35 More Inspirational Quotes on Happiness, Following Your Dreams & Generally Kicking Life’s Ass

From time to time, I share a quote on my Twitter or Facebook page I think will help make your day (slash-life) a little better. I’ve built up quite a collection of these quotes, so I like to drop them on you en masse occasionally — consider it my contribution to whatever goal you’re currently fighting for or obstacle you’re currently fighting against.

To make them easier to share with anyone you think could use a jolt of awesome, I’ve also included an easy click-to-tweet after each quote. (You’re welcome.)

 

Happiness

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” ~Margaret Lee Runbeck (Tweet!)

“I have decided to be happy because it’s good for my health.” ~Voltaire (Tweet!)

“If you want to be happy, be so.” ~Kozma Prutkov (Tweet!)

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.” ~William Feather (Tweet!)

“Happiness is an inside job.” ~William Arthur Ward (Tweet!)

“Happiness is a choice.” ~Valerie Bertinelli (Tweet!)

“Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens.” ~Andy Rooney (Tweet!)

 

Blazing Your Own Trail

“I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.” ~Winston Churchill (Tweet!)

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” ~Walt Disney (Tweet!)

“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” ~George Bernard Shaw (Tweet!)

“I’ve never heard a bird half sing, a hawk half cry. When ready, speak your truth with conviction.” ~Dave Ursillo (Tweet!)

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” ~Max Dupree (Tweet!)

“Be a voice, not an echo.” ~Albert Einstein (Tweet!)

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” ~Richard Branson (Tweet!)

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“When in doubt, yell, ‘CHARGE!’ and then MOVE. YOUR. ASS. AND. MAKE. IT. HAPPEN.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

 

Following Your Dreams

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” ~Zig Ziglar (Tweet!)

“Good things come to those who wait. Greater things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen.” ~@LifeCheating (Tweet!)

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~Thomas Edison (Tweet!)

“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes (Tweet!)

“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.” ~Tony Gaskins (Tweet!)

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” ~Paul Brandt (Tweet!)

“The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.” ~Seth Godin (Tweet!)

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~Wayne Gretzky (Tweet!)

 

Overcoming Adversity

“There are two things a person should never be angry at — what they can help, and what they cannot.” ~Plato (Tweet!)

“At the end of the day, no matter how many times the lawn is mowed, it doesn’t take it personally — it just keeps on growing.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get.” ~Ray Bradbury (Tweet!)

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” ~Charles Swindoll (Tweet!)

“If it isn’t a little scary, it probably isn’t worth your time.” ~Ted Murphy (Tweet!)

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~Nelson Mandela (Tweet!)

“Fear is not a bad thing, it can keep you alive. The trick is to make sure it doesn’t stop you from living.” ~@RevolutionsClub (Tweet!)

“It’s not the person who dodges the most bullets who wins. It’s the person who finds something useful to do with the bullets, after the shots have been fired.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“The darkest hour has only sixty minutes.” ~Morris Mandel (Tweet!)

“Learn to embrace fear, because it’s often the only thing that’s between you and what you want.” ~Paula Pant (Tweet!)

What are your favorite quotes? Share them with us in the comments!

Image:  Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

QUIT: My Abusive Relationship

[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end.  I call these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]

I’ve been in an abusive relationship for… well, more years than I’ve really been counting, especially since it took a while to see it for what it really was. Abusive relationships are like that. You find lots of ways to justify them, explain them away, make excuses for why they make sense and why you deserve precisely what you’ve been getting.

It’s sick and twisted, and deep down somewhere, you know that, but it’s hard to muster up the full-on realization it takes to walk away.

I’ve known this girl for a long, long time, and our friendship seemed awesome, at first. She inspired me to do some amazing things and had my back during some ridiculous escapades. She was the first person to laugh with me when I found something funny and the first to hand me a tissue when something broke my heart. She knew me better than anyone else, hands down, and she still does.

But she’s also a stone cold bitch to me an awful lot of the time.

And I’m finally beginning to realize that’s just not cool.

 

The Way We Were

In the beginning, I liked her because she challenged me. She was always spurring me to be better, smarter, kinder, stronger, to reach for more and accomplish more, to not go easy on myself. I loved that about her. I loved that she called me on my B.S. and wouldn’t let me listen to my own excuses.

