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“My son will become an engineer once he grows up”, are the first words of the father of a newly born child. Even before the child opens his eyes, his career has been decided by his family; irrespective of how s/he will grow up as a person or what s/he would want to become in future. This is the culture Indians follow, helpless to the situation.

“Ohh! You like Science? I knew it, my son would become an engineer one day and earn in six figures.” “Wow, such a high score in Biology! You should definitely go ahead and opt for a medical career. Do you know how much doctors make these days?” “Humanities? Pfft! You are intelligent, why would you even consider such an option?” “All this painting is fine as a hobby, but don’t let it get too serious. There’s no scope for these fields at all!”

Do these words sound all too familiar? Well, most of you would have probably heard these tidbits of advice from ‘well-meaning’ family friends, relatives and of course, parents. So what do you do when the pressure to be someone you are not is weighing you down from all directions? We totally understand what you feel when people around you insist you to lose your real identity and rather force you become what they want you to.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Anonymous

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that man is a social animal. It is necessary to be in a society and live in harmony with people to fulfill one’s social, economic, and cultural needs. India has been an abode to different talents, from musicians to artists, from entrepreneurs to engineers, from scientists to doctors. And we’re not just talking about the modern era. Since time immemorial, Indian society has seen the likes of trail-blazers like Kautilya, Charaka, Ashoka, and Kalidasa, whose contribution has stood the test of time. But for all those who have achieved such greatness, there is an equal, if not larger number of people who have underestimated themselves trying to become someone they are not, and failed miserably.

Giving in to societal pressures, highly intelligent and creative people have to hold back from achieving their potential. The ones who have achieved greatness have usually fought against the odds to break stereotypes and make their own path. Don’t do things just because everyone else is doing it.

A few words from great personalities who stood for themselves, realized the value of their lives and let’s take help from them to carve our own niche.

  • “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi

We speak about people who have been successful in their lives and have achieved something extraordinary. But there is always a special key to their success. These people have done what they have been passionate about and have had a natural knack to do. Each one of us has that inner strength, the extreme ability and love to do some something unique. Be it starting your own enterprise, or writing a novel. We need to listen to our heart’s call to achieve that. Try out things that interest you first, and keep striking out those that don’t. Your youth is not wasted if you try a hundred different things, to find even two that you can call your passions.

  • “Unfortunately, we can never truly know if we’re making the right decision. What we do know is that wherever we are, that’s where the Light wants us to be. It’s the best place for us to be now. And as long as we don’t try to control the situation, we won’t end up in the place we shouldn’t be.” – Yehuda Berg

Thinking deeply and positively is the most important step to listen to your heart’s call. You need to free yourselves from the negativity around you. Try thinking both long-term and short-term, and really try to envisage your goals – see them coming to life. At all stages, aim for this process of introspection to be guided if needed, but not influenced or forced by your community – whether it’s your best friend or your parents. It is ‘you’ as person who has to lead your life, and live with the consequences of whatever decision has to be made. Would you rather live a life that others find best for you or a life that you find the best for yourself? Think about it!

  • “Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t finish college. Too much emphasis is placed on formal education. I told my children not to worry about their grades but to enjoy learning.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb

We live in a society that focuses on the end result and not on the path. Once you somehow, crack an IIT entrance or get into an IIM, the only words that you are destined to hear would be, “you are too lucky to get into such a prestigious institution, “and nobody would even give a thought to the amount of hard work that you’d put in, the struggle you faced keeping awake all those nights studying. The learning process is an absolute journey of discovery, not just of the world around us, but of ourselves. Worries about what people will think whether you’ll be successful enough or be able to live up to your parents’ expectations are natural. Giving in to such worries and letting them define and shape your future, are not.

  • “You only live once. Trying to do the right thing for other people often doesn’t work out, and you have to follow your own path in order to make things work out best for everyone.” – Alison Pill

YOLO guys! Society is necessary for us to feel a sense of belonging and find mutual connections to live a meaningful life. However when society becomes an interfering agent rather than a supportive social institution, it leads to chaos and a feeling of entrapment. This society we talk about can be extremely hypocritical – today, it may mock your decisions, but once you achieve success, the same society may try to establish a close connect owing to a feeling of entitlement. So don’t worry about what society wants, says or needs. Focus on what you want, and you’ll be fine. Always remember it is you who has to march to the beat of your own drum.

  • “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Lily Tomlin

Society often buckets us into moulds – and all of us may not fit into it. Have the courage to swim against the current, site a few examples of the successful creative people you know and most importantly, don’t let anyone else dictate your life and your choices. Don’t give in to the rat race. Don’t let the others drag you down. You never know what your zeal, passion and uniqueness can help you achieve.

Some of the world’s best leaders are the ones who have stood up with the courage of their convictions. You can read about how you can be a good leader here.

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