This quote became a mantra of mine a number of years ago bringing me courage and reassurance through any obstacle and remains my favorite quote to this day. Through my own journey, different words or phrases of this quote will resonate with me more at one point over another. Many times it’s been “confidently” or “imagined.” As I adapt this quote to my life yet again those words are currently “your” and “you.”
At first I thought it a bit strange and random that out of the whole quote these two particular words started to stick out more. But lately as I mentally, and sometimes verbally, repeat this quote to myself, I find myself emphasizing “your” and “you,” as a reminder that my journey is personal. It encourages me to maintain focus and clarity on my own objectives and standards, and to constantly strive to break my own records, excel at my own pace and celebrate my own accomplishments.
In our fast paced and ever changing world, we are constantly pulled in a million different directions, exposed to a variety of routes and possibilities which all have a certain allure to them. There are so many options popping up all over it could give a person whiplash. More often than whiplash though, it often results in confusion, self-doubt, and adopting another’s goals as your own. Especially in the age where social media rules our world it is easy to get caught up in each other’s lives and wonder maybe what “Person X” posts should be something you’re also working toward. After all, it appears Person X discovered the “formula” for success…
We all know Person X. Person X works 3 jobs, serves on 2 committees, is writing the next bestseller, and might be on the verge of discovering the cure for cancer yet still has time to knit a lovely scarf for a friend’s birthday. People like this are definitely people to admire, but they can also make others feel they aren’t doing enough to make their lives great. While their stories can be extremely motivating they can also deter focus from one’s own path to adopt a similar lifestyle.
“Go confidently in the direction of YOUR dreams. Live the life YOU have imagined.”
What does the life YOU imagine involve? Do YOU imagine yourself backpacking across Europe? Does YOUR vision feature getting married and having a family? Do YOU see yourself as CEO of a company?
Stressing “your” and “you” in Thoreau’s quote provides a valuable and reassuring checkpoint when it seems everyone around us accelerates past and we feel stagnant. When it appears everyone else is achieving endless promotions, completing academic degrees and certifications, or having the wedding of a lifetime, it sometimes creates a type of urgency for others not making the same accomplishments to reset and chase similar goals. While I believe it is greatly important to surround yourself with people who attract success and provide inspiration for your own life and goals, it is also important to know what you want and need for YOUR life.
All too often I hear myself, my family, my friends and strangers measure their personal victories and failures against those around them. To compare yourself to others is easy and frequently encouraged in our society but is futile and irrelevant. You must make choices, take risks and seek achievements that resonate with YOU. No one else has the power to dictate our ultimate dreams and desires. Our passions are so intuitively based, that no one outside can truly comprehend and thereby judge, quantify or schedule whether anyone is “on track.” To dilute and alter your vision because of another is a tragic disservice to yourself.
This habit of comparison is one I’ve been working to combat for years. Thankfully, I’ve become better at battling my own insecurities sparked by other’s successes, but it is nowhere close to being eliminated from my psyche. And perhaps it never will be, for me or for anyone else. What I understand more clearly now, especially as I’ve immersed myself in an industry essentially governed by status and image, is acknowledging or congratulating another on success does not impede or diminish your own success. To applaud another as they pursue or achieve their own goals does not threaten your own dreams. Cheering others on, especially your competition, demonstrates tremendous strength, selflessness and maturity and should be done more.
Along with comparison, we’re often also swayed by other’s input and advice on our actions. I will never forget high school for multiple reasons, one of the biggest being the number of teachers who held me after class to talk about my future. They were so concerned about me pursuing theatre in college telling me I was “wasting my intelligence” and I would be better suited for a career in politics, international studies, foreign languages, science, math etc. Truthfully, I was interested in all the areas they suggested and could see myself working in any of those fields but it wasn’t what I imagined for myself. Besides, as an actor I can experience all those professions and more!
I was close to all my teachers and valued their feedback and frequently felt the pressure to change my focus, and consequently felt the sense of disappointment from them when I didn’t. Despite this prominent memory I still find it extremely valuable to seek advice from others, trusted advisers and even acquaintances, provided you have a strong sense of self-awareness to take whatever comes back in stride. Outside influences can be greatly motivating and beneficial, if you know how to use them to supplement your own vision. Researching and branching out based on a suggestion when it feels right, disregarding it when it doesn’t. Pursue the life you have imagined even if others think you are better suited for another. They don’t have to live your life, you have to live your life so it is imperative to make it one you love!
Everyone is different and everyone’s aspirations differ thus everyone’s path to success will differ. Written out and articulated this statement sounds incredibly simple and obvious yet becomes difficult to internalize. Strive to outdo yourself. What works for others may not work for you and vice versa. Let another’s work inspire you if it helps you with your own objectives. If adopting another’s tactics as your own provides a breakthrough or brings you added happiness, then by all means integrate them into your day, make them your own, but remember to focus on you and your journey. Challenge yourself to reach new heights. Seek outside influences that are not detrimental to yourself and invest in what has meaning to you. Prevent anyone else’s journey, their successes and their failures to stifle your own growth. Never doubt the passion and fire inside you, allow it to direct you to the life you have imagined. Trust it. It won’t lead you astray.