I’m also a contrarian person. I like to prove people wrong. When people say I can’t do something, it makes me that much more driven to show them I can. I respond well to the boot camp style of coaching. And that’s what I thought she was offering me, at first: tough love. If it felt a little too tough at times… well, that must have meant I was being particularly soft that day and I needed the spurring more than ever.

Her challenges inspired me to start this blog, quit my day job and do plenty of other things I never would have dreamed of doing without her. She held me to my guns. She wouldn’t let me wuss out. She kept my nose to the grindstone. And it paid off.

 

Then Things Started Shifting

They were small things, at first.

An “Are you sure you want to do that?” when I stopped attending my masterminds because I found they were only making me unhealthily obsessed with keeping up with the entrepreneurial rat race.

A barely noticeable eyebrow raise when I said my only plans for the evening were to read a book and cuddle with the husband.

A quietly muttered comment about “commitment” when I announced I was no longer forcing myself to put in 60-hour workweeks.

She meant well, I reminded myself. Maybe she was feeling cranky that day, or maybe her tendency to want the best for me came out wrong that time. So I let it slide. I forgave and forgot and kept striving to live up to her expectations

But more and more, I began to realize that her expectations were no longer helping me. In fact, they were kind of tearing me to shreds. Something had changed in our relationship — in her — and her input was getting less and less “You can do better!” and more and more “That’s not good enough.”

I put in a marathon workweek to get a big project done by Friday, and she ruined our Sunday Funday by going on and on about how Richard Branson probably doesn’t take weekends off and Robert Herjavec says anyone who needs more than 4 hours’ sleep won’t make it as an entrepreneur.

I turned down a project request because it paid well but didn’t fit my interests, and she reminded me how there was once a time I would’ve been happy to take on anything and everything, and if I got too picky I could wind up regretting it.

A reader emailed to tell me how much my blog had touched them, and when I told her about it, she sniffed and said, “That’s nice, but you can’t monetize compliments. How much has your blog actually made you this month?”

All that pull-no-punches, let’s-be-real-with-ourselves brazenness I used to admire in her had become twisted, somehow. It had morphed from being motivating and energizing to being downright cynical. Maybe I’d let her push me around too much, and the power got to her head. Maybe she’d always been the negative kind of taskmaster, but I never saw it before because it took a while for her to wear me down. Maybe we’d both lost sight of the difference between tough love and just being an asshole.

Whatever the cause for the shift, I started dreading the times she came around. Her comments lingered with me long after she left, giving me headaches, stomach aches, anxiety attacks whenever I thought of them. I started staying in bed at night binge-watching bad TV rather than risk hanging out with her or doing anything she’d be sure to pounce on and tear apart.

I could anticipate her cutting, snarky remarks before they even came, and what was worse, deep down I’d begun to believe them. I’d come to see myself as the screwup she clearly saw me as. I was was damned if I did, because it was never enough, and damned if I didn’t, because that meant I was slacking.

 

So, Why in the &%$* Did I Stick With Her?

There are all sorts of excuses I could give for why I’ve kept her in my life long past the time she was a positive addition:

It’s easy to fall into negative patterns.

It’s hard to let go of a long history together.

I still believe that, in her heart of hearts, she really does want the best for me, even if it comes out in a way that sounds harsh.

But the biggest reason I’ve put up with this abuse (because, let’s be honest, that’s what it is)?

It’s because I can’t get away from her.

It’s because she’s in my head.

It’s because she is me.

I’ve always been my own worst critic, but I’ve been kidding myself into thinking I’m only being hard on myself because I’m driven, because I’m disciplined, because I want more for my life than the average bear. I’ve confused pushing myself with beating up on myself. And it’s turned my inner motivator into a monster whose sole purpose in life is to smash down anything I try doing out of a perverted idea that being a heartless drill sergeant is the same thing as being driven and ambitious.

So I think it’s time we break up, for reals.

 

Inner Critics Make Shitty Coaches

The thing about being driven to improve yourself is, it can get you to lots of great places. Holding yourself to high standards can produce some amazing results, and pushing yourself farther than you think you can go can be empowering and enlightening.

But it can also drive you into the ground, if you’re not careful to make sure there’s plenty of love to go along with all that toughness.

For all the posts I’ve written like this one, this one and this one, hoping to show you that you can do more and be more and still be kind to yourself, I’ve written an equal number of posts like this one, this one and this one, which — if I had been looking close enough — were telltale signs I was in an abusive relationship with my own inner critic-coach

I wasn’t pushing myself past my limits Jillian-Michaels-style, believing in an awesome end result and giving myself the motivation to get there; I was playing a ruthless game of “Bombardment!” on myself every time I tried to do something, whether that “something” was write a post or hang out with my friends or try to take some much-needed time to relax. (Did you realize you can fuck up relaxing? You can, quite spectacularly, according to my inner critic-coach.)

If a real friend had treated me this way, I’d have dropped her without thinking twice. I have no place for toxic people in my life. But toxic people in my head? I somehow trust that they know what they’re saying, because I know me, right? I’m my own worst critic because I’m the only unobstructed witness to all the things that are the matter with me… right?

Not so much. That inner critic, those demons, those lizard-brain reactions, whatever you want to call the voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough, not smart enough, and gosh darn it, people hate you — that voice is a Mean Girl (or Guy) of the highest caliber, and just because she’s a part of you, that doesn’t mean she’s right. There’s a part of me that would love nothing more than to sleep all day and subsist on Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, but I’ve learned to ignore and override that part because it clearly doesn’t have my best interests in mind. The same goes for your inner critic.

There’s a difference between challenging yourself (super-awesome) and being a complete and utter bitch to yourself (super-not-awesome). (Tweet!) When you challenge yourself, you push yourself to go further and be better, but you realize you’re only human and if you fall short of your goal, you pick yourself up, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself it’s OK; you’ll get ‘em next time.  You also realize that challenging yourself 24/7 only leads to burnout, and it’s not only OK but necessary to spend some time just being alive and being happy about that.

When you’re a complete and utter bitch to yourself… well, you end up writing veiled Quit posts that make you sound like you’ve got borderline personality disorder.

Don’t end up writing veiled Quit posts that make you sound like you’ve got borderline personality disorder.

Learn to ask if the gauntlet you’re throwing down for yourself is one that will help you go farther or simply make you feel like shit. Learn to recognize that your inner critic isn’t your coach, but your detractor. Stop piling “tough love” on yourself when it’s really just abuse in disguise.

Be kinder to yourselves, guys. I promise you can still kick ass and do amazing things while being nice to yourself. (It actually helps you do it better.)

Is your inner coach really an inner critic? How can you break free from the abuse?

Image:  Nicki Varkevisser / Flickr

The Way Things Are Isn’t The Way Things Have To Be

Recently, I wrote about the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. The way we cast ourselves (victim, reject, center of the universe) affects the way we experience the world. If we think everyone’s against us, we’ll keep seeing things that reinforce that story. If we think we’re better than everyone else, people will constantly let us down. We react to things based on the story we believe about our world, and as a result, we wind up perpetuating the story by playing along with it.

But there’s a bigger story, a story so hulking and omnipresent it warrants a post in itself. It’s a really shitty story our whole society has deluded itself into believing. That really shitty story is the ridiculously depressing notion of “The Way Things Are.”

You may not realize The Way Things Are is a story. That’s part of what makes it so devious (and powerful). Most people just accept that it really is… well… the way things are. As a result, they play along with it without realizing they have any other choice. They take it as a given rather than one way of seeing things.

And since the majority of people are going along with it, it really does become the way things are.

 

So, How Are Things?

Pretty damn crappy, if you believe the story.

