Are You Trapped by the Life You've Built?
The expression “golden handcuffs” exists for a reason. I experienced them firsthand trapped in the “successful” life I’d built in my corporate days. I see it all the time with my clients and even with family and friends.
Maybe you’re grinding it out in a job you hate, commuting 60 minutes each way in gridlocked traffic because you just bought a house. Or have a little one. Or little two on the way. Perhaps you just finished gradschool and feel the crushing weight of student loans – or even doubly so with college loans still working their way off. Or maybe you’re staying in a relationship because of the safety and comfort of habit even though you know, and you’ve known for a while, this is not the right person for you.
It can show up as debt, kids, mortgage or car payments, a partner, a parent-enforced career choice, etc. But that feeling of thin air, of pressure, and of the dull thudding pain of unhappiness is real. The good news? The first step is being honest with yourself. Can you recognize and admit that you feel trapped? If so, nice work. Now comes the process of taking action to shift perspective or situation on your path to freedom.
While the below are a bit more lengthy than usual, find the one that speaks to you today -- the one that you feel in your gut or your heart. May these inspire you towards a life of greater alignment and joy:
ACCEPTANCE + AWARENESS OF LIFE's PURPOSE | It’s no coincidence I left my corporate life behind not long after my Dad had a stroke. Massive upsets turn life upside down and leave our heart’s stripped bare, and painfully aware of what truly matters. But what if you didn't wait for a major life disaster? What if you spent time in self-reflection to ask - am I living out my life’s true mission? And if not, how can I take steps - even teeny baby steps - to shift course?
MONEY SMARTS | Whether it’s the mortgage or the security of a partner, usually folks feel trapped by money or a lack thereof. However, there are amazing resources to help free you from those shackles. One of them is putting your big kid undies on and taking responsibility for where you’re at. Perhaps even finding gratitude for that debt as it gave you your education, or your beautiful home, or the wild trips to Vegas you took in your 20s while maxing out CC after CC. Money has a lot of heaviness, fear and cultural conditioning attached to it, but remember, it’s just a stand in for that which we value. Value yourself by getting your $ game right. See below for 2 great resources on Money smarts.
RELEASE EXTERNAL EXPECTATIONS | A traditional job path. An Ivy League education. A family of 3+ by age 30. It can be difficult to acknowledge and untangle the opinions of others from the truth of your own self. And this can show up in small ways too. Gifts are a huge one – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased something whether it’s for a birthday, a wedding, Christmas, whatever, where it’s last minute, not super thoughtful, and expensive. And I’m finally moving away from that cultural expectation. I'm taking more time to make meaningful choices, and/or going for homemade. I can still remember when a dear friend brought me homemade pesto and kombucha to a small birthday gathering. I was thrilled! I know I may be an outlier but there are ways to lessen the expectation of having to purchase things or climb the ladders that others want you to. Sometimes it takes a few difficult but heartfelt conversations. But that feeling of freedom and financial wherewithal is worth it.
STOP SPENDING YOUR LIFE DOING SOMETHING YOU HATE | I have something shocking to tell you. One day, you are going to die. Yep. You. And me. And everyone else. And it’s sad. But it’s also exhilarating to think about. Because it means that life is short – and precious – and we shouldn't waste it in a situation that makes us miserable. I understand mouths need to be fed and bills need to be payed, and yet, this is a creative and crazy time we live in, and you can design a life you want and love. First is the creation of the mold. If you’re not in your ideal profession, what IS your ideal profession? Or, are there opportunities within your company that touch on the skills you both love and possess? Start dreaming, planning, and putting this stuff down on paper to forge a new path. We spend the majority of our lives at work so please, make sure it's something you really love.
SIMPLIFY | This movie. And the book referenced below are real game changers on the journey of life simplification. We overcomplicate, overstretch, and over-schedule so much that we feel trapped by the lives – social, professional, and otherwise, we’ve built. It’s time to unwind. Where are you living excessively? I know for me, I tend to spend a lot of dough on health or food-related things I love. Like essential oils, or herbs, or healing modalities (massage, acupuncture, etc). And while I deeply value all of those things, adding 30 superfood powders to my morning smoothie, hoarding 100 oils, and feeling guilty (and depleting my checking account) with frequent bodywork sessions are not necessarily simplifying my life and taking control of freedom. Instead, I'm working to pace myself with the things I love. Make the treats of life and the special things you value actually really special. Create the expectation of a less is more lifestyle but know that you will deeply cherish, love and celebrate the less you've built.
The only reality of being trapped is when you think, feel, and reinforce that belief. Instead, revel in the freedom that is your birthright by taking action to shift and live the life you’ve dreamed. Your precious life is worth it.