If you’ve been told living life for yourself is unforgivably selfish, you’re in the right place.
It’s time we put that idea where it belongs (far away from you).
There’s a reason you have a will of your own.
Living your own life is something only you can do.
Other people have their own lives to live and their own choices to make.
Other people’s lives are their responsibilities.
Your life is your own.
How Do I Start Living My Life?
Single, unattached people aren’t the only ones who have a right to live their life as they see fit.
If you have a spouse and especially children, it’s even more critical for you to know how to live your life for you.
If you have kids, you don’t want them to grow up thinking it’s normal to prefer to live their lives for others and repress their own desires.
It’s a short trip from that to subjecting their needs to someone else’s whims. Too many of us already do that.
So, is it possible to live for yourself? And what does that look like?
- You decide how you spend the time you have outside of work;
- You choose what career or job you pursue and for how long;
- You determine if you enter into or stay in a committed relationship;
- You decide how to spend, save, or invest the money you earn;
- You decide whether to become a parent and to how many.
No one can (or should) make these choices for you. They’ve got their own to make.
Living For Yourself: 9 Ways To Live Your Life for Yourself Guilt-Free
If you’re ready to learn how to start living for yourself, look through the following steps. Think about where you are right now, and consider where you need to begin.
Don’t compare your progress with anyone else’s. Your process is your own.
Make a note of the points that stand out for you.
1. Get to Know Yourself Better
You won’t fight for yourself if you don’t know who that is—or if you’ve bought into the idea that your buried self isn’t worth knowing.
To be clear, we’re not saying you should know everything there is to know about yourself. None of us is born with perfect self-knowledge. It’s a process.
To make that process a priority, focus on making time for activities that help you get better acquainted with yourself. Identify your biggest energy drains, along with the things that help you feel alive. What drags you down, and what lifts you up?
2. Get Clear on What You Want
We’re not saying no one else’s wants should matter to you; we’re saying other people’s wants shouldn’t automatically take priority over your own.
Write about what you want. Talk to yourself or someone else about it.
Make a list of the things you really want to do before you die. Make a list of things you’ve wanted to do but have put on the back burner to please someone else.
What you want doesn’t have to match that of your spouse. It’s okay to want different things. What’s not okay is forcing your wants onto someone else.
If you’re reading this, chances are someone in your life is doing that to you. And you don’t have to let them.
3. Practice Being Your Authentic Self.
Use your voice. Express your personality. Ditch the filter and share what you truly think about something—even if your thought is, “I don’t know enough about that subject to weigh in on it.”
Spend more time listening to your inner voice and following its promptings — or at least considering them. Step outside your comfort zone and take some risks.
True, not every random thought is worth putting into action. But the better you get at distinguishing random thoughts from the promptings of your intuition, the easier it is to know which thoughts deserve more of your attention.
4. Define Your Own Terms
You don’t have to subscribe to someone else’s idea of what it means to be happy or successful.
What do those words mean to you? What do you want more of in your life? And what could you happily do without?
No one else can define what happiness means for you. No one can tell you what would help you feel satisfied or fulfilled. And while you can’t count on always feeling that way when you’ve finished something, you deserve a chance to find out.
Just as you can’t make someone else happy, no one else can make you happy or tell you what should make you happy. Happiness isn’t about shoulds. Neither is success.
5. Identify Your Core Values
Identify the most critical areas of your life — relationships, career, spirituality, health, fitness, etc. — and what you can do to emphasize those areas, even if it means taking attention away from something someone else wants you to prioritize.
Your life, your priorities. No one else has a right to tell you what your values or priorities should be. And if you spend your life living in service to someone else’s values and ideals, you’ll never feel truly alive.
And you’ll likely wonder why your being alive is even necessary. You don’t need to be fully you to be someone else’s robot. And that makes you easy to replace.
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6. Design a Life You Want to Live
Restructure your day in a way that allocates more of your time and energy to those areas that matter most to you. Identify and cultivate habits that honor those priorities.
Take a moment to think about what a day in this life would look like, from the moment you wake up to the moment you get back into bed and drift off for the night.
Walk yourself through the day and notice what you love about it and what you bring to it when you’re allowed to live it on your own terms. What would it take to make the life you’re living now closer to that?
7. Do More of What You Enjoy
Spend more time doing things you enjoy. If you’re always putting that on the back burner, so your significant other or your kids get to do what they want, resentment sets in.
No one is born to be used by another until all the life is drained out of them. Make time for activities that light you up inside and remind you of what you love or what’s important to you. Make time for things that remind you of who you are and what you’re good at.
We’re not asking you to always choose what you want at the expense of other people; we’re just asking that you don’t automatically sacrifice your wants to please someone else.
8. Choose Your Company Well
If you’re constantly badgered about how selfish it is that you’re not putting someone else first all the time, you’re hanging out with the wrong people. There’s a reason flight attendants tell you to put on your own gas mask before helping others with theirs.
We’re not asking you to abandon your kids or ghost everyone who asks you to do something for them. But you do have some control over the company you keep.
Living your life for yourself doesn’t mean you’ll never choose to sacrifice your plans to help someone else. It just means what you do is your choice and not someone else’s. You can be there for the people you love without sacrificing your agency.
9. Keep Learning and Growing.
Growth isn’t passive. It’s not something that just happens if you continue living and waking up each morning to do things and interact with people. It’s a choice you make that often involves risk, making mistakes, and learning from them. It’s messy.
And what you draw from that mess — and how you clean it up — is up to you. Give that control to someone else, and you might as well give up consciousness, too.
You’re building something on the inside as you work to create something outside yourself.
Now that you know what it really means to live for yourself, what points stood out for you? And what will you do differently today?