Author and confidence catalyst Laura Gassner Otting shares her top five tips to get out of a rut and live your best life by ignoring the naysayers and creating your own rules.
1. Don’t give a vote to people who shouldn’t even have a voice. Let’s face it: most of the people who give you advice — telling you to slow down, take smaller risks, dream a little more realistically — are doing so from a place of fear and anxiety, not about your life but about their own. Stop letting your audacity be constrained by the limits of other people’s imaginations. Politely excuse yourself from taking every opinion as fact, weighing them all with equal measure, and allow yourself to be your own dog, run your own race, carve your own path. And all those voices questioning your choices and telling you what you should do and need to do? They simply don’t get a vote—unless you give it to them. And that includes that voice inside your own head. How? It’s time to say “Screw the Joneses.”
2. Your fourth grade teacher was wrong about you. Back in middle school, we were taught to pursue the gold stars, get the good grades, and shine across the board. We had no say in the skills that got rewarded; and often what we were rewarded for was different from what we loved. So, rather than picking a path based on what makes us special—what we like, what we do well, and where we shine—most of us are forced to pick our path early, based on values attached by others and interests that aren’t our calling. Remember that fourth grade teacher who said that you should become a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant? They possessed no crystal ball, and yet we internalized their notions as predictions rather than simply suggestions. What if, just what if, that prediction based on nothing more than anecdotal information gathered at a specific moment in time, when we still let our mothers cut our hair and pick out or picture day outfits, was wrong? How? Learn when to say yes.
3. You can’t be insatiably hungry for someone else’s goals. In twenty years of doing executive research I saw one lesson come to life over and over again: the most successful people are never the ones who simply want the right marriage, or the perfect children, or the next promotion to the next big job just because that’s what is expected. Instead, they’re the ones who are so hungry for their own self-determined goals that they are intrinsically motivated to go after them. The most flourishing, most fulfilled workers are the ones who do the extra work, in the dark, when no one sees—the ones who own up to their BHAGs and are willing to dig deep and fight like hell to bring them to fruition. They do it for themselves, because they want to achieve those goals so badly that they can’t not do it. They know that leaning into those goals will contribute to the life they want to live, and they are insatiably hungry for that version of success. And you just can’t be insatiably hungry for someone else’s version of success, for someone else’s goal, for someone else’s cause. How? Own your own dreams.
4. Ambition is not a dirty word. Ambition has gotten a bad rap of late. It’s a dirty word—even more so if you are a woman. (Oh, she’s so ambitious!) Part of the reason we’ve lost ownership of our unspoken dreams — those dreams so big and so scary and so exciting that we dare not say them out loud — is that we’ve been persuaded to allow our ambition to be subsumed into something that is more socially acceptable: faux humility. But, I’d ask you this: Why do you want to get ahead? What do you want to do with that power? Do you want to change your family, your community, your country, your world? Do you want to make a mark, large or small, on this earth? What kind of life do you want to live? How do you want to raise your family? Do you want to give back? If being in that elevated position, with that increased salary and that greater voice of leadership, allows you to make more of an impact on the very calling that you hold dear, it’s more than just your ambition. It’s your responsibility. How? Know your value.
5. Get Clarity on Your Consonance. I’ve come to understand that in order for your life to feel right for you, it has to actually be right for you. The most powerful way to insulate yourself from the misguided, happiness eroding (and often uninvited) opinions of others is to stop doubting yourself, and that comes from having the confidence in the choices you make and the chances you take. It comes from finding, exploring, and leaning into your own personal consonance, that which puts you in flow, in alignment, and makes you bulletproof, where the life you are living feels purposeful… to you. How? Find your “family.”
About the Author
Laura Gassner Otting helps people get “unstuck” ― and achieve extraordinary results. As founder of Limitless Possibility, Laura collaborates with entrepreneurs and investors to push past the doubt and indecision that consign great ideas to limbo. She delivers strategic thinking, well-honed wisdom, and catalytic perspective informed by decades of navigating change across the start-up, nonprofit, political, and philanthropic landscapes.
Connect with Laura at https://lauragassnerotting.com.
Her book, Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life is available April 2, 2019 in hardback on Amazon and other retailers.