If you subscribe to the general belief in The Way Things Are, life is a pretty grim set of circumstances you can’t control and probably don’t like. Here are some elements of “The Way Things Are” mentality:

  • You have no choice but to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for pretty much most of your life.
  • You have to do this because you have to have a car, a house, 10 credit cards and a steady stream of stuff and distractions at all times to keep you happy.
  • You need to be kept happy because you probably hate the job that takes up the majority of your waking hours.
  • (Lather, rinse, repeat the above 3 phrases as needed. It’s a nice vicious circle.)
  • You deserve lots of things you can’t afford because you put up with the unfairness of the above circle. Future You can deal with paying for these things.
  • Debt is something you only need to think about when the bills come each month. It doesn’t matter if you’re paying off that flat-screen TV for the next 30 years, because they’re probably going to be 30 miserable years anyway, and the least you deserve is to be able to watch Dancing with the Stars in high-quality HD.
  • What you do doesn’t matter.
  • Dreams are for the naïve and the misguided. Resignation is the mark of a real, functioning adult.
  • If you don’t already kind of dislike your spouse, you probably will after enough time together. Kids will only make this worse.
  • You should still have kids anyway.
  • No one is where they want to be. That’s just part of growing up.
  • No one likes The Way Things Are, but they can’t be changed. Suck it up, have a drink, go out and buy something. It’s almost the weekend.

I could go on, but it’s too depressing. And I think you probably recognize the story by now.

 

If We All Hate This Story So Much, Why Do We Keep Telling It to Ourselves?

The thing is, no one is really happy living according to The Way Things Are. Any story you have to constantly resign yourself to is not a good one.

So why do so many of us resign ourselves to it?

Because we don’t realize we have any other choice. If we did, we think, more people would be doing something different, wouldn’t they? The fact that everyone around us seems to be keeping their heads down and trudging along makes us think that must be our only option. So we all put our heads down and keep trudging, and this grim picture of the world continues to be the way things actually are because no one realizes it can be any different.

It’s not surprising most of us don’t think to question it. Everything around us reinforces the story.

TV shows give us characters who live neatly in The Way Things Are: dysfunctional families, disgruntled cube farm workers, harried moms and overworked suits and couples who communicate in nasty one-liners. We find these shows funny or moving because they portray things we recognize. They make us feel better about our own shitty circumstances by delivering the reassurance that “we’re all in this together.” You don’t see many shows about minimalist, location-independent lifestyle designers living life on their own terms. (And if you did, people would probably argue that they’re completely unrealistic.)

Commercials sell us products to help us escape from The Way Things Are. We deserve that big SUV with dual heat zones and seat-back DVD players because nothing else in our lives is going right, and the least we can do is give little Johnny the comfort of knowing we’re keeping up with the Joneses. (The money we put towards that SUV could fund part of little Johnny’s college education, but what matters is pleasing Johnny, and ourselves, N-O-W.) We need energy drinks because we’re exhausted after 8 hours at a desk and only have an evening of drudgery to follow, and it’s easier to guzzle a little bottle of something than find a lifestyle that actually energizes us.

We’re inundated with ways to work around The Way Things Are, to distract ourselves from The Way Things Are, to make The Way Things Are a little easier to live with. But The Way Things Are, in itself, is considered a given. And if everyone around you is operating under the notion the earth is flat, you have no reason to stop and wonder if it’s not. You just go on living the best little flat life you think you can.

 

What You Don’t Know

What you don’t know could turn everything upside down.

Did you know it’s possible to sell all your stuff, pay down your debt and be free to live literally anywhere you want, at anytime?

Did you know you can visit every single country in the world in 5 years?

Did you know playing it unsafe is a viable option?

It’s time to free yourself from The Way Things Are and instead create The Way Things Ought To Be. (Tweet!) Poke around the blogosphere long enough and you’ll find that more and more people are doing it — real-life, ordinary people who are, in their own ways, rejecting the mass delusion and creating the lives they’ve always wanted. Start reading just a few of their stories. It’s like someone flipping the Technicolor switch after you’ve been watching black and white all your life.

I’m not gonna lie to you. It takes hard work and some serious faith to pursue a life on your own terms. Another reason The Way Things Are has such a stronghold on us is because, shitty and completely miserable as it is, it’s oh so easy to fall in step with it. But you’re always sacrificing something, whichever story you choose to live by. The choose-your-own adventure stories take discipline, hard work and a willingness to stand out and be different. The Way Things Are story takes your soul, your dreams and your day-to-day and long-term happiness.

Guess which sacrifices I believe are the better deal?

It’s your choice. It’s your story. Which road are you going to take?

