Have you ever felt like you were not living the life you were supposed to live? Do you constantly feel like you are chasing after something more meaningful in life? The challenge of living a life that you do not feel connected to is that it brings with it discontent and distress. Imagine being a skilled folk singer longing to spend your days performing in pubs along the coast of Vancouver Island, yet you have spent the majority of your adult life in a 9:00-5:00 clerical job in central Saskatchewan. Or, imagine wanting to spend your life travelling the world, seeing the sights, engaging in new cultures, and taking up extreme adventures, yet you reside in a small town, consistently going about each day in the exact same way, and never venturing outside a regular routine.
There are many reasons why people end up in a life that does not fit who they are. In some cases, life events may direct a person’s decisions. For example, when faced with the loss of a loved one or a serious illness, we make choices to address or survive the situation. These choices may take us away from a more authentic life plan. In other cases, someone else may have made decisions for you. Consider the influence you parents have had on your education and career decisions or the influence of your spouse on your activity choices and life goals. Others lose their way by taking the safe or easy routes. Change is difficult. Even when someone realizes they are on the wrong path, the effort needed to change can appear overwhelming forcing the person to maintain status quo.
There are many adverse consequences if we get stuck in a life path that is not authentic. Often we feel empty and unfulfilled. We may perceive our life as having no direction. There can be a constant yearning and searching for something more. We can become easily frustrated because the things we are doing are not getting us to a point in life where we want to be. We can become envious of others. We may disconnect from others and disengage from life in general. We may become emotionally numb, unhappy, or depressed.
Finding your authentic life plan involves four key steps:
- Redefine success. We often define success by the value others place on us. Success needs to be defined more intrinsically. Instead of worrying what others value, we need to evaluate what is important to our self. This requires evaluating what our values are and how we want to define our self.
- Find your passion. When motivated by our passion, we experience energy, creativity, and motivation. We need to find the things we love and pursue them relentlessly. We also need to identify the passions that align with our values.
- Find a Way to Do It. Sometimes the hardest step is figuring out how to chase our passion. This step requires perseverance and creative thinking. You can find a way to chase your passion by thinking outside the box and taking some risks. Follow the adage that ‘where there is a will, there is a way.’
- Surround yourself with supportive people. The people around us can set us up for success or failure. Find people that share your passion or that can be your loudest cheerleaders. Avoid those that doubt your goals or abilities. Remember that sometimes those closest to us may encourage us to do what is safe or what is in their best interest. Find those that respect your choices to seek an authentic self.
Dr. Stephen Rochefort is a registered psychologist in the province of Alberta. For more information on this or any other forensic or clinical psychology topic, contact Dr. Stephen by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (403.986.1044).