It’s so easy to pigeonhole what ‘success’ in life means. The typical narrative – as is drummed into the majority of people from almost the moment they’re born tends to runlike this:
Birth – Childhood – School – Degree -Career – Marriage – Children – Retirement – End
As well meaning as parents, educators and other influential proponents of this plan might be, this formula for perceived success is full of myths. Inherent to this life plan is the unspoken assumption that failure to achieve any stage of this path means you have failed in life. When we think of it that way, it really sounds quite ridiculous – for as if this model of going to be suitable for all 7 billion people on the planet!
Here we’re going to take a look at the truth behind seven of the most common myths that are preached to us throughout life, as show how happiness can in fact be stronger among those who stray away from this plan.
Myth 1: ‘A successful career is finding white collar employment after graduating from college’
It’s so brazenly pushed that in order to succeed you need to have an office, a desk and ideally your name on the door. Joining a bureaucracy and working your way to the top is considered respectable and responsible as a career path. Those opting for creative jobs using their natural talent or developed skills are living in the clouds and will never achieve to much.
This is clearly nonsense. People who work with their own skills and creative agenda often do materially very well, but in many cases that is secondary to their personal happiness. Being able to live from your own talents is an amazing lifestyle – and this runs also through the many creative industries. There’s never been more of a cross-over between working for ‘the man’ as part of a business while the job also encourages flair and creative vision. Programmers, Graphic artists – even marketing – all require huge amounts of vision.
Myth 2: ‘Without marriage and children, your life in incomplete’
There’s a good chance this myth isn’t going to be around for many more generations, yet for now it’s still the kind of unspoken rule that there must be something wrong with you should you not actively seek out family life.
The reality is that people have never been more individualistic. Sure people get married and have kids all the time – but by no means everyone does, and certainly not at the same age. People who do get hitched do so at all stages in life, others may spend their lives together yet but not wed. Plenty don’t have kids out of choice. We no longer need an extended family to look after us in old age, so until then why not enjoy life and go with the flow – after all, if it’s going to happen it’ll happen.
Myth 3: ‘You must own a house to be a genuine winner’
Owning a house lays down the roots for everything else – stability, family, roots and so on. There goes the myth. Sure if that’s what you want then go for it, but there’s no pressure. Owning a property is a massive commitment not just financially, but also emotionally – you will be setting up ‘home’ and are essentially tying yourself to an area in the long term.
Alternatively you could enjoy a huge amount more freedom and flexibility about where you’d like your life go. Many people are put off by the commitment of mortgages and pressure to stay in employment, and are willing to forego ‘the best investment is property’ myth in exchange for personal liberty.
Myth 4: ‘If you copy others you’ll be happy too’
This ties in with the first myth we looked at but is worth a deeper look. Take a glance around your friends and peers, notice how many of them seem to pairing up, buying homes or falling into similar careers? The myth runs that if you’re like the people you know then you’ll be as successful as they are projecting themselves.
Liking your friends doesn’t for a second you need to be like them at all. Trying to fit in usually ends up in feeling uncomfortable and unfulfilled, whereas being yourself and pursuing your own hopes and dreams is something that people will secretly rather envy. There’s no need to just ‘go with the flow’ – set your own course and let life take you wherever you choose.
Myth 5: ‘You work for a happy retirement’
Life’s hard. It’s a struggle, a battle of endurance, wits and wills to accumulate enough material comfort so that you can enjoy the last stage of your life in peace and harmony. Errrr – why can’t we try to be happy all of our lives? Are people really comfortable with spending three quarters of their lives grafting away for a future that might never happen? It’s a grim fact but every day can be your last – so surely it’s better to be happy right through!
Happiness doesn’t mean having a nice big house to die in. There’s beauty and vibrancy and joy all around us every day if you decide to look for it. It’ll be happy if you find it, really it will.
Myth 6: ‘Dreams should be put aside in place of security’
Sure you might want to drop it all and set off to do your own thing – but what about the risks? You might lose everything, look a fool and throw away years worth of effort that has taken you to where you are today – better just sit tight and try again next time…. Sorry – there isn’t going to be a next time to be you, and only now can you seek out to make you happy.
Is a lifetime of disappointment and dissatisfaction worth accepting when you could be loving and thriving every single day of your existence, knowing that no matter what you gave it a shot? Your call…..
Myth 7: ‘More = happy’
Our entire financial and political system is based upon this notion. Having more or at least the best of something means that you’ve won and deserve the right to be overwhelming happy with yourself.
If that’s the game you chose to play and you’re genuinely happy, well done. The reality is that most people are happy with fewer items in their lives, and it has been shown time after time that the pursuit of pleasure and material satisfaction leads only to dissatisfaction and a craving for even more. So if some people want to be a hamster on a wheel then that’s their call – but if given the choice to live outside the cage, liberty can bring people genuine freedom and happiness.
By: Mike Brown
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