To Conform or Not to Conform, That Is the Question

“Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Coming off the Independence Day holiday here in the US, it occurred to me that too many of us don’t actually fully embrace our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness:” i.e. the freedom to live our lives in exactly the way we’d like.

Too selfish, you think?

Well, the next time you’re letting external pressures dictate your life decisions, think about this: society doesn’t care about your personal happiness (and sometimes other people don’t either). In fact, as marketing guru Seth Godin points out: “Society wants you to fit in so it can ignore you.”

Which isn’t to say you have to turn up at work looking like Lady Gaga (though if you do, please send me the video). But, this week, why not be more conscious of whether you make decisions out of true personal choice or knee-jerk obligation (“I have a mortgage and mouths to feed”), to avoid scorn (“Come on, have another drink!”), or simply force of habit (“But we always vacation in the South of France.”)

Then recognize that you always – always — have the right to make a different choice, independent of external pressures or what you’ve done in the past. Isn’t that the ultimate freedom?

p.s. Looking for food for independent thought? Start here:

Self Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson (the Domino Project version peppered with insights from mavericks like Steven Pressfield, Helen Keller and Meryl Streep)

A Brief Guide to World Domination, by Chris Guillebeau

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