Whose Life Are You Living?

One of my clients has been living a charmed life: he has a very spacious, luxurious apartment, drives an expensive car, travels often for pleasure, and earns multiple six figures. These things are supposed to make him happy.

So why is he bored and frustrated?

Some background:

  • While he has some very close friends, finding love has been difficult. He meets women who are superficial or who are non-committal. He’s not a player, he has a big heart but he keeps dating the wrong people or finding himself in annoying or complicated situations.
  • His paycheck is large, but his work is unfulfilling. He’s thinking of ways to supplement his work with activities and volunteer opportunities. This could add more meaning to his life.
  • His family is “normal” and expect him to do traditional things. You would not think this could be a drawback in a family, but believe it or not, it adds pressure to him.

* * *

Discussing dating, family and work really amount to asking a bigger question: why is he doing all of this? Obviously, he keeps his job because it provides stability in a lifestyle for which he’s grown accustomed. But the friends and family part give him pause. Does he go to certain bars and clubs on weekends to be seen — and really to show his friends a certain, curated look? Does he buy into his family’s traditional values where everything is linear?

I asked him to consider the question: whose life is he living? Is he (and really, are you) living a life that’s too simple, not pushing you to your limits? Is this life fulfilling? What would we be doing if we didn’t need to impress others? Or fit in?

Would you break up with someone you’ve been seeing even if it’s good, but mostly because it’s not great? Would you travel for an extended period of time? Would you continue to do everything your family asked of you, just because you wanted to be a people pleaser? Whose life are you living? The life you’re supposed to live based on family of origin stuff, societal rules, or the life you want to live?

What if you’re living someone else’s dream life? What if this is the life your parents wanted for you, because they could not achieve certain goals? Maybe they influenced or encouraged you to have a certain major in college, then advised you to apply for internships at cool companies that eventually led to job offers. What if you’re living a life for your significant other? Maybe you go to a country club because it pleases your spouse, but you couldn’t care less. You live a life in which you’re beholden to someone else — you have to maintain certain perceptions.  None of this is terrible, but to live someone else’s life could be holding you back from your purpose or desires.

Here’s what happened with the client:

We agreed that he would block out a few hours each weekend to do things alone, to take an inventory of what he liked or to just be. He had previously been tightly scheduled each weekend, so this was something new. At first, he didn’t like doing things alone, like seeing movies or hiking. He had the mentality that he was saving certain activities for when he would have a serious girlfriend. Well, this caused him not to do tons of things on his local bucket list. He began tackling the list — like walking up to the Hollywood Sign. I reminded him that he could do them now and they’d be great and when he does them with a girlfriend, they’ll still be great. Why wait? Whose life is passing by while waiting?

My client reported that he was learning more about himself and feeling stronger in his power and masculinity. I was overjoyed to hear this, noticed his energy has changed and he’s much more self-assured.

Here are my questions for you:

  1. How do you figure out what your own life should be? Whose voice is guiding you? Is this coming from your deepest desire or that nagging old script? It’s not self-evident to most people.
  2. If it’s different from the life you lead, how do you work up the courage to leave one life behind to start another. Getting a divorce isn’t easy. Moving can be a challenge. Finding a new job seems terrifying. How do we get the courage to make changes that are necessary? What are some of the ways to have our cake and eat it too?
  3. I like the Latin proverb, “fortune favors the bold.” Let that guide you while imagining what life could be life if and when.
  4. What would you be doing if you weren’t trying to please the people who expect something from you? Ask yourself. Write it down.
  5. Take a small step today. Research a new place to live, update your resume, invite someone new for tea.

Keep breathing. You’ve got this. It’s your life.

To inquire about working with me, please visit my coaching page. Here are other posts that might suit your fancy: (Communication With) MenI’m Too Young for This and Exacting Precision (Especially When Things Go Wrong).

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