There comes a point when you realise that you have little control over your own life; not real control anyway. We always think we do, I mean, we work in jobs we enjoy most of the time, we live by the guidelines set out for us, we buy the products we need and we enjoy the free time we have outside of work. What this should really say is, we work to make someone else a profit, we buy produce and goods that are served and heavily marketed, we follow the rules set out for us by someone we assume knows best and we spend a good portion of our free time trying to recover from the working week. This is where we come unstuck. This is where we are wrong. It’s also easy to fix and a lot easier than we think too.
So how do we right this wrong? Lets start with why we are wrong …
In the past 20 years, marketing has sky rocketed, and so has conformism. When I think of marketing, I don’t think of it as happy messages that a company wishes to convey, I think of it by its Military term: Information Operations. These Information Operations are designed specifically to alter the way you think, to embed an idea and convince you of it; all without you realising it’s happening. Information Operations is also the broader term used to group activities like Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) … scary right? I should know, I’ve written an essay on it and have even taken part in it. So what does this have to do with conformism? If the mass media and global corporations are convincing everyone to believe their message, it makes it easier to swallow and be part of the crowd.
So how do we fix this? How do we live life on our own term?
In his influential essay ‘Self-Reliance’, Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
He also states:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
We are told from a young age to be different, to follow our own path; but so few of us do. Some of us, myself included, fear being wrong. We fear that someone will tell us that what we are doing and what we believe is wrong; simply because we are not conforming. That fear controls us; it stops us from reaching our potential and being truly free. So we need to break from fear. I strive to live by the following sentiment: ‘What is the worst that can happen?’. Sure, someone can tell me I’m wrong (most of the time they can’t even justify it), but I know in my heart, with my soul and in my mind that I am right, and what I believe in is true; what’s the worst that can happen – People think I’m crazy, and I get to be happy.
I wear Vibram FiveFinger shoes because I know they are better for me and they make me feel free, despite the weird looks I get.
I devour classic literature and philosophy because I believe that it develops and liberates the mind and the soul; despite stark criticism for being someone who ‘reads’.
I grow as much of my own produce as I can, I strive to be environmentally friendly, and I love the smell of burning incense; despite being criticized as a greenie or hippie.
I smile and wave at kids, because when I was working in Timor Leste for most of 2012, I learnt the power of compassion and the simple giving and sharing of enthusiasm; sometimes all happiness needs is a shared smile.
I do these things because I know them to be true, even if no one around me believes in it. I do it because it makes me happy, and it makes me feel alive. It gives me the freedom to choose.
I have a few ties to cut before I can truly live life on my own terms, but that shouldn’t stop you.
Always question preconceptions.
Always think outside the box.
Never stop dreaming.
Don’t blindly follow the rules.
Fight for what you believe in.
Don’t let anyone ever stop you from following your own path.
… Live life on your terms, and for once, have real control over it.