When someone repeats something over and over you tend to believe it.
Even if it’s a lie.
Society has perpetuated these falsities throughout our lives, and everyone and their mother has bought into these ideas as “common sense.”
Yet when you question or challenge these ideas, society punches back swiftly, with brute force.
Society doesn’t like anyone who rocks the boat or takes a different path because…you might become happy and fulfilled.
And you might do it on your own terms.
And that’s just…not right.
Society wants you to play by its rules. It wants to be the rule-setter. It wants to be the law-creator and the dream-master. It wants to tell you yay or nay.
Society wants you to succeed on its terms, not yours.
And who is the ubiquitous society that lies to you?
Oh, you know, Mom and Dad. Uncle Lou. The Cooper family next door. The O’Brien family down the street. Nana and Dadaji.
Your community: El Dorado Hills. Folsom. Davis. Yuba City. Fremont. Pleasanton. Visakhapatnam. Chennai. Kolkata. Bangalore. Pune. Hyderabad. Singapore. Hong Kong. Shanghai. Osaka. Kuala Lumpur. Tokyo.
Pretty much anywhere you live in the world.
Your radio station. Your TV shows and telenovelas. Your Hollywood movies and Bollywood cinema (especially your Bollywood cinema!!).
Your Facebook feed, Instagram account and Twitter feed.
Celebrities and politicians.
Authors and journalists.
Your teachers and professors. Your career guidance counselors. Your mentors.
Newspapers and television news.
So how do you combat these lies?
You wake up!
Become aware that society is feeding you a bunch of bold-faced lies.
Challenge society’s assumptions and dictates.
Do what’s right for you and ignore the thundering buzz of lies that society feeds you.
Wake up. Stand up.
Stand up for your own happiness and live your own truth.
9 Lies Society Desperately Needs You to Believe
1) You need top schools and high marks for success.
This is the boldest-faced lie of all. Society feeds it to you from the day you start kindergarten.
All over the world, you hear that your marks and grades in school are what count.
Creativity. Character. Compassion. Kindness. It doesn’t matter. How you do on your next exam matters. How you do in school determines how much your family accepts you. How you perform correlates to how much love you receive.
And how well you do directly relates to your future success.
While, yes, better grades get you into better schools, better colleges and higher-paying jobs – is that really what success is about?
If success is about being happy, not rich, then society is lying to you like an expensive Persian rug.
Top schools and high marks are for people who don’t have confidence and who need external rankings and reputations to validate themselves.
If you have initiative, drive and confidence, focus on what interests you and what you’re passionate about.
Don’t allow your grades to determine your value.
2) You need graduate school and a professional degree to be a success.
Unfortunately, they don’t teach that class at Yale or Cambridge.
Even if you go to a top graduate program or pick up a fancy professional degree, you have no idea if you’re going to be happy or successful in that field.
You have no more certainty that you’re going to pursue your purpose or find your dream job.
Be patient with the path. Since your dream job won’t find you, go out there and seek a variety of opportunities to help you eliminate jobs and careers that don’t fit.
Run away furiously from soul-crushing work; find work that brings you joy and makes you jump out of bed in the morning.
Do you really need a degree from a top school, considering that many millionaires dropped out of college, many billionaires went to average schools and many successful people never finished high school?
Graduate degrees leave you with debt, consume years of your life and force you to specialize in one career track.
If you’re uncertain about your abilities and if fear paralyzes you, go to a top school.
If you believe in yourself, find work that you’re good at and that you’re passionate about.
3) Pursuing your dreams is for the foolish and naïve.
If you quit your job and write poetry, people will think you’ve lost your mind. A society that sees you as a threat to convention will meet your independence and creativity with resistance.
“Who do you think you are?” it will smirk.
It’s never too early or too late to follow your dreams. And you don’t have to drop everything to start on them.
You don’t have to quit your job, sell your house and live on the streets to launch your music career.
Take small steps today to transition to or create your dream job. You can use a volunteer position, time after the kids have gone to bed, or the weekends to nurture your dreams.
Take small but consistent steps, even if you have a family or financial obligations. Work on your dreams every day. Create time for your dreams.
Society wants you to pursue your dreams only when you’re financially well-off or retired, but don’t delay on getting started.
4) You need to become a homeowner and own the biggest house you can afford.
When you own a home, as I did in the past, you have a regular monthly mortgage and obligations. This comes with financial worries, continuous expenses and a lifetime of regular upkeep.
A home, they say, will bring financial stability.
But…it will also constrict your life, limit your freedom and keep you stuck in a life you may not want.
Without a home, you can save and invest more of your money in your future.
Without a home, you can travel more and pursue your dreams more vigorously.
You won’t have a constant financial commitment that you’ll work a lifetime to pay off.
The real estate industry and the “American dream” want you to buy into the nonsense that a house = security + stability + a set financial future. Well, the industry profits plenty when you buy a home.
Without a giant financial commitment, you’ll be free to live your life instead of feeding the never-ending house-monster.