Image: Eamon Brett / Flickr

You Do You Like a Boss (or a T-Rex)

The Tyrannosaurus Rex was the pimp of the dinosaur world.

He took names, he called the shots, he ruled the show. Which dinosaur got to be the logo for Jurassic Park? Which dinosaur do most kids want to see first at the science museum? Which dinosaur’s name (rex) actually means “king” in Latin?

That’s right: the mother-effing-T-Rex.

Because he is the incarnation of awesome killer monster dinosaur power.

But you know what? If a T-Rex existed today, he’d be lying on a couch in a psychiatrist’s office talking about his feelings of inadequacy despite of all the fame and glory he gets. Why?

Because T-Rexes Have Tiny Little Arms

For all their razor-toothed, huge-headed terrifyingness, the T-Rex has one genealogical (and rather hilarious) flaw: He has stumpy, useless little flaily arms that The Powers That Be had to have included solely for the purposes of amusing irony.

This means that, in addition to being the target of mean playground ridicule, these kings of the dinosaur world have all sorts of things they CAN’T do.

They can’t do pushups:

They can’t give each other high fives:

T-Rex high fives tshirt

 They can’t adorably express how much they love their significant other:

It’s enough to give any dino a complex.

But you don’t read about these things in the history books. Because—aside from the fact that pushups, high fives and relationships did not exist in the dinosaur era—T-Rexes did the one thing they were designed for very well: they killed things, and they killed them dead. They were predators, and they preyed like nobody’s business.

Brontosauruses, on the other hand, were physically stunning dinos—massively large, tall as fuck, and with all four legs perfectly proportioned. They were walking, symmetrical mountains. And they got killed. They got killed dead—by T-Rexes. Because the gimpy little arms didn’t matter, anymore than the Brontos’ impressive heft did.  Brontosauruses were made to eat leafy things.  T-Rexes were made to eat things that eat leafy things.

What’s the Lesson Here, Cordelia?

The lesson is this:

a) I want any and all of the t-shirts above, and will gladly accept them as early Christmas presents; and

b) We are all designed with certain talents, and certain shortcomings.

You can’t compare your skills against someone else’s, because they’re different. All that matters is that you do what you were designed to do—and you do the everloving shit out of it. (Tweet!)

You may hate your social awkwardness, but you can write one mean piece of copy that magically makes total strangers leap to do your bidding. That’s amazing. A million aspiring writers would kill for that talent.

You may not be the prettiest belle at the ball, but you’ve got the snarkiest, sharpest sense of humor of anyone you know—which is exactly what your future prince charming is looking for in his princess.

You may not know how to run a marathon, or juggle, or have any idea what the latest trending meme is on Twitter. But you do what you do like a boss.

And that is all that matters.

 

Image: Flickr

Never Feel Guilty for Following Your Dreams

A while back, A.J. O’Connell left a comment on a post (“The Way Things Are Isn’t The Way Things Have to Be”) that really got me thinking. She wrote:

“I still feel like since my comrades at the newspaper (and most people I know and love) are trudging along, meeting society’s expectations and suffering for it, so sometimes I feel like I’m not carrying my fair share.”

Her words struck me because this is something I’d secretly been feeling, too, but I didn’t fully realize it until she pointed it out.

When I tell people my plan to quit my job, the response I most dread hearing isn’t “You’re crazy” or “That’s impossible.” (I’m perfectly fine with those responses, because I know they’re entirely mistaken.) The response I dread hearing is “Well, wouldn’t that be nice?”

I hate, hate, HATE that phrase.

First and foremost, because it’s a form of the completely unattractive woe-is-me-ing I can’t stand hearing other people say. If you’re unhappy with something, change it. If it can’t be changed, learn to deal. Complaining and resenting do nothing but make you and everyone around you miserable. Rant concluded. Proceed with normal post.

I also hate that phrase because it makes me feel selfish for not trudging along with everyone else. It implies I’m trying to get away with something that isn’t fair, that I think I’m better than everyone else, or that I’m somehow harming other people by following my dreams. I’m not, I don’t, and I’m not, but that phrase still leaves me feeling like I’ve been punched in the gut.

It’s funny (or really, kind of sad) how thoroughly one person’s bitterness can undercut you.

