“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”*
Why is it that we so often create unrealistic expectations in our heads for how things ‘should’ be? We are bombarded with images on TV of perfect jobs, friendships, significant others, families; and moreover, we have ever-present social media where people are basically advertising the positive aspects of their lives. We live with so many expectations: from society, our families, our whole social network and, most importantly, from ourselves. I want to challenge all of you to start making decisions based on your hopes rather than your fears. Since it’s always helpful to look at things from the big picture, think about this: would you rather look back on your life and know that you pleased everyone in it, or look back on it and know that you were always true to yourself? Well, the first choice is impossible since you can never please everyone, so it’s sort of like chasing an eagle and thinking you’ll catch up with it. So we might as well be true to ourselves.
The root of making choices based on expectations is fear. Fear can take many forms, from insecurity, harmful criticism of self or others, jealousy, the list goes on. When you really isolate that emotion that is behind your decisions, it becomes harder to make decisions based on fear. Does anyone want to let their life be ruled by fear? I can’t imagine that being a desirable feeling. The fear behind all of this is the fear that your life will not live up to the expectations everyone, including yourself, has for it. What we need to realize is that we have all of the tools we need to live a good life, and that’s all anyone can really ask of us.
To live your life in fear of not meeting expectations really is quite a selfish way to live, when you really think about it. You become so internally tumultuous because you’re thinking “what should I do”, “what would make my life the best it can be”,”what would they think of me” “what if I lose friends because of this?” All you’re doing is becoming so consumed with your own life that it paralyzes your ability to make decisions from your heart and reasoning, which are the places where they should optimally arise.This shift includes a focus on helping others for the sake of helping them rather than to please them. Do not do nice things so that you’re ‘on someones good side,’ rather do nice things because that person deserves to be treated well.
While I realize this introduction may have been hard to follow, here are a few points to clarify my viewpoint:
1. The universe owes you nothing, and you are entitled to nothing.
Why do some people think that they can do absolutely nothing, or even treat others poorly, and still be entitled to riches, happiness, and love? You see this all of the time. A girl will treat men poorly and then tell everyone that she deserves a good man simply because she is a woman. A person will become destitute because they think that they simply deserve to be wealthy without having to work hard. A man will treat a girl poorly because he thinks he has no duty to treat her well.
Work for what you want. If you want money, you’re going to have to put in the hours. If you want a good relationship, you’re going to have to work for it. Love is not something that you sit back and watch happen. To love someone is a verb, which means that it involves action. When you love someone it should be visible through actions. Life is work. It’s a basic rule of physics that something cannot arise from nothing. So, to be blunt, get off your butts and start working for the things you want.
2. If you are self-centered, you need to realize it
I recently was in a yoga class where the instructor had us lay down after class. She said “leave on the mat what you don’t need.” It popped into my head that I do not need to think things are about me. Listen to your thoughts for a moment, and ask yourself, what percentage of those thoughts are self-centered, and what percentage are selfless. It is a common misconception that to be selfless means that you lose yourself and stop meeting your own needs. Part of being selfless is taking care of yourself for others. We all need a certain degree of selfishness to care for ourselves, but this is much different from being self-centered. I recently read a book about the art of love, and part of it is that relationships should take the paradigm of “I take care of me for you and you take care of you for me” rather than “I take care of you for you, You take care of me for me”. It really just makes more sense to take care of ourselves and then share that whole, healthy person with the people you love. That is as unselfish as it gets.
If you ever find yourself thinking things related to pitying or feeling sorry for yourself, realize this and see that it is one of the least productive things you could do.
3. Realize that you only have control of yourself
How could we ever live up to the expectations of the world surrounding us without the ability to control everyone within it? Well, we can’t control anyone other than ourselves, so it follows that we probably cannot live up to all of the expectations. You know those things you do to make others like you? Well, maybe those things are actually making them dissatisfied with you. You never know what’s going on in someones mind. People are so diverse that there is no way to do the ‘right’ thing for everyone.
The best thing you can every do is be yourself. Your flawed self, because that’s the most important thing you can share with the world. Shine the light of who you are on everyone around you, and make them feel the weight of who you are. A person who is strong enough to ignore fear and make their own decisions will ignite a wildfire of other people they know doing the same thing. Accept your freedom to do what you know is right.
4. Find comfort in basics
If you want to know something, ask someone. Do not make assumptions, rather speak until you know the answers. If you’re afraid of something, tell someone. Just don’t hold back. Live life in a way that you feel free. Free to speak your mind because you have no fear. Free to do what you want because you know it’s right, not because your friends want you to do it.
Be authentic. Be imperfect, messy, happy, silly. Be whatever you are.
But, what must follow is that we help others to be who they are as well. Let people be comfortable around you, let them know that they are in a place free of criticism. Life is to be lived in the moment. Let go of the past and live your life passionately right now.
5. Realize you don’t have all the answers and that life is an adventure
There’s no way to possibly know if you should buy the red house or the purple house. There’s no way of knowing what your decisions will turn into down the road. So just make them. Have fun creating your life rather than fearfully making little decisions. Just go with the flow and do what feels right at the time. Make your life something enjoyable, a journey that you lived fearlessly.
So, I challenge you to live your life fearlessly for 30 days, and see how it feels. If you don’t like it, go back to normal after the 30 days. But at least give it a shot.
*The quote at the top is by Nelson Mandela