The Why and How of Following Your Own Path

Snoqualmie Falls with Train in Background

To move forward despite the good advice you are receiving.

That is the trick.

I am reminded of a quote on this topic that resonates deeply with me.

From the poet EE Cummings, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like  everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

Does this resonate with you too?

Why is it seemingly so hard to just follow our own path?

I think part of the answer has something to do with the good intentions of others.

The oft-quoted American psychologist Abraham Maslow said that we must “be independent of the good opinion of other people.”

In essence, we should remain unpersuaded by others while in the midst of our own pursuits.

Last time we talked about how to receive advice. I mentioned that advice will always come at you in one of two ways. You either asked for it, or you didn’t.

Even the best advice, though, is simply an idea that you might be able to squeeze into the existing framework of your life.

Each of us is unique. Each of us leads separate and distinct lives.

And that is the way it should be.

What works for someone else often won’t work for us despite their best attempts at persuading us to change.

So, two things.

The first is this:

The singular reason why it is important to become increasingly more independent is because your life is entirely your responsibility.

Your family, your friends, bloggers (ahem), Dr. Phil, and others will ceaselessly inundate you with advice about what you should be doing with your life and how you should be thinking.

But, nobody that offers you advice has the responsibility for how that advice will affect your life.

For instance, if you follow the advice and it makes you worse off, then the advice-givers can throw their hands up in the air, make some excuses, and move on. You, on the other hand, can’t.

You’re stuck with the consequences.

And this responsibility has a hitch.

The hitch is that it doesn’t matter whether you choose to be independent or dependent because, in either case, you are always the one responsible.

The second thing is how to become more independent.

And no, it’s not about pretending to ignore the chatter and the subtle societal pressures.

That won’t work. And, there’s no need to do this anyway.

Rather, think of it this way.

Independence is about ownership.

You are the owner. Own your decisions, own your failures, and own everything in between.

If it touches your life, then take responsibility for it and own it.

For any decision you will be able to find cheerleaders and detractors. Those who think it’s a good idea, and those who feel you are making a big mistake.

And, each will have reasons why they think that way. Maybe even good reasons.

But those pressures and those reasons are no match for the person that owns their decisions. They don’t stand a chance against the person who owns their life.

The bottom line is this:

To follow you own path requires a baseline level of inner strength and courage. Big moves will always elicit big responses from those around you. The courage and strength lie in your ability to thank them for their opinion, put the opinions to use or discard them, and continue moving in your own direction.

When you view yourself as the real owner of your life is when this becomes easier. You will look upon others with fresh eyes.

Does this make sense?

As an aside, please understand that the irony is not lost upon me.

I can hear you saying, “here’s some dude offering up a heap of advice after telling me to ignore the advice of others and lead my own life.”

To that I respond, “Well, yes and no.”

My hope is that you find this stuff useful and that you are able to put the concepts to work.

But, there is a difference.

I offer up thoughts and leave the rest to you. If you use these ideas, then that’s great. If you choose to leave them on the table, that’s fine too. I am not offended.

It’s totally up to you.

As it should be.