 

Bad Vibes, Deconstructed

Guilt-trippers, like naysayers, are 100% worthless and to be ignored at all costs. But this particular guilt trip is tough for me to shake off because I’ve had similar guilty thoughts of my own since making my decision to escape the 9-to-5.

If you’re trying to do anything that’s a little out of the ordinary — or that other people secretly wish they could do too (but aren’t) — chances are you’ve felt some pangs of guilt yourself.

The good news is, you’ve got nothing to feel guilty about. The “wouldn’t that be nice” jab (like any other weapon in the guilt-tripper’s or naysayer’s arsenal) is faulty to the Nth. Let’s take a look at how well it really holds up:

 

Guilt Inducer #1: You’re trying to get away with something that isn’t fair

It’s unfair if you follow your dreams, and someone else follows their dreams, and you both put in the same amount of work and faith and passion… but in the end, you achieve your dream by some random fluke of luck and the other person fails by another, crappier fluke. (Not your fault, incidentally, but still universally unfair crappy.)

It’s unfair if you steal someone else’s dream away from them, cheat them out of their dream, or if your dream somehow infringes on the achievement of theirs. (Your fault, and also crappy.)

It’s unfair if you can only achieve your dream by hurting, lying to, stealing from, or taking advantage of someone else. (Your fault again. And shame on you!)

If someone else isn’t following their dream and you are following yours, that’s not unfair. That’s their fault for not following their dream.  (And don’t let them start telling you all the reasons why they’re not going after what they want. They’re not. End of argument.)

 

Guilt Inducer #2: You think you’re better than everyone else

The truth is, we’re all way too good for a subpar existence, and we all deserve better. But you can’t live anyone else’s life for them. You can try to motivate, or inspire, or give helpful pushes, but in the end, yours is the only dream you can bring into existence.

Downplaying your own dreams to make someone else feel better about not following theirs is stupid. (Tweet, tweet!) Sorry to be mean, but that’s the brutal truth.

You owe it to yourself and the world to live the best life you can. Period.

 

Guilt Inducer #3: You’re somehow harming other people by following your dreams

There’s nothing “take one for the team” about trudging along just because everyone else is.

We have to live our own lives the best way we can, and there’s nothing noble or self-sacrificing about resigning yourself to being miserable just because everyone else is doing it.  If anything, you owe it to those around you to go for your dreams just to prove it can be done.

Would I have locked step with the office drone lifestyle if I’d known, out of college, that it was completely feasible to live a minimalist, location-independent life and spend my days sitting in coffee shops writing things and being awesome? Hell to the Yes. But I didn’t even know such a lifestyle existed, let alone that it was possible. All I saw were people locking step, so I did the same, even though I felt kind of icky even as I was doing it. Had I found back then one fraction of the bloggers I currently follow, things could have been so very different.

There will always be people content to trudge along for a paycheck and live their lives quietly or desperately on the weekends. You’re not depriving the world of anything it won’t miss by being one rogue out of the horde of mindless drones. If anything, you owe it to people to show them there’s an alternative.

 

So, What Do You Say?

The next time someone throws the “wouldn’t that be nice” grenade your way — explicitly or implicitly — what do you do? How do you handle it?

I, for one, aim simply to nod, as Zen guru-like as possible, and say, “Yes, I think it would be.” And then I will go along and keep striving for what I am striving for.

Hopefully, the person will start to think I might be on to something.

*Cordelia postscript: Having made my impossible dream happen, I can tell you from experience that it is quite nice. 🙂

What guilt-trips have you been letting get you down, and how will you punch them squarely in the gut? Share your triumphs and tribulations in the comments!

Image: Flickr

Screw the Game of Life. Here’s the Real Way to Play It

I never played The Game of Life as a kid. Count it among the many random ways my childhood was deprived of things most normal American children experience (including getting something from the ice cream truck, seeing The Goonies and going to a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese).

Maybe if I’d played it back then, when things like jobs and life insurance policies seemed cool because they were “grownup,” I would have enjoyed it more. But when my husband introduced me to the game recently (I’m trying to make up for lost experiences), I have to say I was disappointed —  and also oddly disturbed.

