6 Keys To Living Your Life Your Way

6 Keys To Living Your Life Your Way

Living your life your way.

Isn’t that what we all want? Yet how many of us can actually say we do?

For many years I certainly couldn’t. I lived my life fitting in: doing what seemed right, in the way everyone else did. I thought it would bring me happiness.

And looking back I don’t blame myself…it was all I knew. I’d been brought up to tow the line, be a good girl, keep my head down and get on in life. I didn’t know there was another way of living – one that brings amazing health, happiness, fulfilment, passion and joy.

And so I did what society expected. I worked hard at college, excelling; I climbed the career ladder, ending up in the top 5% of Microsoft employees; I married a safe and loyal man; I settled down and  bought a house and a BMW with the trimmings of my lifestyle.

But I felt dead inside. I was overcome with a feeling of dread every Sunday afternoon upon contemplating the week ahead. My heart sank each morning I drove into a car park of 2000 cars. My packed diary just made me feel more empty.

There were so many things I was passionate about that weren’t getting a look in. What had happened to my life? The one that I’d thought I’d have. The one where I was happy, fun-loving, passionate, enthused, joyful?

How had I ended up here?

I’d done what seemed like the right things, but I felt sad and betrayed.

I knew something had to change. But I didn’t know how, I didn’t know exactly what and I was scared – I wasn’t the type of person who went after what they really wanted. That was for people somehow braver, stronger, more confident, more well-connected, with more money and more talent than me.

And yet I did go on to change. I consciously chose to tread the path to living my life my way and it’s brought me such un-puttable-into-words joy, fulfilment and peace.

Looking back on my ‘change’ CV, I sometimes can’t believe it’s me:

  • I’ve lost half my body weight; going from 20 stone (280lbs/127kg) to 10 stone (140lbs/63kg)
  • I’ve broken free of the corporate world and started an online business doing what I most love
  • I’ve left my comfortable marriage and gone on to find a partnership that I could have only previously dreamed of
  • I’ve left my native England to live in Italy, the land of my childhood dreams
  • I’ve transformed my chronic health issues through my diet and lifestyle, and proved my doctor wrong, naturally conceiving a child.

All this from the girl who ‘didn’t do that sort of thing’.

And I’m here to tell you some truths about change. Some truths that instinctively you know, but that have been covered over by years of living your life to fit someone else’s mould. Read them, breathe them in, know them to be true and go take steps to life your life your way.

1. You must accept and take responsibility for where you are.

You are responsible for your own life – no one else. If you want to be happy and you’re not, you need to do the changing.

Distractions abound to help us avoid accepting where we are: TV, media, celebrity culture, gossip, ‘entertainment’, food and alcohol, busy-ness. We can lose our whole lives in it. No wonder we don’t change.

Here’s a challenge: Try going a week working just the hours you are paid for and not going out, watching TV or otherwise distracting yourself from your life. Then see how you feel about where you are.

As I approached my 20th birthday I was over 280lbs (20 stone/127kg). I’d been overweight and desperately unhappy for many years. Accepting and taking responsibility for my weight was a challenge. I felt sad and helpless realising the state I was in. I felt scared when I thought about what I needed to do to fix it.

It was only in accepting that I wanted to lose weight and realising no one else was going to do it for me that I was able to move on, shed 140lbs and be living now in a body that I love.

2. You’ve got to know the direction you want to head in and allow yourself to feel it.

In my work as a mentor, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people who want to change and the biggest thing that stops them is that they aren’t connected enough with what they want to change to.

And that’s understandable. We are too scared to allow ourselves to dream, to acknowledge what we really want and allow ourselves to feel what living that way would be like.

We’re disconnected from our dreams. This is because:

  1. We’ve been taught to go after what’s sensible; what seems like the best option
  2. We’re scared of setting our sights too high for fear of failure and disappointment
  3. We’re more tuned in to think about what we should do rather than what we want to do
  4. We listen to society’s advice; which is saturated with the three sure-fire change inhibitors above!

If you want to life your life your way you must step beyond these things – they hinder you getting what you truly desire.

If I’d engaged with the ‘sensible’ option when I’d wanted to leave my corporate role, I’d have taken a job with Microsoft’s entertainment wing – I was more interested in the content, and I would have still had the benefits and salary that I was used to. I wouldn’t have gone after and got the job that I really wanted and that started me on the path to transforming my life into one that I’d always dreamed of.

