The ‘Default’ Social Narrative

What do you really want? This may sound trite, but figuring out an answer to this, in my humble opinion, can be one of the most deciding pieces of your life’s puzzle. Let’s spend a few moments analyzing what you really want out of life, and whether it aligns with the path down which you are currently headed.

What happens when we’re not conscious of what we want? We end up subscribed to what I like to call a ‘default’ social narrative – a series of traditional life milestones that serve as a communal, crowd-sourced guide for our century-long pilgrimages from birth to death. This is the path of LEAST resistance – the easiest (and often the swiftest) flow of the current – and is typically impressed upon us by parents, teachers, and peers alike.

It usually goes something like this:

  1. STUDY hard, so that you can…
  2. WORK hard, so that you can…
  3. BUY a car/house, after which you can…
  4. Have KIDS, which will require you to…
  5. WORK a few more decades to support your growing family, and then eventually…
  6. RETIRE when you are at least 64, so that you can finally…

Granted, this is a gross generalization, and these milestones vary wildly across cultures and demographics, but the concept is typically the same, and it usually ends in #7. The problem is, even if we DO reach #7 – and many of us don’t – we often (A) still don’t know what we want, or (B) are too old to enjoy it.

That being said, faithfully fulfilling the tried-and-true steps of our cohort’s default social narrative can be gratifying and pleasurable in many ways, but it’s not for everyone; it by definition ignores our individuality. And by the time these societal ‘outliers’ typically figure this out, they’re already being swept downstream by the current.

Take me as an example: I actually WANT to traverse milestones 1-5 – I really do. But at 25, I also wanted to shove some additional steps between 2 and 3 – even though I wasn’t really sure how, or if I could. And barring these difficulties – would it be the right choice?

Deviation is scary

Even if we DO realize that we prefer some deviation from our predetermined plan, we often don’t do anything meaningful about it. And there are plenty of reasons why not:

  1. Deviating from societal norms is scary, isolating, and risky
  2. A lack of resources
  3. Fear of loneliness
  4. Lack of motivation
  5. Fear of regret
  6. Fear of missing out on other important life milestones

In my case, I’ve given up a lot to shove “travel” between milestones 2 and 3. In particular, relationships. Am I generally happier for it than I would have been? Yes. But do I wish that I had figured all of this out a little earlier? Every day.

Spend 5 minutes making a list

Be proactive.

If any of the above sentiments resonate with you, I recommend making a plan to accomplish each of your important goals. Figure out what you want from life, and try chasing it down in a methodical, pragmatic way.

If it helps, I’ve created a worksheet that might help you with outlining the steps for your journey. Print it out, write down your objective(s), and paste it onto your mirror so that you can look at it every day if you have to!

Drawing up a plan should only take a few minutes, and you’ll thank yourself later on. Think about it – tomorrow at lunch will you be more thankful that (A) You finally outlined a tentative plan for your future last night, or (B) You watched that last episode of Westworld on Netflix?

So have at it!!! What else are you doing right now? Reading an online blog and hoping to magically make a change?

The ball is in your court.

ball pit (credit: