Or Is Life Controlling You?
There are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river. And of these objects, some are held back by sluggish waters and are transported gently; others are torn along by a more violent current; some, which are nearest the bank, are left there as the current slackens; and others are carried out to sea by the onrush of the stream. Therefore, we should decide what we wish, and abide by the decision.
-Seneca from Moral Letters to Lucilius
It took me a long time to figure out I was not in control of my life, and for many years I allowed others to control me. They controlled my time, my future, my thoughts. They controlled what I did and how I did it. And looking back now, I didn’t realize how much control they had over me.
I followed the path laid out for me by society and others. I did what I was supposed to do. You know what I’m talking about right?
The college, work for 40 years, retire then die path. Be a good employee and don’t complain path. The day in, day out robot path with the white picket fence and “American Dream” logo stamped on it.
Like the quote from Seneca above, I was being swept along in life. The current of life was carrying me and I allowed it to happen without ever trying to stop it.
Many of you are the same. You allow others to control your life like I did.
Staying in a job you hate because you need the money? The security? Are you studying something in college because it is what your parents expect? How about remaining in an unfulfilling relationship because it’s comfortable? Or maybe you are doing all the above because the unknown may be worse? How about always doing what your friends or family want you to do to keep the peace?
Everyone gives up control of certain aspects of their life. This is common, especially in employment. And if you are happy in life, then not having control is not something you think about or need to change.
But many are unhappy, and you may be one of those. If you are, regaining control can allow you to live a more fulfilled life. Unfortunately, a lot of us realize we have not been in control until later in life.
We’ve spent four years at college pursuing a degree our parents wanted us to pursue. We don’t speak up for ourselves at work because we are afraid of losing our jobs. Spending money on useless material items because we learn from an early age to consume drains our finances. We try to keep up with others because success equals happiness. Or so we are told.
We repeat the same mistakes over and over and deny that we are not in control. But does it seem like life was already written for you and you had no input? If I were to ask about your life, could you answer it’s what you wanted? Have you adapted to everyone else’s expectations for you or are you meeting your own?
Whose life have you been living?
Remember when you were a kid? There was unlimited potential. No life-altering choices had been made (well, maybe some of us anyway), there were no commitments and we had our whole lives ahead of us.
But somewhere along the way, something happened. We realized the world wasn’t the way we hoped it would be, and we conformed. Conformed to society’s expectations. We stopped being ourselves, and we stopped pursuing our dreams.
Now that I’m a little older, I’ve realized my previous careers were not what I wanted. I thought it was, but after suffering through my career and hating about every aspect of most of my jobs, I woke up and looked at why I chose this path.
I realized I pursued careers which would have made someone else proud. I’m not trying to blame someone else for my career choices as I take personal responsibility for my decisions. Yet, it influenced me to follow a different path. I was living my life for someone else. I followed what was expected of me, not what I wanted.
How many of you are doing the same thing? Are you following a path not right for you? Is it a path which others want you to follow?
Fortunately, it is never too late to change your path.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve realized to be my happiest, I have to pursue my dreams. I have to forge my own path and not allow others to control my life anymore. I won’t risk NOT living my life the way I want. The way I need. I can no longer be miserable in a career I hate and living long enough to retire while remaining in a miserable job isn’t a bet I’m willing to make.
I can’t NOT pursue what I want anymore. Because I know what the alternative looks like.
I understand we are all governed by the world around us and our circumstances. We all have commitments we have to attend to and making drastic changes can be difficult. And many things are out of our control. But you can make a plan to get out of the job you hate. You can take control of your finances by spending less and selling things you don’t need. We can change many things with action and a plan.
If you hate your job, you need to make finding a new job your second job. If you are stuck, figure out a way to dig yourself out. Because no one will do it for you. You are not too old, you have enough time, you are smart enough, and you can regain control. You can take back your life.
Stop being comfortable in a life which is not fulfilling. Stop letting others control your life and your time. Have the courage to live life how you want despite everything you’ve been told. Stop going through the motions.
I was living someone else’s life, and it wasn’t the life I had planned. I did everything I was supposed to do, everything I was sold. But the dream was more like a nightmare. I know I’m responsible for living how others thought I should live. That’s on me.
But I’m also responsible for taking back control of my life. You are too.