Think about how your life would look if you were truly living it the way you want. Dream about it, write about it, visualise it – and most of all feel it; feel what it would be like to live your life this way.

3. The only way to be successful at this is to follow your passions.

The story of my move to Italy is one of following my passions. I’d always loved the country and it was the intensity of that passion that got me there.

Actually making the move was challenging. I’d just been through one of the darkest phases of my life – I’d sustained a neck injury and moved back in with my parents after 10 years of living independently. In that darkness, I knew if I could just get better, I had to get out to Italy. And I did.

Change is sometimes hard. It’s challenging; it’s about facing fears and demons, stepping further than you have before and making brave decisions. You’ve got to love what you are working towards to know that when push comes to shove you will do what you need to. To get out to Italy I had to retrain, I had to tell my boyfriend not knowing whether it would mean the end of our relationship, I had to get better. It was my passion that kept me going.

There’s no point going after something you are half-hearted about – you just won’t succeed. You won’t give it what you need to; you won’t see it through.

4. Remember that big changes are all about small steps.

What change is about: Taking action.

What change is not about: Taking massive leaps.

The most popular question I get asked when I tell people about how I’ve stepped away from the ‘norm’ is:

How did you have the courage to take such big leaps in your life?

And I always respond in the same way:

“I didn’t take any big leaps; everything was about small steps.”

So many people are terrified of moving towards what they really want because they think change has to be about a death-defying leap from one mountain to another.

But the one thing that I’ve learnt from all of my changes, from choosing to live my life my way, is that it is all about small steps: Figure out the direction you want to go in, take some small actions. This moves you closer, it feeds back to you, it gives you confidence and then you move onto the next few steps. This is how lives are changed.

My move from house-owning, BMW-driving Microsoft employee to working for a music charity in central London, earning 50% of my previous wage, cycling across the city every morning to get there, was not about waking up one day and throwing my whole life up in the air. It was about small steps: reading and researching to work out what I wanted to do, industry investigation, job searching, working out a budget, revamping my CV, applying for jobs (and getting plenty of rejections), going for interviews, thinking about where I wanted to live, taking trips up to check out areas…the list goes on.

None of these steps was in itself scary, and each one naturally led to the next, so that before I knew it I was ready to hand my notice in, totally confident that I was doing the right thing.

5. Finding the right support will make or break you.

To move to the life you want you have to step out of the life you currently have. And support in doing that is essential.

As part of building Path Less Trodden, the inspirational online coaching, writing and speaking business that is a joyful representation of everything I love, I’ve taken brave decisions to invest financially in coaches – because I value the support. I know just how much difference having a listening-ear, outside opinion, accountability, challenge and impetus makes.

Staying in your current world you will not move forwards. If you know you need to change, seek out others – writers, internet groups, training courses, supportive friends, meet ups, coaches. You can only see so far; go out and consciously expand your horizons, be under the influence of people who think bigger, who’ve done what you want to do, who live in the way you want.

6. Trust that you know best.

Society doesn’t know what’s best for you. Only you know that. And by believing that and acting from that place you have the power to create miraculous change in your life.

I was diagnosed with PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) in my teens. I went through my 20s and most of my 30s with no natural menstrual cycle. About 5 years ago I realised just how much I wanted to be a mother and went to visit my doctor, who said to me, “Alison, you will never bring your periods back through changing your diet”.

I didn’t believe her, and as she spoke a little voice in my head said, ‘Yes, I will’.

I had been on an amazing health journey and hadn’t taken as much as an aspirin in over 3 years. The  thought of turning to drugs made my heart sink. I took the heart-breaking decision that, if I couldn’t conceive naturally, I would accept that being a mother wasn’t meant to be.

And I carried on doing what I believed in. Last summer, after 5 years without any sign of a menstrual cycle, I was able to restore my hormonal health solely through my diet and lifestyle choices, and to, within a week of trying, naturally conceive a child.

This was something a doctor – the expert – told me wasn’t possible. I could have listened, I could have gone down society’s route of IVF, no one would have criticised, but I just didn’t believe in bringing a baby into the world like that. I followed my belief, I had confidence and faith that I knew what was best for me and it has brought me the most amazing miracle – a natural, healthy pregnancy.

You can live your life your way – no matter what others say; no matter what the rest of society is doing. If that’s not for you, if you don’t believe in it, if it doesn’t make your heart sing, DON’T DO IT, go your own way and you’ll build a life beyond your wildest dreams. 

