These are uncertain times for all of us.
I am here in Malaysia on my own path and just as worried as everyone else.
Although the virus threat here is limited, the economy has come to a standstill.
You know it’s serious in Malaysia when they’ve closed down the night markets and outdoor food stalls.
I mean - the outdoor food stalls !?!
And in the United States, where I was living until late last year, people are on edge.
My friends, like in other parts of the world, have been asked to stay home from work, not send their kids to school and stay away from others.
Every institution that we were familiar with has come to a grinding halt.
Society as we know it has stopped.
On my end, in Malaysia, I’m writing away and following my own path. There is nothing like a quarantine to dedicate large chunks of time to writing.
I’m noticing that my book sales on Amazon are increasing. Interesting, that people are buying books and consuming content at home during this pandemic.
And either because people are at home or because I’ve been promoting my coaching of late here, I’m getting more coaching inquiries this month and doing more sessions than I have in the past.
Ever since I started writing and coaching people online, my close family and friends have suggested I do something that earns more money like going back to my previous legal career.
I have totally ignored their suggestions and advice and have stuck by my desire to create content, sell books and coach online. I recently started another blog to help other coaches sell their coaching services.
Society thinks IT has it right.
It tells you how to study, where to go to work, what kind of job to do, what place to live and how to live your life. It tells you what happiness is, what love is and what a fulfilling life is.
Society instructs you to earn the most amount of money you can.
There is major groupthink going on.
Especially in this traditional Indian cultures by mine.
They tell you what to study (computers or medicine), what age to get married at (25), and even who to marry (a family with property). They tell you what to do next (buy a house and have two kids). They tell you what celebrations to celebrate: weddings, the birth of your kids and 60th birthdays.
Your culture or society may also be telling you how to live your life and not to follow your own path.
Even in the west, society indirectly tells you to get a college degree, a good-paying job and the biggest house you can find.
Education and income is seen as the good life. This is fine unless…..it’s not the life for you!
Everyone is told the same thing and you are told this because society has a strong interest in getting you to comply.
Society needs you to do it’s work.
Houses need to be bought.
Colleges need students.
Hospitals need patients and they need people on health insurance.
The path that society has set for us isn’t exactly sane, normal or fulfilling. (I write more about this in my book, 7 Sacred Promises (affiliate link)
When my marriage fell apart, I just had this realization that made me doubt all the institutions society had set up.
What if this was not the way to live?
We are only living this way because everyone else is but you know what?
You don’t have to live this way. This isn’t the only route.
You don’t have to follow one path, marry one person, live in one place and do one job.
You have options.
You can buck the trend.
You can break the societal mandates and follow your own path but you may face some obstacles in the way.
Your mind likely nags you about these questions anytime you consider a different path.
Here are 8 common obstacles to living your own path and how to overcome it:
1. What if I don’t know what to do?
If you come to the realization that what you’re doing isn’t working or isn’t meaningful, then you’re at a starting point already.
If you feel like you are caught up in society’s game, then you are where you need to be.
Knowing what you don’t want to do is a major starting point to figure out what you do want to do and figuring out your own path.
If you are done with corporate, you can rule all those paths out of your life.
If you are done with the government, you can eliminate those careers from your path.
Figure out all the things you don’t want to do as a starting point.
2. What if I don’t want to quit my job and travel the world?
Who’s asking you to quit your job and travel the world?
If that isn’t for you, that isn’t for you.
Your job isn’t to follow anyone’s path but your own.
The idea is to live your life on your own terms so figuring out what your values are, what your desired lifestyle is, what your daily looks like and what is meaningful work for you.
The idea here is to not live like everyone else and jump into the rat race. It’s to be mindful and intentional with how you spend your work time and what it is you do. It’s about contributing in a way that uses your strengths to do work that matters to you.
Instead of quitting your job and traveling the world, you can do more meaningful work. You can earn a living from your spiritual or passion work. You can do work that actually helps people. You can have a career change to do work that is not contingent on a particular salary to afford the lifestyle society expects you to have.
You can get off the treadmill.
