Have you ever set a goal and worked hard to achieve it, only to feel like it didn’t really matter afterwards?
Do other people comment about your fantastic career or amazing life while you silently wonder what they think is so great?
If you find yourself in either of these situations very often, it may be because you’ve let other people’s priorities take over your life.
Don’t misunderstand – there’s nothing wrong with occasionally setting a goal that ends up feeling “off” and there’s certainly no reason to shy away from compliments. But, if you’re busy living someone else’s idea for your life, you’re on the road to nowhere.
Few of us can totally free ourselves from the expectations of others, whether they be our parents, friends, spouses or neighbors. If we’re not careful, however, these expectations begin to weigh us down and cloud our judgment about what really matters for us.
Often, this can be solved simply by refocusing our attention on our own priorities. From time to time, however, it’s necessary to really push back against the expectations of others. Sometimes those expectations can be a small – like shifting how you spend your free time, the way you dress or how you prioritize your own health. Sometimes they can be huge – like saying goodbye to a career others always thought was perfect for you so that you can follow your own blueprint for success.
Pushing back can seem pretty daunting, especially if the expectations you’re trying to shake involve someone you love or a pursuit you’ve invested a lot of time or money in.
Get Clear on Your Priorities
If you’re not quite sure what really matters for you, hit the pause button and read this first. Until you are crystal clear on what you want, what your priorities are, and where you want to go, pushing back can just lead to more confusion.
It’s important not to skip this step or rush through it. Allow yourself some time to really consider your career and life and what resonates most with you. Only then can you be sure that the expectations you feel from others are leading you in a wrong direction.
Decide Whether to Communicate It
If you decide you’ve been living your life based on someone else’s priorities, you’ll need to take some action. But that doesn’t necessarily include telling that person you’re no longer going to follow their lead.
Some changes don’t require an announcement from us. For instance, if you’re going to stop engaging with people and activities that drain your energy, you don’t need to tell them that. Just find a way to spend your time more wisely.
Other times, it’s crucial that you communicate your change to others. If you’re going to limit when you respond to texts or emails outside of office hours, for example, you may need to communicate that to your team so they know what it means when they don’t get your typical response.
Drop the Judgment
Once you realize someone else’s expectations have been steering your direction for a while, it can be a natural response to feel negatively toward that person.
I can’t believe my parents put all that pressure on me. No wonder I couldn’t realize my dream.
How could my boss have pushed me into this role? I knew it wasn’t right for me.
We can debate the motives of these people forever. Did they really have your best interests at heart? Or were they manipulating you into doing what worked best for them? I can’t know that, but I do know that judging their motives doesn’t get you any closer to living your own dreams. It’s wasted energy. Time and effort you could better spend in other ways.
Keep the Why Top of Mind
Once you’ve turned loose of the priorities others have set for you, you may find yourself invigorated. The energy of being able to fully pursue what matters most to you may be all you need to get going.
Or, you may find yourself adrift in new territory – not fully sure what to do next. Leaving your comfort zone and embracing change can be fantastic, but it can also be disorienting.
Whichever experience you have, it’s crucial to keep your why top of mind. Why did you make this shift? Why do your priorities matter to you and why are you willing to sacrifice to make them a reality? The answers to these questions (and several others) will be your guidepost as you embrace what matters most to you.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of saying goodbye to the status quo? Check out this week’s newsletter. (Don’t get my newsletter? Sign up here! You’ll also get a bonus video training on building a success mindset.)