Do you want to dance to your own beat?
Do you want to stand tall and own who you are?
Well, you need to listen up because I’ve got news for you—there’s nothing stopping you.
Living life on your own terms starts with a mindset shift. You need to see the truths that are staring you in the face (but that you might be afraid to accept).
1. What other people think of you doesn’t matter.
Okay, let me clarify that a bit—what most people think of you doesn’t matter.
Sure, it matters what your boss thinks of you (though it matters more what they think of your work).
And, yes, it does matter what your partner thinks of you (mostly in the sense of whether you are compatible).
But as for your family, friends, and strangers, it’s not really that important.
And, yes, they may not always like what they see, or understand it, but so long as it’s not hurting anybody, you shouldn’t worry what other people think.
Their thoughts are their own. If those thoughts are negative, that’s a them problem, not a you problem.
If you want to live life on your terms, you shouldn’t care too much about how other people view those terms.
2. You can’t please everyone.
In fact, you can’t please many people. Not entirely.
People place a lot of expectations on others. You definitely do too. But those expectations are yours, they are not the other person’s.
What happens is that an individual projects an expectation onto another person. They might believe the person should behave in the way they would like them to.
And when that person behaves differently to what was expected, the individual with the expectation gets upset.
That’s a roundabout way of saying—you’re going to piss people off.
It’s inevitable that you will sometimes, probably often, do something that goes against what another person would like you to do.
But, again, that’s a them problem. If what they expect of you isn’t what you would choose to do, then it’s perfectly acceptable to disregard their wishes to live life on your own terms (though not always, and we’ll come to that later).
You shouldn’t place too much importance on the expectations of others.
3. Your preferences matter just as much as anyone else’s.
You can’t live life the way you’d like if you always put other people’s wishes and wants before your own.
It simply isn’t possible to prioritize someone else and prioritize yourself at the same time.
There are many reasons why you might have people-pleasing tendencies, but you’ll need to curb that urge if you want to forge a life that fits your own wishes and wants.
And, in the case of you and your life, your preferences matter most. The preferences of others matter to them, sure, and sometimes you can find a middle ground.
But you mustn’t forfeit your own happiness for the happiness of others (at least, not entirely, though if you are a parent, partner, or have another form of dependent—sometimes you might have to put someone else first, just not all of the time).
4. Collaboration and cooperation are still important.
So far, I’ve mostly talked about how you need to put yourself first and give less of a damn about others.
But, actually, I don’t mean you should become a self-serving loner who only cares about yourself.
Working with others is important. You should never underestimate the value other people can bring to your life, and vice versa.
What you should try to do, if you want to live life on your own terms, is to ensure that you are moving in the same direction as those you cooperate with.
When you work together, it should really mean together. It shouldn’t mean working for the benefit of one, but for the benefit of the team—whether that’s 2 people or 200 people.
Collaboration won’t always be perfectly harmonious, but if you do it right, you should feel positive about the general direction of travel of the group.
If you don’t, it might be time to leave that group.
5. Speak your truth.
To speak your truth means to express your thoughts and feelings where appropriate.
Sometimes you don’t need to speak out. You might choose to stay quiet but remove yourself from a situation or group of people if those things prevent you from living life on your own terms.
Other times, you need to let people know what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. It’s an important part of building healthy relationships with others.
Either way, you are acting in a way that is authentic to who you are.
You aren’t neglecting your wishes. You aren’t pandering to others. You aren’t enduring things that aren’t good for you just to keep the peace.
You are expressing your true self, one way or another.
Speaking your truth might mean standing up for yourself or standing up for what you believe in. It might mean saying ‘no’ to people. It might even mean cutting ties with someone.
What it should never, ever mean is hurting someone intentionally. Speak your truth, but do so tactfully (do your best, at least—none of us is perfect).
6. Don’t be afraid to shy away from the mainstream (if you want to).
Some people feel they are not living life on their terms because they are part of a societal system that doesn’t work for them, or that feels like a bad fit.
It’s hard to live how you’d like to live if you have been raised in a structure that doesn’t cater to your preferences.
The mainstream, despite the huge variety of people in it, is fairly homogeneous. People live the same lives in different ways.
But if you find yourself aching for something different, then it’s okay to shun the lifestyle you’re accustomed to and strike out for something different.
Perhaps that means becoming a nomad, moving from place to place, and exploring different cultures.
Maybe it means becoming part of a commune and living off the land with others who share similar ideals.
It might even mean becoming a hermit in a nice warm cave somewhere (a little unrealistic, but you get the idea).
You’ll probably have to remember the first truth on this list if you change your lifestyle in a major way because there will be people who view your choices with confusion, ridicule, or even contempt.
You will have to disregard what those people think if the changes you are making allow you to live life on terms of your choosing.
7. Things that no longer serve you can and should be let go of.
There are often some pretty clear signs when something no longer serves you. The way you think and feel about that thing is a dead giveaway.
Many people ignore these signs. They turn away and hope that they’ll go away.
But they rarely ever do.
Instead, you need to act. You need to cut the ties you have to this thing and let it go. This is not only possible, but also highly preferable.
Something that no longer serves you is a net drain on you. It takes away your energy, it leaves you feeling flat, it provides no joy or comfort.
I’m not saying it’s always easy to let go of something, especially if that thing has played—or still plays—a major part in your life.
But if prevents you from living a life that is true to the person you are (and that person may be different to the person you were at an earlier point in your life), then you’re doing yourself more harm by holding onto it than you will by releasing your grip.
8. Your interests and passions should be pursued wholeheartedly.
I don’t care if you’re interested in metal detecting, figure skating, tree planting, or something a bit more “typical.”
If it inspires you, motivates you, brings joy to your life, or rewards you in some other intangible (or tangible) way, then you ought to be doing more of it.
Too many of us—me included—sideline our passions, hobbies, and interests because life is a busy, messy affair that saps all our energy.
But if you’re low on energy, partaking in your passions is actually a great idea. You will feel lifted, revitalized, like there is a reason to keep going.
The challenge, or perhaps I should say the trick, is to carve out the time in your busy schedule to pour into the things you enjoy most.
Look at how you spend a typical week in your life, then ask what you could deprioritize so that you can push your passions and interests higher up the list.
You will forever struggle to feel like you are living life on your terms unless you can take part in the activities you feel most liberated by.
9. Your instincts are “right” most of the time.
Many people choose to ignore the little voice in their heads (or at the very core of their being) that tries to guide them.
Call it a gut instinct, call it intuition, call it a sixth sense—that innate feeling that you should or should not do something is generally a very good judge.
And when it comes to living life on your own terms, that instinct is the best guide you will ever have.
It knows when you feel discontent with life. You know. But you might not always choose to listen.
But you should. You should take note of what your thoughts are telling you, what your body is telling you, what your experiences in life are telling you.
Those things are screaming to you that you need a change in direction, a course correction. They are the signs you need a change in life, possibly even a big change.
Listen, I don’t want to lecture you. You probably know many of these things already.
I also don’t want to pretend that living a life on your own terms is always easy.
We are all conditioned in so many ways as we grow up and even in our adult lives. Changing the way you think, the way you act, the way you live requires ongoing effort.
Sometimes you’ll stagnate or fall back into old ways of doing things, but personal growth toward a more satisfying and fulfilling life—a life that you choose as much as possible—should remain the goal throughout.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll start to notice the difference in your life sooner rather than later.
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