“This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.” - Gary Lew
Do you want to know the best advice I’ve ever received? It was to chart my own path. Within those four words, I realized something monumental: The only person who can define and determine my destiny is me.
I’m the one who has the responsibility for managing my thoughts. I alone am responsible for the positive thinking that’s needed to spur positive actions and productive habits throughout my life. I’m the one who is responsible for how fruitful my life ends up being.
In those four words, I also learned that I must refuse to listen to the voices that preach defeat, impossibility, negativity, discouragement, and small dreams. That I must take care to beware of people who choose to belittle or not support my dreams. That what I achieve is my success. My dreams. My victory. It’s no one else’s.
Obeying the rules
Do you ever feel like you’re living on someone else’s terms and not on your own? I know at times I’ve felt this way. I also know, I’m not alone. We grow up in a society where confining ourselves to the traditional expectations of happiness and success is easier.
I mean, let’s face it, life is full of rules. Some are explicit. Like how one should format a blog post or drive on a city street. Others are more nuanced. More gray than black and white. These are rules like what you’re supposed to do with your life. Like what career you should pursue. Or that you should marry.
While these rules are intended to help us all live happier lives or to enjoy more success, they can’t guarantee we’ll experience less heartache. Or really that we’ll experience more or less of anything.
Here are a few examples of the rules I’ve heard repeated throughout the years:
● Never quit
● Go to college
● Get a good-paying job
● Marry a nice man or woman
● Buy a house
● Have kids
While these rules can serve as useful when making life decisions, if you’re not excited about the direction your life is headed in, it’s time to assess why you’re holding yourself hostage to the norms of society. Breaking these rules and making your own isn’t about thumbing your nose in the face of society. It’s about deciding to live life on your own terms. To do that, you must challenge society’s norms.
Challenging the norms
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to take charge of your own life and intentionally chart the exact path that you want? It probably sounds a bit scary. But it shouldn’t be.
You know what sounds scarier to me? Hearing stories of people who get married because it was what they were supposed to do. Not because they actually were excited to commit to another and embark on a new life journey. Or knowing people who’ve put themselves thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars into debt because they didn’t know what to do with their lives. So instead, they went to college followed by more college and then onto graduate school. And I’m absolutely terrified by the idea that people stay stuck in dead-end jobs or ones they hate for years—or decades—after they should have left.
All for what? To save their ego or keep up appearances? It has to be exhausting. And disheartening. Personally, I think it’s time we all stopped playing the game. Instead, I think it’s time we all embraced a new way of living. Solely based on the fact that we need to chart our own path.
Charting your own path
Early on, I knew I had a go-getter attitude. Even if others didn’t see it. Sure, my childhood wasn’t what you’d typically define as normal, but that didn’t stop me.
As I moved through my career path, however, it was clear my upbringing didn’t matter. It also was clear that money—and the typical definition of success—wasn’t enough to motivate me to do my best work or feel fulfilled.
There also were other areas of my life that I felt were lacking besides money and success that I hadn’t put much thought into before. Including things like the type of environment I was putting myself into, my goals for personal growth, and my overall health and wellbeing.
That’s when it hit me that success in life is not monetary. Rather, it’s how you yourself choose to define success. But what’s most important, is charting your own path to that success.
For me, I’ve realized I want to spend more meaningful use of my time impacting other people’s lives by helping them tell their stories and highlight their unique gifts. I want to travel the world and go on an unlimited amount of adventures. And I want to always work on cultivating a strong and positive mindset. No matter what task lays ahead of me.
This was not my dream
The woman you see before you didn’t always believe this was the life she’d get to lead. Being an influencer wasn’t my dream. Being an expert felt out of my grasp.
But I’m living proof that if you claim your story and share your voice, you’ll begin to dictate your future. You’ll then take control of what you put into this world and start being the author of how your story is told.
While you may not aspire to be an internet celebrity or win industry awards, you’re still hard at work climbing the ladder to success. No matter what your definition of success may be. You want people to take you seriously and know that you are a force to be reckoned with.
I get it because I've been there. My story, and how it started, is not paved with privilege and a first-class education. It is one of loss, loneliness, and struggle. But I turned that story into one that I am now proud to tell.
I turned foster care, no high-school diploma, and the lack of a college degree into the narrative of a professional woman sitting at the top of a world-renowned company, innovating, winning awards, and setting new records. Because that’s what I’m doing.
If you looked at my past, you’d see I wasn’t supposed to be in the role I am today. This goes to show that the definition of who you are on paper doesn’t determine your path forward. You can change the narrative, albeit your brand, at any point in time that you choose.
Thanks in part to my personal journey, I’m passionate about helping others learn how to chart their own path. I want to assist them in determining their “why”, finding their passion, and communicate their story.
Whether it’s brand strategy positioning for companies, portfolios, or business professionals themselves, I know I can help define and build brand foundations that make others take notice.
Which is why I want to encourage you to share your story. To chart your own path. And to start doing both right now.
Jumpstarting your charting
How about you? What path do you secretly want to chart out for yourself? Need help getting a jumpstart.
I’ve put together a list of questions to help you chart your own path. To get started, ask yourself:
● Where do you want to live/work geographically?
● What type of work culture do you want to be surrounded by?
● Where do you see yourself living? Is it in a home, an RV, or a condo?
● What types of relationships do you want to have?
● How do you want to spend time with your significant other and/or family?
● What types of friendships do you wish to have?
● What are your social needs?
● What are your financial goals? Are you looking to save, give to charity, start a business, or do something else entirely with your finances?
● How much money do you need to make to live off?
● Do you have debt or bills that need to be paid?
● Which areas in your life are important to you that you want more of?
● What are your goals for personal growth?
● What goals do you have for your health and wellbeing?
Your destiny isn’t set in stone. Just because your sister went to graduate school doesn’t mean it’s meant for you. Because your family boasts a long line of surgeons, doesn’t mean you now need to pick up a scalpel.
Similar to how there isn’t one right set of rules for everyone, there is no one right path for us all to take. The path you chart should be as unique as you are.
Sometimes in life, when it comes to making big decisions, you have to stop and analyze what feels right for you. If charting a certain path feels right, then it probably is.
Yes, you must do your research. And you should always talk to people you admire and get their advice. But, in the end, you also should always go with your gut and trust your intuition. It rarely lets you down.