You can find financial stability without a home. You’ll also have freedom, peace of mind and more money to do what you want.
5) The bigger your salary, the more success you’ll have (and the happier you’ll be).
Having enough money to cover your basic life necessities is important, but why tie your internal happiness to your bank balance?
Society, like your parents and teachers, wants you to believe that the longer and harder you work, the more money you’ll earn. With more money, you can buy more things.
Society leads you to believe that the more possessions you own and the more junk you collect, the happier you’ll be.
Reality and the research show that your happiness plateaus after you reach a salary of $75,000.
If you buy into society’s construct of money and wealth, you will need more money to buy the things society insists will bring you happiness.
Retailers need your money. Corporations need your money. Luxury car makers need your money. Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue need your money.
Hopefully, you realize that you don’t need gadgets, furniture, jewelry or cars to bring you happiness.
You can find happiness by simply being and choosing to be so.
You can be happy by being thankful for what you have.
You can cultivate happiness by serving others.
You can find happiness in family and friendship.
You can find happiness in doing work that is meaningful and in activities that feed your passion.
And you can buy all this happiness for $0.
6) Simple living = poor living
You can survive while owning less stuff. Yes, you can.
Without material possessions, you can find yourself in breathtaking scenery, among rich cultures and traditions, and in the company of inspirational people.
All you have to do is look around and acknowledge what you have. The most dazzling beaches may be a mere 15 minutes from where you live. The little remote village you’re staying in may have stunning views and sunsets.
Without much money, you can have rich experiences – experiences money can’t buy. Take a free tour of a nearby gallery, visit a mystical city or take a walking tour to see the wonders of where you live.
Broaden your network of friends so you can share music, poetry, art, recipes, travel stories and other experiences with each other.
Having less stuff and richer experiences allows for greater connection with the world and for more intimate relationships.
You can escape the excessive consumerism and materialism of today’s society.
You can live simply and enjoy rich experiences and an abundance of happiness.
7) You need a life partner (and a kid) to be complete.
Every Disney story and every fairytale you’ve heard in every Taylor Swift song on the radio remind you that you’re not enough if you’re single.
Society wants you to be part of a couple. And can’t imagine someone being happy alone.
Society wants you to experience the “joys” of couplehood and marriage. Society wants you to have (raise and pay for) a kid as well.
When you’re hitched and have a kid, you’re complete. You can buy bigger real estate, own two cars and get more stuff.
A family is a consumer-driven society’s fantasy – the bigger the family unit, the more you spend.
Don’t buy into this lie that society has perpetuated for generations. Just because everyone’s doing it (getting hitched) doesn’t mean you have to.
Cameron Diaz, Oprah, actress Tabu, Padma Lakshmi, Cory Booker and Condoleezza Rice are a handful of the rich and famous who have not.
And you don’t have to either. Don’t get hitched because society expects you to.
Or your mother. Or your grandmother.
Fight the world that wants you to put a ring on it. If you don’t want him to put a ring on it, keep your hands in your pockets!
Instead of seeking a perfect partner, seek to become a better version of yourself.
Then find a partner who enhances you or makes you better, not someone who completes you.
8) World travel is for the rich and famous.
Why travel today when you can wait until you’re rich, famous or retired?
Of course, if you look at packaged tours or mainstream travel publications that include all-in-one packages, travel seems out of reach.
But if you look at more creative travelers, backpackers and do-it-yourself nomads, you’ll find that traveling is way cheaper than you think.
Here’s an excellent post about all the different options for saving more, spending less and getting the most out of travel. This post defeats every excuse you have about travel.
Traveling is not just for the wealthy anymore.
You can travel on the cheap if you plan ahead and do your research online. Pick up a travel guide, read blogs that help you travel cheaply, and be flexible with your travel plans. You can even travel cheap for the long term.
If world travel doesn’t entice you, why not see more of the city you live in, or check out nearby travel spots?
Travel so you can see the world around you.
Travel so you can learn new things, open your mind and have new experiences.
Travel so you can find inspiration.
Don’t push off travel ‘til you can afford it or you have time – you might not be alive by the time you’re ready.
9) Your happiest days are ahead.
Society reminds you constantly that where you are is not enough.
If you do x, y and z, you’ll find the happiness you desire.
You’ll be happy when you buy that jacket or own that car or live in that house.
Peace of mind, happiness and fulfilled dreams are all in the future.
Wake-up call: Your best days are not ahead of you.
As spiritual author Eckhart Tolle has quipped, “It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole lives waiting to start living.”
Sure, your life circumstances and situations may improve, but why wait on better days when you can choose happiness today?
The best way to find happiness now is to live in the present moment.
Within each moment, strive to be present. Be willing to let go and accept what comes your way.
If you can find contentment and peace in the present moment, you’ll realize that your best day is today.
You can be grateful for whatever you have in your life now: the good, the bad and the challenging.
You can be happy by doing things that make you happy.
Tomorrow may never come. All you have is now.
Stop the lies!
Live your truth.
*Photo credit Unsplash