Chapter 1.3: Breaking the Rules

We tend to go through our precious years never really owning our lives. We never fully take control of our circumstances, because we don’t think it’s possible, or even feasible. And in surrendering control of our lives, we surrender control of our destinies. We inadvertently allow other people, family, society, bosses, and organizations to dictate our entire existence and control our futures for us. We are amazingly comfortable at giving ourselves, our spirits, and our entire lives to the rules and expectations that others make for us. But that’s the key attitude here—comfortable. Throughout life, we are slowly conditioned to settle into a life of comfort, but what nobody really tells you or ever told me is that a life of comfort inevitably leads to a life of stagnation, and stagnation will always lead to a life of emotional and spiritual demise.

In her book, Happiness At Work, Jessica Pryce-Jones calculates that people will spend an average of 90,000 hours of their life at work, and according to Deloitte’s Shift Index survey, 80% of those people at work are unhappy with their jobs, practically selling their souls for an organization that doesn’t even slightly light them up, let alone even make them content. Most people are unhappy at their jobs, but stay at those jobs anyway. This is how people die before they’re ever even six feet under. It’s not that life is too short, it’s that we wait too long to truly start living, if ever at all.

How many people do you know that seek comfort instead of what truly makes their heart sing? It’s probable that you know someone in this position, and it’s possible you’re in this position yourself. We follow that well-paved trail at one point, honestly feeling that eventually it will bring a life of fulfillment and joy. It’s usually not until much later down that trail that we wonder why we’re just not feeling enriched with life. We wake up on Monday mornings with a deep sense of regret. We look forward to the weekends, not ever really embracing the weekdays, not being present to the gift that they are, because we hate our jobs and just want to get the day over and done with. 40% of employees say their job is their biggest source of stress, so much so that according to UK HSE Stress Statistics, more than 13 million working days are lost every single year because of stress-related illnesses. Our jobs are quite literally making us sick! This is such a phenomenon that Japan even has a word for it—karoshi. In Japan alone, 10,000 workers die each and every year at their desks as a result of extreme work weeks. Hell, our jobs aren’t only making us sick, they’re killing us!

We’re told to stay at that job we hate because the “benefits” are good and the vacation time is “nice,” and, hey, that steady paycheck is pretty comfortable too. We’re told that working for an organization is “safe” when the reality is that there really isn’t such a thing as job security. “Job security” to most of us means working for someone else, but working for someone else is essentially leaving you career in the hands of others, no matter how well you do. How many successful people do you know, who were utterly crushing it in their careers, got unexpectedly laid off? Americans on average have between seven to eight different jobs before the age of 30 according to the US Census Bureau! Job security as we understand it is a myth.

Time starts to pass us by, slowly at first, sure, but then it begins to move even more swiftly, almost as if to remind us of our mortality and to rub our faces in our regret. And no wonder time moves so quickly—we do the same boring, unfulfilling job day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade, becoming a slave to the benefits and the steady paycheck. But what if time wasn’t rubbing our faces in regret to make us feel miserable? What if it was just trying to wake us up to the facts? What if the time ticking by was just trying to tell you that you just have to make a change? We choose a life based on pre-paved trails, whether or not the scenery surrounding that trail is beautiful to us or not. I mean, we hear this path has got a stunning view when you reach the end, but ultimately, we never find it. Maybe it looked good to someone else, or maybe they were just over exaggerating, but it sure feels wrong to us. Why do we feel so lost when this is the path that seemingly everyone else is taking? Surely they can’t be feeling the same way too, right? We get that job working in a cubicle, punching numbers and getting yelled at by our regional manager, we do this for eight hours a day, five days a week, because hell, it’s what everyone else does, so who are we to break off and blaze our own trail? 

Society and culture say very clearly that we’re to conform to their standards…it’s drilled into our heads constantly and from an early age. And we all know what happens when we choose not to accept society’s standards—we’re shunned, we’re made fun of, we’re considered weirdos! We so desperately want to express our true selves, but find it difficult to be authentic because of the immense societal pressures that surround us. If we want to fit in, we have to accept what majority accepts and do what the majority does. We’re afraid of being judged, of being different, so we stay with the herd, doing our best to impress people we don’t really like in the first place. Of course, nobody dreams of working at a job they know they’re going to hate going to. I sure didn’t, and you didn’t either. Nobody really has it made up in their mind that they want to spend their days selling their souls for that paycheck, but most of our society ends up accepting one they hate anyway. We do this because it’s easy and it’s comfortable.

But easy and comfortable never made for an extraordinary story, did it? 

Sure, it’s easy to go through our lives following the planned out map and to take that path that has already been taken, and that’s exactly why most us go down that path, because it’s already been laid out for us and it’s easy. It doesn’t take much soul-searching or self-discovery, we just have to go with what “works,” right? Some of us sincerely want to actively spend our life journeying down the pre-blazed trail that has already been established, and hey, that’s all right too. There’s no judgement here if that’s what really fuels you up and gets your motor running, but the big difference here, however, is whether or not walking down that path is a conscious decision or if it is something you have just settled into. If you want to be a lawyer, be a lawyer, that’s fantastic, we need more good lawyers! If you want to work at an office and you feel like that will fill your spirit up, more power to you! For some, spending our time going down this path is a fulfilling life well-lived. The concern here is whether or not that’s what you truly want in your heart, or whether it’s something that’s been ingrained in you. If you’re walking through life solely because someone else has told you that’s where you should be going, you’re walking through your life out of touch with who you really are. When I personally work with people, it becomes clear very quickly that most have been living a life that is in complete conflict with what their heart is begging them to do. Most people know that there just has to be more to life than the existence they’ve been settling for, but they’re just unsure of where to start. 

Next Chapter: Chapter 4.1: Pura Vida