How much of your life actually belongs to you? There’s a good chance that little of your life’s framework is actually your own creation. As children, we observe the world around us, take in survival strategies that allow us to fit into our families who were our source of food, protection, and love. We mistake these survival strategies – and the expectations than come with them – for reality. As adults, we realize that on the other side of the planet there are children learning a completely different set of rules and believing in their heart that they are real.
So, what are the expectations that you’ve absorbed? These were probably handed to you without question by well-meaning parents and teachers who were trying to help you survive in the world they knew. Some classics include:
- Go to college.
- Work hard to until 65 and retire.
- Be thin, have glossy hair, etc.
- Marry well/never marry/don’t rely on another person/find someone to take care of you.
- Have children/don’t have children.
- Buy a house, have a yard, send your kids to college.
The list goes on depending on your tribe’s commitment to any particular survival strategy.
But are any of these expectations true for you? Are any of these expectations anything other than random, collectively imagined best practices that may have been helpful in another time, but are only loosely related to to the challenges of life today?
I watch as my sons begin to make decisions on starting their adult lives, I realize that the framework I’ve handed them for making these decisions is as arbitrary as the one handed to me. Their lives belong to them. Their hearts are their own. They must define their reality and shake off the one I handed to them. Mine was formed in another century and has no relevance to the world they’ve inherited. Likewise, I‘m shaking off the framework handed to me.
How much of your life is your own? The answer should be 100%, but it’s likely not. As a step toward that goal, consider these questions:
- Where do I really want to live?
- What do I want in my day-to-day life?
- What work would feed my soul?
- What would really make me happy?
For me, the practice of simple living answers some of these qustions. Simple Living provides focus on the few things that bring me happiness: a small, tidy space, food that I know if good for me, movement that brings me joy, family, and work that challenges and rewards me. These small things are my simple answers for just today. And for today, that’s enough.