The Momentum Memo
Off The Charts Business Podcast with Nathalie Lussier
Finding Your Own Way: Breaking Free from Societal Prescriptions

Finding Your Own Way: Breaking Free from Societal Prescriptions

In life, there are many paths that are pre-determined for us.

We are born within certain communities and families, in certain parts of the world.

This instills in us certain worldviews, quirks, and assumptions.

It’s from this subconscious training on how the world works that we make all of life’s choices.

From what we should do as a career, to who we partner with in life, and what we do with our precious time on this planet.

We are following the path that has been laid out for us already.

Sure, we may buck a few trends.

We may veer off the path here and there, but society has a way of getting us back on track.

Whether it’s an offhand comment asking why you don’t have kids yet, or when you’re going to “get a real job”…

These things have a way of keeping us on the straight and narrow.

So how do we figure out what matters to us personally as humans, so we can take the path that we most want to take?

In my life, I’ve followed the prescribed path many times.

I studied Software Engineering, which wasn’t a very female-approved path, but still societally accepted.

I was lucky enough to have paid internships that allowed me to realize fairly quickly that the work environments would not be a fit for me.

So when I graduated from college, I took my first step drastically off the beaten path.

I turned down a job offer from a prestigious firm on Wall Street… and started my first online business.

There were a lot of comments directed at me because of this decision. From my parents, but also from my peers and other family members.

One reason we don’t stray from traditionally accepted paths is often because of family.

We don’t want to disappoint our family members.

Dr. Gabor Maté is a doctor who has 20 years of family practice and palliative care experience. In one of his talks, he speaks to this, where he says that we need 2 fundamental things as human beings:

  1. Attachment: connection with another human being for the purpose of being taken care of. He says that the younger we are, the more important this need is.

  2. Authenticity: knowing who we are, what we feel, while being able to express it and honor it in our behavior.

Often what that means is to remain in an attached relationship with our parents, friends, or others close to us… we cannot be our authentic selves.

This means that we suppress the parts of us that want to do things differently or veer off the expected path.

Because our relationships are so important to our survival and well-being.

Dr. Maté says that we learn to suppress our authenticity because it can threaten our attachment to our caregivers. This might be true when we’re a toddler throwing a tantrum, or a teenager wanting to do things our own ways.

But we also need to recognize that living a life that doesn’t feel authentic to our values and to our true self is not good for our survival either.

In this same talk, Dr. Gabor Maté shares examples of people who develop chronic illnesses because they aren’t able to express their full range of emotions.

He goes into more detail about this connection between human emotion and our immune system in the book “When the body says no.”

Ignoring your true path might make you feel sad or angry… Or like something is not quite right in your life, but it might even lead to disease and health conditions.

Learning how to carve your own path by listening to that deep inner voice could help you live a longer and healthier life.

So how do you figure out what you truly want?

Out of life, out of a partner, out of a career?

One thing that works for me is to remember my childhood.

  • What made me happy? 

  • What are the wonderful memories that stand out? 

  • What did I love doing?

In my case, I loved my grandmother’s garden and picking raspberries. Playing with my friends and climbing trees.

Inventing stories and writing them down. Discovering new things and creating websites on our home computer.

These are all things that I’ve been able to incorporate into my career, as well as my personal life.

If you have too many paths you’d like to explore, I recommend the book “Refuse to choose” by Barbara Sher.

In it, she shares an exercise where you imagine that you have 10 lives to live.

You can be anything and do anything you want in each one.

Write down different professions, places you’d like to live, things you’d like to do.

Then at the end, you get to decide what you want to keep and how it all fits together.

For example, in one of my “lives” I put down, I would like to be an expert martial artist and run a school.

Now, I have a black belt in Taekwondo, and I’m not actively practicing anymore. I feel like I’ve gotten everything I wanted from my practice and I don’t need to make martial arts my whole life.

Maybe for you, a certain career could be just a hobby. If you love baking but you don’t want to become a full-time bakery owner, you might just bake for fun.

Sometimes trying an idea on in your imagination is enough to realize that it’s not what you want to do as your entire life focus.

But it might be a wonderful project after you retire, or when you take a sabbatical.

Choosing to move to a farm is another one of those “off the prescribed path” choices I made.

It took a lot of energy to make it happen, so once you know what would make you happy… it’s time to figure out “the how” of making it happen.

If you’re not happy with a certain aspect of your life, or you know you might be happier in a different situation… try reverse engineering.

Think about what you’ll need to do to get on the right track.

Sometimes it’s not possible to jump to another path, but you’ll need to make small incremental changes that will lead you there.

Now that you have more clarity, you might be wondering how you tell other people.

After all, most of the time, we’re not pursuing the things that we want because of how others will react.

Or how we think they will react.

Maybe to make space for your new hobby, you will need to step down from other responsibilities and feel you’re letting others down.

That may be the case, but those people will recover and understand.

People want you to be happy.

I really believe that.

If they don’t, then they aren’t worth trying to please.

So letting people know that you’re taking things in a different direction doesn’t need to be a big deal.

You can start small if you think it will help, but the most important person to convince is yourself.

If you’re ready to go for it, the world will come together to support you in doing it.

It being:

Starting a new venture or project, giving your hobby the time it deserves, or changing your lifestyle.

You are wiser than you think.

Your body knows, too.

When you feel dread in the pit of your stomach when you’re about to do something… it’s a sign.

When you get excited and feel like your heart is all in, then you’re moving in the right direction.

It’s difficult making decisions that clash with the status quo.

But the status quo isn’t there to help you live your best life.

Often, it exists to keep people in line, to benefit the people who came up with the status quo.

It is safe to strike out on your own path.

It might even be safer for your long-term health, and it is absolutely better for your mental well-being and happiness.

You can do this.

The Momentum Memo
Off The Charts Business Podcast with Nathalie Lussier
The Off The Charts Business Podcast is for multi-passionate entrepreneurs. Here you’ll learn how to design a scalable business to spend more time outside away from the screen, through actionable ideas, real-world examples, and pep talks from your host Nathalie Lussier, founder of AccessAlly.
Nathalie Lussier started making websites when she was 12 years old, and graduated with a degree in Software Engineering and a job offer from Wall Street. In a gutsy move, she turned down this job to start her own business right out of college.
Today, Nathalie is the CEO of the AccessAlly WordPress plugin for ambitious course creators, membership site owners, and community builders. She has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Fast Company, Venture Beat, Mashable, Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, and Under 30 CEO.