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Leadership Thought #206 – Be A Non-Conformist When It Comes To Leading A Meaningful Life

August 30, 2011

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When it comes to your life, I highly encourage you to be a non-conformist.  Carve out your own path!  You should worry less about what other people think. Instead, think about living a meaningful life – whatever that means to you.  Too many people simply plug into a system.  They do what they think they are supposed to do without regard for how it makes them feel.  Constantly bombarded with messages praising consumerism they believe that the acquisition of material goods will be their just reward and make them happier.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t really work out this way.

A life devoid of passion, meaning, and a genuine sense of contribution is a tragedy.  Sadly, our society is no longer good at creating models you would want to be a part of.  Many of our traditional systems are breaking down.  They are rife with greed, dysfunction, disproportionate power dynamics, and hypocrisy.

Personally, I believe this is why so many people are on some type of medication to deal with their unhappiness.  It sometimes feels like there is no longer any place to turn to feel connected to something that is bigger and more important than you are.  Once the journey becomes about self-gratification and the pursuit of “things” over all else it is destined to be a disappointment.  We also regularly confuse power and fame with significance and personal responsibility, which is a very slippery slope.

Everyone should engage in some level of self-reflection on a consistent basis.  There are many ways to do this: prayer, meditation, journaling, confiding in close friends, reading books that inspire you, finding quiet moments in the day to think about things, etc.  I am aware of several people who practice the “mirror test” and ask themselves every morning when they look in the mirror if they are becoming the person they want to be (or not).

Many people I know latch on to spiritual, religious, or self-help movements to help them find meaning in the “busy-ness” and confusion of day-to-day existence.  This can be a good thing but just be careful whom you are following and pay attention to their actions as much as their words. Looking to others to provide answers to the important questions in your life will only ever get you so far.

The problem with conforming to the “rat race” or any other prescribed system of living is that over time it usually takes you further and further away from the destination you should be targeting. For example, delayed gratification is an interesting concept.  Some level of self-sacrifice and patience is certainly required in life, but you better get the timing right and make sure what you think you want is truly what you want and worth the cost.  Once the time is already spent, it is irretrievable.  I know quite a few individuals who wish they could have “do-overs” in their life and bemoan the lack of time they have to make things right.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not espousing you become an anarchist or hedonist and do whatever you want whenever you want to do it regardless of the consequences.  There are some basic rules that are required in civil society.  For example, your gain or benefit should not come at someone else’s expense.  Your actions certainly shouldn’t do harm to other people unless they are in self-defense (and in most cases even this is debatable).  If you have children, you need to be a responsible parent and consider their needs as at least commensurate with your own.   Life is supposed to be a win-win proposition for all involved.  Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

However, you can be a good boss, parent, spouse, sibling, friend, and citizen and do work that is meaningful and important to you.   It’s important that you identify and cultivate your unique talents and abilities and use them.  You should have personal interests or hobbies outside of work that bring you joy.  Properly maintained mutually beneficial relationships will lead to a rich and fulfilling life.  You don’t have to settle for a life of quiet desperation and hope that one day, things will change.  The future is now and the sooner you start living the life you want (and need) and stop boxing yourself in and conforming to a system that isn’t really working for you, the happier you will be.