There is only one success, to be able to spend your life in your own way. - Christopher Morley
Your life belongs to you and no one else. This must be non-negotiable. We sometimes don't realize we relinquish control over our lives to others, we let other people dictate our paths. Your life does not belong to your parents, children, spouse, other relatives, your teacher, priest, neighbor, boss, friends, the President, any person of nobility, politicians, your employees, or anybody else. It's yours.
This means that you get to make the decisions. Take ownership of your life and its direction. Drive the car. A lot of people will try to influence the way you live your life, your choices. There as many reasons for this as there are excuses we make to justify letting people have their way with our lives. Could be they'll manipulate you with guilt. They might convince you they know what's best for you. Some people will try to make you feel ashamed for wanting something different than what they want for you. Some people will resort to physical intimidation. Others will be controlling.
Whatever the case may be, it's still your life. If you allow others to make all your decisions, they will continue to do so. Taking charge of your own life means you're going to have to be assertive. Learn to recognize manipulation and control in its various forms so you can counter it.
What you allow will continue.
Understand that you are allowed to make your own decisions, so long as you are mentally capable of doing so (are you in a coma?). If you're reading this, I will assume you're just fine. You have to set boundaries for yourself and enforce them. Don't expect people to always act in your best interest. Anyone who doesn't have the best intentions won't go easy on you, so you're going to have to be the decider. Your life is yours and yours alone.
This may be difficult if you're unaccustomed to making your own decisions. If there are other people in your life who have a tendency to commandeer control over you, take a step back and consider why they need to do so. Does your decision make them uncomfortable? Why? If this is the case, understand that the underlying issue is theirs, not yours. It's not your responsibility to tailor your decisions to account for other peoples' insecurities or discomfort.
You may have to practice this, especially if you've never done it. Standing up for yourself and your decisions is a necessary part of living the life you truly want. Going for your dreams requires it.
Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows. - Pope Paul VI
Determine what you want out of life. Whatever that is, it's your choice. This includes being the person you've always wanted to be, the job you've always wanted, the relationship you're after, the hobbies you enjoy. Give yourself permission to like what you like and if you're not hurting anybody (sometimes people will try to convince you otherwise, but it might be more of that pesky manipulation), go do the things you want to do.
Does this mean you can't consider others in this process? Not at all. Our lives are intertwined, especially with immediate family. Some of our decisions have lasting, direct, or dire impact on those around us. We should be considerate of these impacts, and should listen to the concerns of those lives that will be influenced by our decisions. Be reasonable. But you have to have enough self-respect to require everyone else be reasonable as well.
What kind of life do you want to live? What's holding you back?
Image credit: klimkin