When it comes to living the life you want, it’s easy to talk about the importance of doing that for yourself. It’s much harder to talk about how.
One big complication comes from the fact that everyone’s situation is different. Even if you and I have similar ideas of what living a life we love looks like, we come from different backgrounds, experiences, bases of knowledge, and current circumstances.
What actionable advice works for me may not work for you. Carving your own path is not as easy as replicating the action steps of someone else who’s reached the same sort of success that you want.
Another issue that arises when trying to tell others how to live their own life is that any advice will be colored by personal preferences, worldviews, and beliefs. It doesn’t matter how well-meaning or wise the advice giver is. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and we’re all limited by cognitive biases.
All that being said, I don’t believe there are any valid excuses not to try and share something that could help you live the life you want and carve your own path.
Choose the Right Mindset
I can’t lay out specific steps for you to take. Life does not often work in a linear fashion, and just because you’ve done steps 1 and 2 doesn’t mean the next step is 3.
Perhaps for you it’s step 8. Maybe you’ll go all algebraic on us and hop straight to Plan X.
Who knows. This is your life and it’s up to you to define the specific actions to take to create it.
What I do know, however, is that choosing the right mindset can help you get clarity around the actions you need to take.This is YOUR life. It’s up to you to define the specific actions to take to create it. Click To Tweet
Yeah, But How?
I had a literary agent reach out to me last summer. Writing a book would be a dream come true for me and the idea of having an agent before I even had a book idea seemed superb.
I jumped on the opportunity without thinking much of it.
A few months later — thanks largely in part to the encouragement of my mastermind group — I terminated the relationship with the agent. She wanted me to write in a direction I didn’t believe in. As much as I would have loved to be an author, I knew I’d be really disappointed if the book she wanted me to write had my name on it.
It was supposed to be about “personal finance for millennials,” and both the tone and content the agency wanted to cover was extremely generic. The book would have sounded like a gazillion other blogs or free ebooks already out there.
I’m not a trained, educated, or certified financial expert. I love writing about finance in the context of how to think about your money in an intentional, mindful way — because that’s what I believe in, that’s how I live my life, and that’s where I think I have something valuable to say.
But a book that explains credit scores and how to repay student loans? Nope. No thank you. Not for me.
I was not willing to write a book that was fluffy, trite, and without value. There’s enough “content” out there that fits that bill. I wasn’t willing to add to it.
Carve Your Own Path by Reframing How You Think
This caused a lot of conflict for me. I wanted to be a “real” author of a published book so badly. I had a literary agent — wasn’t that a hallmark of the life I wanted to live?
It sure looked the part.
But did I really want to go out there and own something that I’m not proud of? That isn’t representative of who I am, what I care about, and what I can help people with?
When I thought about it that way, I knew what action to take. I sent a letter to my agent and informed her I wanted to terminate the relationship. She sent back a signed copy, and that was that.
I was once again a writer without a publisher, without a literary agent, without a book. (Or even a book idea.)
And I felt so good about that decision. I knew it was the right one, one that would allow me to truly continue on my own path.
I had to reframe how I think about things to get here, though. Over the last few months, I’ve quit thinking in terms of “this is a good opportunity” or “this would look really good.”
These thoughts aren’t wrong or right, and they have a reasonable origin. When I started out on my path, I was scared to death, struggling, and completely unsure of how I was going to make anything work.
I was driven by a desire to better my own career and improve my own financial situation. I wasn’t thinking about anything higher-level than that: do more, be better. (And have more money.)
And that drive pushed me into action — action that was completely necessary, and, at the time, the action I needed to take to get on my own path.
But I’m no longer in a place of struggle and fear. I’ve been able to clear that away, which leaves me with a blank slate to create something meaningful.
So, now, I’ve started thinking about things in terms of, “what can I do or create that helps people?” I’m less worried about hustling and more concerned about ensuring everything I put out there has real value and is representative of what matters to me, what I think is quality work.
If it doesn’t fit under that umbrella, I’m not really interested.
Do This for Yourself
This is all well and good, but what are you supposed to do with it?
Take a hard look at what you want to accomplish long-term. Think about how you want to feel and who you want to be. And then ask yourself:
What matters to you?
What do you really believe in, that goes past things that are irrelevant in the end — things like making more money, acquiring status symbols, having a certain job title, and so on?
What mission do your current actions serve: looking good or creating your best work?
(That last one is a question I’ve been asking more and more, and it’s profoundly affected where I place my time and energy — in a good way.)What mission do your current actions serve: looking good or creating your best work? Click To Tweet
Ultimately, the answer to how can you carve your own path is to use the right mental framework to understand what you value, and then get into action. Get off the sidelines. Jump into the game.
And if you ever find that your actions aren’t consistent with your values and your missions? You can always write a letter to your literary agent and fire her.
Or, you know, whatever it is you need to do to hit the pause button, say, “this isn’t right for me,” and refocus on the actions that do align with the live you want to live.