3. What if I fail?
I love this question because as we speak, I’m’ afraid. I honestly have no idea if my writing and coaching business will work. The positive is that I have been progressively doing better every month but will this be enough to sustain me for the long run?
I honestly have no idea but here’s the thing, I don’t care because I know that working or not, this dream and career (writing and coaching) will get me to the next place. I will continue to do more of it if I get my wish or it will take me to the next place in my life, so I’m’ continuing on my own path.
Failure will get you to where you need to go. If you try something and it doesn’t work, be grateful for the experience. Not everything is lost, similar to a failed relationship. If you do marriage badly and get a divorce, you still become a better future partner who is a little wiser in relationships.
There is no failure, only learning and redirection.
4. What if I can’t make money?
Making money through a job is the safest and surest way to make money until… things like natural disasters happen.
Jobs and income go away during lay-offs and redundancies. You are likely to lose your job any time when business goes bad.
If you want to transition out of a job into a job that pays less, know that you’re better of doing a job for meaning because you’ll feel abundantly rich.
If you want to work for yourself and start your own thing, why not have a little bit more control about your income and how much money you make?
You’ve never had the opportunity to try to make money on your own. Why not try it and see if it can work?
The resistance to or fear about not making money is about your mindset.
Venturing out on your own and attempting to earn a living for yourself is a way for personal growth and an opportunity to change your money mindset.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with money and earning a living is not as hard as you think it may be.
You just have to learn how to earn it like you learned how to earn it at your day job.
5. What if I’m afraid?
Pursuing meaningful work is scary because it is uncertain and may come at the expense of a pay cut.
Yet, consider what is really scary - wasting your one precious life, not doing work that you want to be doing and can impact the world.
What is scary is living your whole life and then regretting not having done what you wanted to have done.
As I mentioned earlier, the worse thing that can happen is failure and even failure will get you to the next phase in your life.
Venturing off and pursuing what’s meaningful to you maybe scary but you now get to practice facing your fears, for today and for the future.
Breaking off from societal mandates and following your own path will be a practice in confronting fear.
6. What if I fall further behind than everyone I know?
Your friends are getting fancy jobs, moving up in their careers and buying houses.
Venturing out and doing your own thing means you’ll be left out and fall farther behind.
Exactly! That’s the point.
The rest of society is marching to their own drum beat and they don’t exactly know where they are marching to. Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean they are right.
Let me repeat: Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean they are right.
You want to fall behind because falling behind might be falling ahead.
Falling behind can lead you to clarity, meaning, fulfillment and happiness.
7. What if I can’t afford to take a leap right now?
Do not quit your job right now and move to Hollywood to start your acting career or the Himalayas to start your spiritual retreat. There is a right way and wrong way to pursue your dreams.
The thing is that you should get clear on first is what you want. Have some picture of the life you want and a good idea about your life purpose. It doesn’t have to be the final thing. Just start somewhere. Then work on figuring out the strategies to achieve that purpose and the financial numbers you need to make that happen.
Save up for it. If you can’t save up for it, minimize your life and expenses. What I did was live in cheaper places and saved a good portion of my paycheck.
I had an exit date and savings to last for a year. I’ve done this twice in my life now. When I did this the last time and I wasn’t making the income I needed, I went back to my previous job. I earned more at my day job and built up my side income even more so I could make the leap again.
8. What’s preventing you from taking action?
We crave comfort more than anything else.
When you are following the crowd and society-designed life, it’s easy, comfortable and certain.
Until it’s not and the life you had built up suddenly disappears from you in front of you because of a recession or slowdown in business.
Comfort makes you want to sit back and go through the society-designed path even if you are not happy or fulfilled.
Between fear and uncertainty versus comfort and a society-prescribed life, many of us will chose the latter. We want certainty of our jobs, pay-checks and pay increases.
I get that’s what drives society but is that what drives you?
Have you considered that there’s another possibility and another option?
Can you create your own path of meaning and purpose instead of pay increases and new titles?
Ready to start your own path? Check out my life direction coaching offering. It’s the first step to living the life you want.