Creating the life you were meant to live sometimes, maybe even often, means going against the grain. It means defying societal pressures that encourage us to live the way everyone else is living. It means living an unconventional life. And that’s not easy. Everything inside of us wants to be like everyone else. It takes courage to be different.
In some cases, circumstances may force us to live unconventionally. But if we don’t embrace those circumstances, and continue to strive to live like everyone else, we’ll never be happy. That constant struggle, the anxiety that comes up when we can’t have something we think we want, will trap us in a pattern of negativity and a joyless existence.
I know this from experience. As a teenager, I envisioned getting married at 24, having kids a few years later, a girl and a boy; raising them and working on my career for the next 18 years and then settling into the empty nest when the kids went off to university. Pretty typical expectation, right? (well maybe not the getting married at age 24 in this day and age)
None of it panned out the way I had planned.
Throughout my 20s and 30s, I struggled to find a career that I enjoyed and thought there was something wrong with me when I was still single at 34. I was laid off from my corporate HR job at 41 and then started again from scratch as an entrepreneur. Now at 44, I’m happily married to a man who has a spinal cord injury, which you can imagine leads to an atypical way of life. So far have not been able to have children and the clock is ticking, both biological and societal.
All of these are circumstances make my life very unconventional but until recently, I continued to strive for what everyone else had. I was jealous of the women I had left behind in the corporate world who were successfully climbing the corporate ladder. I resented the people who posted their seemingly perfect family photos on social media, I avoided all the family-oriented community events that are so popular in the small town where I live. I was filled with envy for what I thought I wanted: a “normal life”.
And then, slowly, I started to accept and even embrace my circumstances.
I started to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that entrepreneurship affords. I realized that my husband and I have a level of financial freedom that others lack, since we don’t have to spend money on kids clothes and activities or save for university. We can pick up at the drop of a hat and go travelling or even just out for dinner without worrying about a babysitter. We are actually living a pretty amazing, albeit unconventional, life!
Upon that realization, I felt so much better. I started to work on being grateful for what I had and the envy started to wash away. I stopped worrying about what everyone else thought about the way I was living. I started to break free of those societal pressures I had felt all my life. And it was liberating! It’s in that space, that mindset, that we can truly feel joy and happiness and trust that we are in the right place.
Now, this didn’t all happen over night. It took some work. Some self-reflection, some self-development and continuous practice.
Here are three steps you can take to start living an unconventional life, the life you were meant to live.
- Recognize – take a step back and look at your life. Is there a part of it where you’ve been led to live unconventionally and resisted it? Maybe you haven’t attracted your life partner yet, or you are childless at 40. Perhaps you have a disabled child, or a disabled spouse. Or you really don’t want to climb the corporate ladder, but it’s the path you took out of school and stuck with it because it’s what everyone around you expected. Maybe you just don’t want to be a soccer mom (or a hockey mom, insert the activity of your choice) but it’s assumed that your kid will join all the others and you will watch from the bleachers. Really look at your life and recognize where you were not meant to follow the crowd. Where you might be doing what others expect instead of what you were meant to be doing.
- Practice gratitude – once you recognize that area of your life where you are resisting the path you were meant to follow, appreciate that path. Now, I practice gratitude for all the experiences I was able to have as a singleton in my 20s and early 30s. I lived overseas, I travelled, I went back to school to get my Masters. I appreciate all the experiences I’m able to have in my 40s while many of my friends are tied down on weekends by kids sports activities or they have to miss adult-only events because they couldn’t find a babysitter. Be grateful for what your unconventional life has afforded you.
- Release judgment – we often judge ourselves based on what we believe others think. I did it. I still do it sometimes. Someone once said to me that a person cannot know true selflessness until they’ve had a child. After that, I judged myself against that standard. To prove I was selfless, I would give in or say “yes” to invitations, requests and volunteer opportunities that I didn’t really want to participate in. I would be hard on myself when I did something for me. I spent my 30s doing everything for everyone else until I finally realized one day that I was judging myself based on that other person’s opinion. Once I decided to stop worrying about what everyone else was thinking, I could start doing things the way I truly desired.
I invite you to spend some time journaling or meditating on these three concepts. You’ll start to uncover the path to the life you were meant to live. It can be a challenge and it can take some time and effort. But it’s well worth the investment as it will ultimately lead to joy and happiness. If you feel you need some help exploring your path, schedule an exploratory coaching call with me.