Photo by János Csongor Kerekes

Alison Ottaway

Alison is the inspiration and guiding light to a generation longing to step out of the mainstream. She is founder of the life-change movement Path Less Trodden – her passionate, yet down-to-earth message being born out of the many successful transformations she's made in her own life. You can find out more about Alison and how you can walk your own Path Less Trodden at http://www.pathlesstrodden.com.

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26 Comments

  1. Hi Alison! Thank you for this truly inspiring post! I agree that figuring out the small steps to take to achieve our dreams is the only way to go. Breaking the path down into concrete steps does make it more doable and less intimidating. You have challenged me to take a hard look at my life as I am currently facing a period of huge transition. I also checked out your blog and there is some great wisdom and inspiration there, so I highly recommend it to other readers. All the best to you on your continuing journey of living your passion! CJ

    Reply
  2. Your story is so inspirational! You are right when you talk about the small steps versus the giant leaps. I think it’s so easy to put off making any major changes in your life because you think it has to be an all-or-nothing attempt. Thanks for sharing your story, it reinforced that I’m attacking my big life changes in a good way.

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  3. Hey Alison,

    First off, I want to thank you for writing such an awesome and inspiring post. All your points really hit home with me, since I’m currently in the process of following my dreams and living life on my own terms.

    You are responsible for your own life and no one else. I love that sentence you wrote because once we realize this, the possibilities are endless in terms of what we can accomplish.

    Keep up the excellent work and may your journey continue to be filled with passion and excitement

    Reply
  4. Yowza, Alison! Your post was both lovely and inspiring. It’s clear that you know PAIN and that you know CHANGE. The only thing I would add is #7) BE PATIENT. Small steps are the best way to reach your dreams, but it takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged. Thanks for your powerful message!

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  5. Taking small steps. Look what you have achieved by taking those small steps! Thank you for sharing your story, Alison.

    You are an inspiration to the rest of us.

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  6. Alison, thank you so very much for a truly inspiring post. I am impressed with your changes and the beautiful results for living your dreams. You are a wonderful example that all of us can follow. I just would like to add, that if we follow our passions and do what we know is right for us, we will have what we need when we need it. It has always happened that way for me. I also enjoyed your website.

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  7. Very inspirational and moving story with a lot of wisdom. I really enjoyed it. There is nothing quite like the wisdom that comes from actually doing something. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

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  8. Wow, what an amazing story, Alison and great points you make in this post. There’s no better life to live than the one you create for yourself.

    One point I would like to add on is following your passions to bring you to success. Sometimes there’s something that means so much to you, you’ll never be satisfied until you finally pursue that passion. Following your passion is a way of doing your part to help the world.

    Other people aren’t sure of what they’re passionate about, they don’t know their purpose or what their meant to do, they’ve never found anything that really stands out to them in life.

    This used to be me, I was interested in so many different things, but never passionate about anything so much that I wanted to dedicate my life towards fulfilling that passion.

    The key is to be passionate about everything. Instead of searching for my passion, I focused on passionately living my life and doing everything with meaning, from my morning workouts to brushing my teeth before bed. Be passionate about everything you do, and do it with intention and absolute purpose.

    If there is something you absolutely can’t do with any passion, then don’t do it. It’s your life, nobody is forcing you to do anything. The only thing standing in your way of the life you’ve always dreamed of is you.

    Reply
  9. Alison, What a great journey you have been on! You have made changes in so many ares of your life. The advice you offer here is right on! I have lived most of my life following my inner passion, for better or worse, and have made many changes over the years. I love your advice to trust yourself, because too often we put our faith in the experts even when we feel something they may be are wrong. I would add only one thing, BELIEVE in your self. We are so much greater than we think. Thank you for sharing.

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  10. Honestly, that was a great post and really needed right now. Only problem….What if you don’t know what your dreams are or how to dream again?

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  11. Great post I can understand how it feels when someone’s tells you something incurable…about your health but you fought with it which’s really encouraging…be honest the post is utterly touchy..

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  12. Alison,

    Well written.Every word in this is so inspiring,the reader will feel the need to sitback and think about chasing dreams. You have touched almost each and every areas of life i.e. career ,health etc.Awsome one.Thanks.All the best :)

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  13. Alison, Thanks for reminding us that listening to what wants to emerge in our lives is the only trustworthy voice. Florence Shinn said that our recurrent desires are God speaking to us. As your story proves, we can trust the voice of our desires. Gary

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  14. Alison~What an empowering and inspiring article. Thank you! I loved your discussion on feeling into our passions and where we want to go in our lives. I think this is so important because doing so helps ground our thoughts and dreams in our bodies. Doing so helps us our passions materialize, and helps us be ready to embrace them.

