Updated: Feb 21
The rules are fake. What mainstream society has conditioned us to believe as the ‘right way’ to live life is simply not true. Settling down with a partner, buying a house, having a linear career where you climb the ladder, spitting out 2.5 children, and retiring on a boat looking out at the sunset it’s not the only way to live. For some people that is absolutely the idea of success and what a wonderful life looks like, however for the other 99.99% of the world that plan it’s going to look a little or a lot different. And So be it. How on Earth could life be a one-size-fits-all experience?
Fear of missing out (affectionately referred to as FOMO) in something greater or being envious of friends or those who follow on social media is not overly helpful to your journey and to your happiness. I found the Buddhist concept of ‘mudita’ to be very helpful in this regard. Mudita roughly translates to feeling a genuine sense of happiness for others well-being and successes in life. In the process of living your own best life, you can acknowledge others successes and see what others are doing in the world in their own right and you can be genuinely happy for them knowing if that’s the path that they’re on even if your path looks a little or a lot different than theirs.
There are so many different ways to be happy and to have a “successful” life. As one of my favourite people on Instagram, Annie of @thrlaminimalist likes to say: “the rules are fake”. Instead, there are just decisions we make.
But what the best way to approach big, important decisions?
Follow your passions. Period.
I often have students ask me for my advice when it comes to major projects and career decisions. My answer to each of them, no matter how different their situations, is often the same. Follow your gut. Follow your passions. Go in the direction of something that interests you. But what about chasing fame and fortune? In most cases, that only comes after, and as a result of, hard work and fulfilment. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you do great work, people will recognize this and it’s unlikely you’ll be without an opportunity for long.
I also think there are a lot of similarities between close personal relationships and relationships that people have with their work. Let me explain. Do I think that everybody has one true love, one soulmate out there in the world for them. Absolutely not. The statistical odds of finding that person are insane never mind the fact that there’s nothing in that logic that says that two people are perfect for one another. You may be my true love but am I yours? I think the same logic can be applied to the world of work. Does everyone have one perfect discipline or one perfect job out there for them. One true calling. No, I don’t think that’s a thing either. If I were to make different decisions 10 or 15 years ago I would be in a very different place than I am right now, for better or for worse, I’ll never know. The educational and career decisions I made as a teenager and in my early 20s has ultimately led me to where I am today. Could I have just as easily gotten into the world of interior design or theatre and dance as many suspected I would come out of high school instead of the world of design and printing? Sure, absolutely! And I think that the decisions I continue to make, and perhaps most importantly the decisions I make about my attitude towards the projects I’m working on and the enthusiasm I put into those projects, helps dictate the success of the outcomes. I’ve been told that I’m good at seizing the opportunity in front of me. I tend to dive into the deep end and swim around searching for all that I can down there on the projects that I’m currently working on. Many of these have led to additional projects that have led to additional opportunities that have connected me with people who have led me to where I am today.
The moral of the story is this: focus on the next best thing for you, whatever that might be. There is no way of know where you’ll end up in 5, 10 or 15 years (and where would the fun be in that if you DID know?), so focus on what’s interesting in front of you and dive in with gusto. People will take notice. And that could lead to the next cool thing, that leads to the next fascinating project, that leads to the next delightful role to the fulfilling, successful, happy life. And the best part is, you will have done it on your own terms. The rules are fake.
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