I was expecting the game to be more of a choose-your-own adventure, something that lets kids role-play being an adult by making various choices and then seeing what the consequences would be. And there is some of that.  (Don’t want to buy that auto insurance? Guess who just got into an accident!)

But for the most part, I felt like I was being moved along on a conveyor belt, collecting things as I was told to based on random numbers generated by a little plastic spinner arm.

It didn’t feel like fun; it felt like obeying orders.

 

I Have to Do What, Now?

What if I didn’t want three little peg-headed children? What if I wanted two  (Or none at all, for that matter?) Or what if I wanted to wait until I had a little more money to properly support them?

And did I really have to buy a helicopter on my modest teacher’s salary just because that’s the space I landed on? What if I didn’t want a helicopter? I already owned enough things I couldn’t afford, including a house, a business, two horses, and apparently all of my dead aunt’s 50 cats.

Being told what to do and when to do it, and then doing it, isn’t my idea of a super-fun time. When I reached the “Day of Reckoning,” I had the little family of five that had been assigned to me, a collection of ridiculously pricey items, and a life insurance policy to cash in on. But I didn’t feel any sense of triumph or accomplishment.

All I’d done was check off the boxes I was supposed to, exactly the same as my opponent (although I have to admit he’d done it much more successfully than I had). And now that I’d reached the end, I had nothing to show for it but a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to begin with and the sense of having been pushed through a series of events I’d had no say in.

Woo. Hoo.

Quite frankly, I was hoping for a little more out of Life.

 

So This Is What It’s Like to Be a Grownup?

I think the reason I disliked the game so much (I found myself actively resenting it by the end, and not because I’d lost) was that it’s actually an all-too-accurate depiction of what it’s like to be an adult. And I don’t agree with The Way Things Are in real life, either.

I can accept that sometimes random events (fire, lottery windfall, etc.) happen to you when you least expect them. I can also accept the notion of a giant spinner arm of fate/God/what-have-you that grants certain people “luck” and other people misfortune on a seemingly random basis. I may be an idealist, but I understand that sometimes the good guy doesn’t always win in the end. (I don’t necessarily like it, but I can begrudgingly accept it.)

The thing that bothered me about The Game of Life wasn’t these random ups and downs, but how compulsory it felt. Just like my actual grownup life, I didn’t feel like I had much input into how I went about living. I was simply following a preset line, doing what I was supposed to do whenever I was expected to do it.

I may have more say in the real world over whether or not I buy a helicopter, but there are still plenty of spaces along the road of life where you’re expected to do or acquire certain things just because that’s the way most people normally go about it. There’s a generally accepted blueprint for living, and most of us follow it without thinking twice.

You can tell because other people are guaranteed to notice when you’re not following this blueprint. You reach a certain age, and people start asking you “when you’re going to” do various things: When are you going to get married? Start having kids? Buy a house? The implication is that you either should have done these things by now, or you’re about due to, because the typical life goes along a continuum just like the board game, with certain actions you take at certain stages.

Everyone’s board looks a little bit different, but the basic layout is the same: go to college, get a job, get married, have 2.5 kids and a 2.5 car garage house, work 9 to 5 five days a week, keep doing that till you’re 65, and then (if you’re lucky), you reach the end space, where you get to finally relax and just live life (if you have the money and health left to do so). You move along the winding, colorful spaces with everyone else, collecting things at the points you’re supposed to, and that is considered a “life.”

 

Break Free of the Board

Personally, I have a problem with that. A big problem.

I don’t have a grand master plan for the future, but I can tell you I’m not too enthused about the idea of living my life as a series of checkpoints and to-dos. Especially when they’re someone else’s. (Tweet, tweet!)

I have a to-do list of my own, thank you, and only so much time in which to accomplish it.

I don’t care what I’m “supposed to” have done or “supposed to” have gotten by my 28th year of living. I don’t care where everyone else’s little plastic cars are on the board. This is my life, and there’s an awful lot I’d like to do with it. And none of it will get done if I waste my time trying to make my life conform to the usual pattern.

Which is why I’m taking my little plastic car off road to see what kind of adventures I can come up with beyond the board. I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds like a lot more fun.

What’s your take on the game of life? Are you ready to off-road it, too?

Image: Flickr