Some people seem to be born assertive, self-directed, and with a natural sense of how to advocate for their own interests, and live their lives on their own terms.
For many other people, however, these are skills that have to be developed, rather than things that come “automatically” or that can be taken for granted.
Nonetheless, everyone essentially wants to live their own lives on their own terms, to the greatest extent possible. Ultimately, people tend to “go with the flow” out of habit, rather than out of the conviction that it’s the best way to live. Because, among other things, “going with the flow” largely means going the way that other people direct you, and living your life according to templates set by people and circumstances that might not serve your best interests.
If you find that you’re the kind of person who blows this way and that in the wind, rather than charting your own course through life, here are a few tips for changing things around, and living life more on your own terms.
Stand up against injustices done towards you
We all like to think that bullying is essentially just something that happens on the playground, and then gets left there once we leave school and move into the adult world.
Unfortunately, bullying exists at all different levels of society, and takes many different forms, as well. In extreme cases, people’s health can be wrecked, and their lives made miserable by the reckless – if not outright malevolent – actions of others.
The first step to living life on your own terms, is to work on developing your assertiveness, and to begin standing up against injustices done towards you, and removing yourself consciously from situations where those injustices occur.
If, to give an extreme example, you have contracted a severe health condition due to exposure to asbestos, do your research, and get in touch with a good legal company so that you can get fair compensation for your unwanted exposure to asbestos, for starters.
If you find that you’re engaged in toxic friendships where you are always the butt of the joke, and you give a lot, to receive nothing in return, work up the courage to let those “friendships” fall by the wayside. Stand up for yourself, even if that means first contacting a professional counselor for assertiveness training.
Practice intentional living – hone your preferences, and decide on how you’re going to steer your life
If you’re the kind of person who always responds with “I don’t know,” or “I don’t mind, you pick,” when asked what you’d like to do, what you’d like to eat, et cetera, you need to begin honing your preferences and taking them seriously.
A major part of living your life on your own terms, is actually identifying what “your own terms” really are.
Practice intentional living. Get into the habit of asking yourself, in any given instance, “out of these choices, which one would I prefer?” This may not come naturally at first, but if you keep working at it, you’ll likely find it quickly becomes second nature.
Work, step-by-step, to boost your autonomy in all areas of your life
It’s difficult to feel that you really living your life on your own terms, if you’re working a job you hate and are subject to the arbitrary whims of a boss who seems supernaturally unreasonable.
A key to living a life on your own terms is working, step-by-step, to boost your autonomy in all areas of your life.
The better able you are to provide your own basic needs and rely on yourself rather than others, the more likely you are to actually manage to do what you find meaningful and desirable, rather than what you are “obliged” to do.
In a work context, starting up a side hustle, and exploring remote working options, can be a great step in this direction.
Have a vision to guide yourself forward
There’s a saying to the effect of “if you don’t know where you want to go, you’re never going to get there.”
The bottom line is that you need to have a large and appealing vision or goal that you can orient yourself towards, in order to guide yourself forward in life, on your own terms.
Ask yourself where you really want to be in two, three, five, or even 10 years time. Get really specific. And then, dedicate as much of your energy as possible to moving in that direction.