Be Brave. Live Life on Your Own Terms. Here’s How

“Is this the life that you lead, or the life that’s led for you?”

-Rise Against

Living life on your terms is about examining your life and determining whether you’re on the path that’s right for you or the path that was set for you by someone else.

But it’s not that simple.

How To Live Life on Your Own Terms

We’re bombarded with messages about what we should want, how we should act, and the keys to a successful life from birth. We receive this massive brainwashing from parents, teachers, the media, and society as a whole, which makes it difficult to know whether we’re doing something for ourselves or due to a deeply ingrained message.

Here’s how to break free of life’s script and live life on your own terms.

Examine Your Belief System

They say the first step is the hardest, and that’s particularly true in living a life true to yourself.

You’ll likely discover that many of your most deeply held beliefs aren’t actually yours. They are messages drilled into you since childhood from everyone but yourself.

Parents, teachers, counselors, the media, religious institutions, and society as a whole all have motives for forcing beliefs on kids.

Sometimes, these players have the child’s best interest at heart. Parents instill values in their kids because they want them to live successful lives. However, sometimes parents have their own biases. Their idea of happiness may be far different from their kids.

On occasion, these players have ulterior motives. They don’t care about the kids; they only want more cogs for their wheels.

To truly live on your own terms, you must undergo the painful process of examining the beliefs you were instilled with as a child.

Discover Your Values

While analyzing your beliefs, you may discover that many of your deeply held values aren’t that deep. You may reject what society taught you and feel empty due to the lack of conviction.

It’s time to rebuild.

Now that you understand where your beliefs came from, you can decide what you really value.

You may realize that your parents were right and that you genuinely value everything they taught you. You might also discover that they were wrong but well-intentioned, and you now have the opportunity to pick and choose the values that work for you.

However, you may find that nothing you learned as a child works for you. It’s time to discover your values outside of external influences.

The journey of self-discovery may include a solo trip to find yourself, journaling, reading, trying different things, and reflecting on your life.

Define Your Terms

Once you develop your values, you can set the terms for your life.

How are you going to live according to your new values? What do you truly want out of life?

You don’t have to decide overnight. Discovery is half the fun. Take time to explore the world around you. Decide how you want your life to go, who you want in it, and your ultimate goals.

Make an action plan to outline the steps you want to take on your path. Determine how your new goals align with your values.

Set Boundaries

The harsh truth about living life on your terms is that far too many people will hate you for it. The people who want to control you will scoff when you try to set out independently. The ones who go with the flow will seethe with jealousy, hating you for daring to defy where they caved.

You must set and enforce boundaries with people who will attempt to sway you from your newfound path and maintain firm standards of acceptable behavior.

To enforce your boundaries, you may have to limit time with those who seek to undermine the new you. You may have to leave social settings, hang up the phone, or ask folks to leave your house if they can’t stop pushing your boundaries. You may have to go no-contact with the worst offenders.

Enforcing your boundaries can be a heart-wrenching challenge. It’s difficult to turn our backs on the people we love.

You must stay strong. People who genuinely have your best interests at heart will come around and accept your new path. Those who don’t may not have a place in your life.

Reflect and Adjust

You don’t have to stick with what you initially decided. An understated benefit of living life on your own terms is you can change those terms if they no longer work for you.

Life is about growth and discovery. Changing your mind, reassessing your values, and setting a new course any time is okay. Living life on your terms means setting and changing the terms whenever it suits you.

What People Get Wrong About Living Life on Your Terms

A lot of people confuse living life on their terms with selfishness.

There’s a massive difference between making the best of your own life and becoming a self-centered, entitled jerk.

You’ll want to avoid these pitfalls when designing your life.

A Self-Centered Attitude

Your life is about you, but no one else’s is. You can’t use “I’m living life on my terms” as an excuse to treat other people poorly or expect them to cater to you.

Everyone Must Accept It

Not everyone will accept the new you, and you can’t force them to. Losing relationships is heartbreaking, but we must accept it when deciding to change our lives.

If you decide to leave a religion, be prepared for people who wish to remain to distance themselves. If you choose to leave a relationship, understand that some people will take your ex’s side.

You must make the decisions that are right for you, but you must accept that sometimes, those decisions will push people out of your life.

My Terms Trump My Responsibilities

When you live life on your terms you can’t ignore your responsibilities. Far too many people use it as an excuse to quit their jobs to pursue their passions, but then they rely on their partners to pick up the slack. 

That’s not acceptable.

Others decide that a life on their terms doesn’t include parenthood. That’s fine if you aren’t a parent, but you can’t ditch your kids to pursue your wants.

Living life on your terms includes taking responsibility for yourself and your dependents. You can change how you raise your kids or make money but you can’t offload your duties to others.

It’s a Free Pass for Destructive Behavior

Many people use the idea of living life on their terms as a free pass to engage in self-destructive behaviors. They spend all their money on wants, gamble, spend their free time partying, and treat others with disdain. People with substance use disorders may use it as an excuse to continue with their addiction.

These folks do horrible things, both to themselves and their loved ones. They use the excuse, “It’s my life; I can do what I want,” as a free pass, but that’s not what living on your terms is about.

Live by Your Values

Living life on your terms is more about values than behaviors. You don’t have to let someone else’s values dictate your life. You can decide what matters most to you and live your life accordingly.

Enjoy Your Life

Haters will hate, but we only get one chance at life. Living on your own terms allows you to shake off the shackles of societal expectations and brainwashing to live your life to the fullest.

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