by: E.B. Johnson
We’ve all heard the phrase “you have to live life on your own terms” but what does it actually mean to shake off the social shackles and swim upstream? Living a life that is authentically you means giving up on what others think and going all-in on the things that make your heart sing, but getting there takes a lot of hard work — inside and out.
What does it mean to live life on your own terms?
Living a term-free life can mean different things to different people. For some, it is being financially independent; for others it’s creating a high-powered career or a family or a small business. Everyone has their own perspective when it comes to living life on their own terms, but there are a few basics to every truly free life.
When you live life on your own terms, it means that you live life in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling to you.
It means being able to enjoy the time you spend with yourself as much as the time you spend with others. It means having a purposeful career while also having the freedom and flexibility to pursue the passions and interests that add color to your life.
A life lived on your own terms can include travel, volunteering, fitness or any other number of activities, tangible and intangible, real and imagined. When you’re living your life on your own terms, you get inspired to do more — be more. Things come easy and you do them well, because you’re living a life that’s aligned with your authentic self…the most beautiful kind of life there is.
Why it’s important to live life on your own terms.
The idea of radically taking charge of your life can seem scary. After all, we live in a society that encourages us to take as little charge as possible. The problem with this, however, is that when you go through life without a purpose or a plan, you lose touch with what matters and you lose touch with your joy.
In Bronnie Ware’s book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, the former nurse revealed what happens to those who fail to live a life that is defined by their own goals and desires. Over and over again, Ware’s stories revealed the heartbroken, lamenting the time they had wasted and the meaningful relationships they had lost touch with.
Ware illustrated countless sentiments of could-have’s and should-have’s and brought attention to the fact that all of these regrets centered around one central theme: All that really matters is staying true to what matters most — stay true to yourself no matter what.
It’s easy to get swept up in the endless parades of wants and desires that are being directed at us at all times from the world (and our loved ones) around us. The problem with losing who you are in other people, though, is that they aren’t there with you when it comes to the final number. You are the only one who crosses that final finish line with yourself and it is only your regrets and wishes you have to contend with at the final curtain call.
How to start living life on your own terms every single day.
Sometimes, living life on your own terms means making a break from the things you know or making radical and dramatic changes to your personal and professional environment. Sometimes, however, it’s as simple as being a little more mindful and spending a little more time looking inward.
1. Figure out what matters to you.
You can’t define your life and give it direction until you figure out what matters the most to you. Take some time to figure out what your purpose is and go ahead and accept the fact that this purpose might change several times over the coming months, days or years.
Figuring out what you really want or what really matters isn’t always easy. It takes a little drifting and it takes a little experimenting to get to the root of what you want; it’s not a process that can be rushed or worried over.
When you figure out your principles or what it is that “guides” you, you’ll be able to stay on course and find a way to direct yourself joyfully through life. You have to ask yourself what really sums you up, however, and you have to make sure that you’re the one in control of your thoughts, will and emotions.
Ask yourself what it is that lights you up. Don’t assume you know yourself, but open up your heart and mind in a real and honest way. Reflect in a quiet space where you won’t get disturbed and let your thoughts and emotions come freely. You might be surprised by what you find waiting for you.
2. Kick your inner critic to the curb.
When we start to enact positive change in our lives, our inner critic likes to strike; keeping us stuck, scared and paralyzed by our self-doubts. Your inner voice is your biggest enemy in this life, but she can be overcome by developing defensive adaptations that reinforce your identity and who you are inside.
Our inner critic is the reigning queen of the anti-self.
The anti-self is that littler part inside that is destructive to a fault; that nasty lurking shadow creature that seems to be set against our own self-interest. Our inner critic is that voice that is cynical towards others and cynical toward us. It’s self-hating, vicious and paranoid and worst of all it never seems to shut up.
Taking control of your own life means limiting and eliminating this voice where you can and learning more positive ways to cope and encourage yourself to greatness. Notice when you’re starting to attack yourself and don’t let yourself argue. Instead, pull back and remind yourself that your critical inner thoughts are nothing more than nasty, mean fantasies that have as much relevance as a Kim K — Paris Hilton friendship.
3. Cut out the toxic people in your life.
This cannot be stressed enough — you attract what you surround yourself with. If you insist on surrounding yourself with toxic people, you can expect more toxicity in your life.
