I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this, “I’m trying to live the American dream. Living the good life I guess…” You guess? I hear so many people that talk about their life milestones like, I guess I checked another one off the list… Hold Up!! If you are just checking milestones off a list set forth by society then you aren’t living the American Dream, your living a form of mental slavery. This post is going to explain my thoughts on what the real American Dream is and why it isn’t what most of us were made to believe.
Over the last few years I have become fed up with the “American Dream” propaganda that get’s pushed out. You’re supposed to grow up, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, and live a model life by hitting these “milestones” by a certain ages. You may keep telling yourself, “This is how it’s supposed to be” even though deep down it isn’t always what you want. This leads to people stressing themselves out trying to hit these marks when they mean nothing.
This may sound a bit like a conspiracy theory, but I think some of these things are meant to make us less free. Take buying a house as an example. It’s a lot easier to keep you in that job you hate when you are buried under a mortgage and while there are periods when selling a house is easy, most of the time it isn’t tying you to a location and limiting job options. Buying a house is great when it makes sense, but it isn’t for everybody. The answer to the question of when its right is to follow your gut.
Following Your Gut
Everybody has it, that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach that you need to do something. You’ve probably even heard the saying “trust your gut, it’s never wrong”. There’s a scientific reason that’s true, the same part of the brain that controls happiness is the same part that produces that feeling. It has guided people for years to do what makes them happy and it will continue to do so because it’s very much like an instinct.
If your gut is saying push off a life milestone then that’s likely what will make you happy. Forcing yourself to do something because that’s the way it’s supposed to be is never the right answer. I’ve been there myself, but could never follow through with those milestones because nothing inside said it was time to do them. I’ve been successfully bucking the trend for years now because living life the way I want is what makes me happy not hitting milestones because it’s “supposed to be that way”. The true American Dream is just that, doing what makes you happy even if it means bucking the norm.
The True American Dream
America was founded because a group of people disagreed with the prevailing view of society at the time. They set out the life they wanted and that meant they needed to leave Europe to make that happen. The true American Dream is building the life you want even if it goes against what society says you should do. It may force you to leave “home” to pursue that dream, but true freedom is when you take control of your own life and set out to build it into the one you want.
A crucial part of this is listening to your gut and following it. I followed my gut feeling and moved to Austin this year. For the first time, I can visualize a life I want to live. I am able to visualize what parts of my lifestyle I want to change and what parts are going great and I want to double down on. I no longer feel stagnant.
I’ve also discovered I’m a city dweller at heart and greatly prefer urban life to rural life. When I first walked into my 16th floor apartment in downtown Austin I immediately felt deep down this was it. A 685 sq. ft “little box in the sky” was exactly what I wanted I just never trusted that hunch enough to try it.
Chasing your dream is never easy because life’s not easy. However, as long as you know what you want and assemble a plan to get there you can make it happen. Unfortunately, all starting points are not equal and it may be difficult depending on where you live, who you are, or your financial status. It’s a societal problem, but that isn’t an excuse to give up and complain.
If your gut says its the right way to go, make it happen. Complaining about road blocks doesn’t remove them, you don’t give up after running into a closed road do you? No you try to find another way to get where you want to go. Many times you have to forge your own path to follow your dream. Every door may not immediately open, but if your gut says its the right one try to force it open. After all, doors sometimes get stuck and need a kick to open.
A Couple of My Keys
I recently made the jump to follow my dream. After going through it I have a couple of keys to share that helped me get where I wanted:
- Take care of your health – This has been the biggest key for me. Taking care of yourself physically has a profound impact on your mental state. I can give you the confidence and mental resolve to follow your gut no matter which way it pulls you. Not only will you have more energy to chase the dream, but you’ll also be confident enough in yourself to actually make a decision to do something that might still be a little uncertain.
- Financial freedom – This isn’t about being debt free. It’s about having an emergency fund and getting to a point that you don’t worry about missing a few paychecks. It could take years to accomplish, but once you reach the point you don’t worry about having to go a few months without a paycheck you stop being a slave to your job. You’re able to make smarter career choices and life decisions because you don’t live in fear.
To summarize my ramblings, the American Dream isn’t a set destination or list of milestones. It’s you having a dream life you and relentlessly pursuing it regardless of what society or other people say your supposed to do.
I used to think life was a set road you followed to get to a destination, but it’s actually more like an adventure through the wilderness. You can go any path you want. While some paths are more difficult than others the result is the same, a unique experience. You just have to find the one you want.
Finally, don’t worry what others think, no-one else really cares if you hit the “milestones”. Everybody is living their own life. If they want to chase the milestones, let them chase the milestones, you be you.