Barack Obama once said, ‘no one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion.’ His words are undeniably a powerful statement concerning racism, but they are also far more expansive. In every culture, people live out stories that have been created by humans who came before us about what is right, wrong and expected of us. In the West, these concepts include the need to be busy, the belief that hard work and long hours are the only right path and that money and status equal success, but no one is born believing this, these constructs are not the truth; they are stories.
Reality is created by the mind. We can change our reality by changing our mind.Plato
These stories created by humans are played out repeatedly across generations and cultures. In the last decade, millennials have been questioning and challenging various deep-rooted constructs around how life and work should be, which has resulted in a lot of frustration aimed directly at them. Challenge to existing constructs can feel highly uncomfortable for people who are bought into and firmly living those stories, resulting in fierce resistance and criticism towards anyone trying to change or suggest another way. In the vein of honesty, while age-wise, I almost fall into the Millennial category I have in the past criticized them too, and now I openly say ‘SORRY!’
I’m pretty open-minded and flexible, yet I’m aware people will do things, live their lives, in ways I don’t understand. Nonetheless, these days I say, do it! Shake things up, seek your own ideals, live by your own philosophy. The only overarching philosophy that should be acknowledged universally is ‘don’t be an asshole.’
So long as you are respectful of and compassionate toward others while on your journey, challenge away, be the change. Find the schedule and priorities that work for you. Define your own success. Define what is right and wrong for you, so that you feel tip-top. I see how such advice could sound like the promotion of selfishness. On the contrary, when you are thriving, you allow, invite even, those around you to flourish, and naturally, you become a powerful change-maker for good from this position. As Shams Tabrizi said, ‘If each day is a copy of the last one, what a pity.’
I lived all the Western stories for success, and it’s taken me about nine months to break away from these stories piece by piece. I’m still on the journey to truly embrace a new perspective on life and success, yet I’m already a darned sight happier than when fixating on the need for corporate status and an ever-growing wage. The doors of opportunity for fun, adventure and fulfillment have never been thrown wider.
My new story is allowing me to consider and plan for dreams that until now, because of my beliefs around expectations, work, and success I thought were impossible. But more on the detail of that another day. I now see that our dreams’ most significant hurdle is the limitation of our own beliefs, that hundreds of years of societal expectation have built into us.
I fully accept and acknowledge that some people are more privileged than others. I am certainly more fortunate than many people, and I am also less privileged than many others. However, for each of us, challenging our existing beliefs and the falsehoods we are living out opens up more doors and opportunities to us. I know this because I’ve lived it. I would have wholeheartedly said it was impossible to leave my job, move country and plan for great adventures. I would have said all of this was too risky, stupid, crazy, foolish, yet here I am doing precisely that.
Getting myself to a position where I could embark on new adventures was not a walk in the park. I worked hard, I was dedicated and determined, and even when I first entered the working world, I always saved, (Thank you, Ma & Pa, for teaching me to be sensible with finances. Your approach may have been more about saving for children or the longer-term future. My saving may be more for adventures and business, but the same principle created the freedom I can now enjoy). I developed a chronic illness from stress and excessive travel while not advocating for myself enough in the corporate world. I have felt terribly lonely living in a foreign land far from my family. I have suffered anxiety and depression at times, where the future seemed so uncertain. I have had to operate heavily outside of my comfort zone. I have experienced frustrations that my life was not progressing as I thought it should. I have had to go through questioning and having questioned my true beliefs to find a space where I could change my view on life and my definition of success. And what is that definition?
Success is about taking and creating experiences that induce awe and amazement. It is about looking back on my life with no regrets. It is about spending time with the people I care about. It is about giving back to the people in my life and this beautiful planet on which I have the privilege of living. It is about smiling, laughing and being happy, and the road to all of this can be different for everyone. Happiness, awe, amazement are all subjective, and that’s why life truly is a unique adventure for each of us.
Today if I can offer one piece of advice, it is this. Think of something you would love to do – it could be a simple or a great thing. Go public with it, put steps in place to make it happen and do it! Then pause, notice how that made you feel and use that feeling as the fuel to do it again and again and again.
Because in the end you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddam mountain.Jack Kerouac