The toxic people in our lives are the ones who make their mission to interfere in our business. They constantly point out your flaws or tell you how you “should be” living your life, taking over your life little by little until your broken down, lost and hopeless.
Eliminate these people from your life. Focus, instead, on surrounding yourself with people who support you on your quest to live a life that’s defined by you and you alone.
4. Take responsibility for your own happiness.
Though we are encouraged to think that happiness can be found in material goods or romantic relationship, nothing could be further from the truth. Happiness can only come from within, and the only way to live life on your own terms (fully) is to embrace this with a wild abandon.
Take responsibility for your own happiness and go after the things you want and the things that stoke your passion and creativity. Choose to be happy in whatever it is that you do and make yourself the most important person in your life.
The only way to fully enjoy your life is to love and accept yourself. Give value to other people, but never value the opinions or desires of others over your own. Make space for collaboration but always, always make sure there is plenty of room for you and your own needs and desires. Being happy with others is a lovely thing, but not when it comes at the cost of our own happiness.
5. Set clearly defined goals.
If you’re feeling trampled over or washed out by life, it can be easy to view your goals or the things that you want in negative terms. The better approach, however, is to stay focused on your core values and align yourself with the behaviors that allow you to manifest the things you want in life.
Write down a list of the things you want in life. Next, take some time to think about the specific actions you can take to get there. Set yourself small waypoints and track your progress to make sure you hold yourself accountable. Stay away from creating too many goals or looking too far into the future, though, as it may cause you to feel scattered or anxious.
6. Consider your past, but don’t get caught up in it.
In order to figure out where you are or where you’re going, you have to figure out where you’ve been. If you’re looking to start living life on your own terms, you have to start by looking at your past — but, you have to do it in a ways that doesn’t keep you attached, emotional or fearful.
The things that happen in our pastsdefine, in many ways, who we are.
Consider what elements of your history keep you chained to the opinion of others and do what you can to unravel those hangups. Think about what you tried in the past to achieve your goals and think about the way you reacted when those things didn’t go to plan.
Recall all the things that worked and all the things that didn’t work, paying especially close attention to triggers and stumbling blocks that set you back or left you disappointed. Once you’ve got all that in sight, you can trace a better path forward — working with a new blueprint that allows you to see what works, what doesn’t and what pitfalls to avoid.
7. Mind your own business.
More often than not, we fail to live life on our own terms because we cannot keep our noses out of other people’s business. It’s not our fault, really — it’s our human nature. Not only does it drive us to be curious, it also drives us to seek the love and acceptance of the people around us.
Though our nature drives us to wonder about the color of the grass on the other side of the fence, feeding that compulsive need also drives us further and further away from our authentic selves. In order to live a life that is free of the terms of others, you have to learn how to mind your own business and you have to learn how to keep yourself to yourself when it’s appropriate.
8. Stop holding yourself back — run for it.
We all hesitate when we’re faced with difficult decisions but, more often than not, this hesitation comes from a sense of self-doubt more than a need to consider the options carefully.
If you truly want to tap into a life that’s untamed by the will of others, you have to stop holding yourself back.
Though it’s important to analyze a situation carefully before jumping to conclusions, it’s equally as important to make sure we are not allowing ourselves to be paralyzed by fear.
Eliminate the doubts you have about your talents, skills and abilities by pursuing the passions that make you feel fulfilled and skilled again. Open your arms wide to challenges and see them as a chance to grow, rather than a chance run and hide behind the perspective of others. Make a pact to stop holding yourself back and make a promise to start running forward toward the things you truly want in this life.
Putting it all together…
Living life on your own terms isn’t just about doing what you want when you want — it’s about finding the meaning, purpose and value in your life by reconnecting with the passions and talents that make you the unique and beautiful person that you are.If you want to take control of your life, you have to define what that life is and what it means to you.
You have to commit to following your truth and you have to set clearly defined goals while taking responsibility for your own happiness. Learning to live a life that’s defined by you (and only you) is a conscious decision that must be made every single day. If you’ve found yourself lost, floundering or looking for the light at the end of the tunnel — take a deep breath. You can find your way back to happiness again. You just have to start living life as it was truly meant to be.