There are few greater sources of frustration and unhappiness than the feeling that your journey to happiness is being delayed by the demands and opinions of others. What makes it worse is that these demands often come from from the people close to you – parents, siblings and friends. So how can you navigate this web of demands and still follow your dreams? We offer a few observations on the matter:
Remember that other people’s opinions very often stem from their own insecurities. If you have the inner inspiration to do something new or to drop an old destructive habit, this can easily be seen by other people as a challenge to their way of thinking. Explain politely but firmly that what they are doing might be perfectly fine for them, but not for you.
Beware of people telling you you have to be realistic. Often their ‘realism’ is defined by the experiences they have had – we generaly tend to move in tight circles of where negative thoughts are confirmed by negative experiences and positive thoughts are confirmed by positive experiences – in many ways our thoughts really do shape the world we see. So if you are planning to take a step into the unknown, bear in mind other people might have built a whole life on ‘playing it safe’ and that is all they know. Often it is best not to get into direct confrontation, but instead ‘humour’ them by saying things like ‘you are just trying this option out for a little while’ whilst at the same time quietly and firmly going about your own thing.
Don’t get bogged down in mental explanations. The need for personal fulfillment is one that comes from the deepest part of our being, from a level far beyond the reach of our hesitating and vacillating mind. This inner feeling can therefore be quite hard to communicate mentally; on the other hand, people who disagree with you will have no difficulty communicating their doubts and fears – it is something we have all had a lifelong training in! Getting into protracted explanations runs the risk of reducing this cherished inner vision to a mental argument, allowing your own mind. You will almost certainly never convince other people through argument (see the above couple of points), so why not just tactfully avoid getting into lengthy conversations in the first place? Well, that leads us to our next point….
Reduce your need for outer approval. We all want to be liked, and for our actions to be outwardly approved; it is something we have carried with us ever since childhood. However, as the American comedian Bill Cosby once said “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Consider those who are standing in your way; are they happy themselves, and will your acquiescence give them that happiness? The chances are it won’t, so if they’re not happy and you’re not happy, then who wins?
Often people tell you that following your own dreams is ‘selfish’. Don’t believe this for a second. Anyone who has taken the time to meditate and discover themselves and their connection to the universe will tell you that the exact opposite is true. The nature of our mind is such that it separates us from the rest of the world, and it is only when we go beyond the mind that we can feel the true reality – that we are all interconnected in the most profound way. The things which make our life meaningful invariably always have an aspect to them which benefit our fellow human beings, whether inspiring others through your output in the creative or athletic world, gaining the necessary experiences to become a better kinder human being, or more directly doing something to give others joy. When you find your true purpose in life and follow through on it, you are doing nothing other than performing your unique role in making the world a better place. The word ‘unique’ here is important – no-one else can play that unique role as well as we can, so if we suppress our inner inspirations and settle for second best, then that role basically doesn’t get played, and the world is a poorer place for it.
Learn to distinguish good criticism from bad. It’s important not to go automatically on the defensive either. As you learn to trust your inner feeling more and more, you will also learn who amongst your friends is genuinely 100 per cent behind you in your search for happiness and who is just projecting their own doubts and fears onto you. Try to feel if there is a genuine inner concern and love behind the remarks; true friends will love you no matter what life choice you make, and even if you consider their advice and go ahead anyway, they will still be there standing at your shoulder.
The bottom line: Fullfilling your own potential is not something you ever have to apologize for. Human life is such a fleeting thing. Winter follows summer follows winter, and before we know it another year has passed, another year out of the breathtakingly short lifespan we have here on this earth. And yet so many people trudge their way to the end, resigned to accepting life at a tiny fraction of its market value. To get such an inspiration, a calling beckoning you towards true and lasting happiness – do you realise how rare and fortunate that makes you? So pick up the phone, get on your bike or into that car, commit to taking that lesson or learning that skill; whatever that first step is towards realizing your dreams, grab it with both hands and don’t let go. Often that first step is everything, as the old saying goes: “When you really want something, the entire universe will conspire to fulfill your desire.” And remember, at the end of the day the only voice you are in any way beholden to is the voice of your own soul.