was running for class officer, my dad would ask me who I was going to vote for. When I’d tell him which candidate I’d be casting my vote for, he say, “If you won’t vote for yourself, how can you expect someone else to vote for you?” I wasn’t voting for someone because I thought they were the best candidate. I was voting for them because I didn’t know you could vote for yourself. I thought voting for someone else was the nice and noble thing to do. But my dad taught me that you can and should vote for yourself. If you don’t think you’re the best person for the job, no one else can. Good point, pops. You have to be your own cheerleader before you can expect anyone else to cheer for you.

Know that there is enough success to go around. I think people are crappy to each other because they worry that there isn’t enough success to go around. They think that only a limited number of people can be successful and they want to be one of them. So they claw their way to the top leaving a wake of people in their path. Scarcity makes people lose their minds. Have you ever seen a group of women fighting over cheap wedding dresses? Or people nearly killing each other over Black Friday deals? It’s insane.

Trust me, we can all succeed. First, we all have different ideas of what success means to us so we’re not all going after the same things in life. Thinking that if you succeed someone can’t is crazy. There is more than enough to go around. Secondly, we can get farther ahead by working together than by competing. So why not collaborate. Join forces and help each other succeed their always worrying about yourself first.

Get moving. If you are waiting for the perfect time to begin forging your own success I’m here to tell you that the race has already started. Don’t feel like you need to catch up to everyone else. But do know that you should already be working on it. Life is happening around you. Start moving now because there is no perfect time. We can dish out excuses about why we can’t start now. It’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s okay to take a break stop for a beer that a frat is handing out (that happens in marathons). But once you down that drink, get back out there and keep moving.

You have an opinion. Share it. You bring a unique perspective to everything you do. You might not always agree with others, but I guarantee that you will find others that share your opinion. In order to find your tribe and them you, you need to share what you’re about. Let people know what you stand for. Then find like minded people to collaborate with.

Creating your own path may be harder than following in someone else’s footsteps. Harder, because you’re not following a path that someone has already carved out for you. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from others who have gone before you. If you want to be like someone else, learn from their successes and failure.

Creating your own path might actually come easier in the sense that you’re doing your own thing. No one does you better than you.

Do you think creating your own path is harder or easier? Share your experience in the Comments section below.

Stop by Friday when I talk about people who live life on their own terms and have created their own path to success.

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Originally published at participationmedalwife.com on April 19, 2016.

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