Your parents love you a lot.
That’s why, when you were growing up, they probably made a lot of decisions for you:
- What clothes you wore
- Which schools you attended
- What kind of sports and activities you participated in
- Which friends you hung out with
- Which toys you played with
- Which TV shows you watched
- What time you went to bed
As a kid, you naturally gave in to what your parents wanted you to do.
After all, they knew what was best for you.
(In this other article I wrote, I challenge the idea that parents want what’s best for their children. Most of the time, they only want what’s good.)
Feeling “stuck” when you’re young
I don’t doubt that parents have excellent intentions when they make choices on their children’s behalf.
But, very often, this is the message that gets communicated to their children:
“You’re too young to make a choice. You’re naïve and foolish, so I’ll make the choice for you.”
Many children grow up believing this message well into their late teens and early 20s. This is a problem.
At the end of the day, all of us need to take full responsibility for our lives. No matter how terrible or overbearing our parents are, we should never blame them for the way our lives turn out.
I don’t deny, however, that our parents have a huge impact on our lives.
The older you get, the more of your own choices you get to make, but many parents still act as if they should always have the final say.
Feeling “stuck” when you’re old
Some time in your late teens or early 20s, you start your first full-time job. You begin taking on a variety of responsibilities: financial, social, family.
Up until that point in your life, you might have felt like you were too young to make a choice.
With all these responsibilities and “adult” things to deal with, you experience a sharp transition.
You’re now too old to make a change.
“I can’t quit my job. If I do, what will happen to my mortgage payments?”
“If I start my own business and fail, how will I provide for my family?”
“If I don’t go down the ‘safe’ path, what will other people think of me? What will my parents think of me?”
Four beliefs to embrace if you want to get “unstuck”
This is a frustrating, painful and helpless situation that many young adults find themselves in.
There’s a way out, but it requires you to embrace these four beliefs:
1. If you want to find happiness and fulfillment, you must run your own race.
Many of us try to run the race that other people want us to run. If we do that, we effectively place our long-term happiness in another person’s keeping.
Clearly, not a good idea.
Running your own race means that you’re only competing against yourself, not against other people.
2. Being a winner isn’t about finishing first. It’s about finishing well.
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that how you finish matters more than how you start.
That’s true in any sort of race or competition, and it’s also true in life.
But being a real winner—one who experiences enduring success—isn’t about finishing first. It’s about finishing well and finishing strong.
It’s about leading a meaningful life that you can be proud of.
It’s about making a difference in the lives of others.
When you understand this, it won’t be so difficult to make changes later on in your life, because you won’t be overly concerned about getting “left behind” if your decisions don’t work out.
3. You’re never too old to dream a new dream.
Neither are you too old to set a new goal.
You won’t achieve every one of your goals, and you won’t realize every one of your dreams.
But joy and meaning are found in the pursuit—and not the attainment—of purposeful goals and dreams.
It’s an unfortunate fact that dreams do die. Choose to walk away from the disappointment and dream a new dream.
4. Being “stuck” isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.
If you feel “stuck” but aren’t willing to take action to improve your situation, then you’ve chosen to be stuck.
When you start asking “How can I?” instead of “Can I?” you’ll begin to see that there’s always something you can do. There’s always a way out.
The solution may not be immediate, and it may not be easy. But it’s there for you to choose. So choose bravely and wisely.
Contrary to how many of us feel as we mature from childhood to adulthood, we’re never too young to make a choice, and we’re never too old to make a change.
Life is too short and too full of wondrous potential for us to feel stuck.
Today, let’s make a choice and make a change.
(This post was inspired by Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho.)