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  15. Very inspiring post.
    I must admit – Taking responsibility, visualization and taking action have made a huge impact on my life. We should all remind ourselves that sustainable happiness comes only from moving towards your dream.

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  16. Wonderful post. I agree in that we all have to go our own way and by doing so we’ll build a life beyond our wildest dreams. However, in trying to achieve our dreams I think what’s important is that we have to stop focusing so much on the end result that dream is or represents specifically and focus on the strategy or system we need to use to achieve that dream (definitely easier said than done).

    For example, if my dream is to run a marathon, I need to stop focusing on “I want to run a marathon” and focus on the system of what will I do each day that will enable me to achieve the dream of actually running a marathon. The dream will eventually come or be realized but not without an established and executed system.

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  17. Hi Alison Very heart touching inspired life story.. Thank you very much for your inspiration.. My Dream is to get Job in Microsoft … But Still Stuck in IBM ISL.. people says Only rare people will get Job there.. I am not too much talented.. But an above average Software Engineer.. How can i achieve my goal?

    Thank you once again :) :).. Have a heart full of Joy in Life.. :)

    Reply
  18. Allison, what a great post… I was another who tried to “fit in” only to find it made me miserable! “To thine own self be true.” Take it one day at a time, doing what we can with what we’ve got, and before you know it, you’re where you want to be. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  19. hi Alison,

    that’s a wonderful experience you have shared. thanks !

    I am personally going through a situation where I feel lost so i enjoyed reading your blog. I have always tried to fit into the norm but it gets boring to do what does not come naturally to you.

    But i guess like you said we can take small steps towards what we really want to do. We ourselves have to make an effort and not think about failure.

    thanks again. God Bless ~

    Reply
  20. Alison, great story and thanks for sharing. I think the bit that rings true for me is that we often believe lots of things we’re told without really challenging them. Not all the advice that’s dispensed by the media, government and big corporations is true or good for us. From diet, drugs and the what we need to do to support the economy there’s barrow-loads of “fertilizer” that we need to challenge and cut through. Without doing this we’ll be drones living out someone else’s ideas.
    Small steady steps are great, they’re the way for us less impulsive types to change. Through small changes and experiments we can gain confidence and test the waters making change less risky.

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  21. Well Alison, I could write a very long reply to your wonderful post, but I won’t. I will just say that all that you have written here is the truth, and this is the kind of thing that should be taught in schools. We have so much more power than we will ever know, and we have to step outside the norm and discover just what we are capable of. You have proved in your great story that change starts with a thought and the power of our will can always bring that change to a reality. Thanks for a great post.

    Reply
  22. I’ve just come back to look at this post after giving birth to my baby, at home – as I dreamed of – last week, and am so happy to see how many people it’s resonated with. Thank you all for the comments and extra advice. I agree that the lessons life has taught me are ones that should be shared with all and I intend to pass them on to my little boy as he grows.

    Reply
    • Congratulations on the birth of your baby – another achievement! Your blog is inspiring to say the least. Thank you for writing it!

      Reply
  23. great story and thanks for sharing!!
    but it’s inspiring only if you know what you want…
    well, i’m at my 20s and i have no idea what i want and how i want to live. i don’t know what is my passion, because i change my mind every single day. today i want to be a young mother, next day i want to quit my studies and go around the world. and my instability makes me feel miserable.
    please, do not take it personally, your blog is great, but there are so much books about “follow your dreams”, but i don’t know how my dream looks like .. or “take action” , i don’t know in which direction, .. or “believe you know the best” …but i don’t know anything.
    only thing i can do is take responsibility about where i am and what i do.
    sometimes i tell my friends, that i’m gonna pack my bags and fly to France (or India, or Australia, or whatever), and then they always ask me – what are you going to do there? you will be alone, under Eifel Tower, without money, without family, with out job.. and what’s next? and i don’t know the answer.
    i’m sorry about my complaining.. i just wanted to say, that before all changes, we need to know – what kind of life we want instead? and only then we can start to motivate and to inspire ourselves….

    Reply
  24. Liga,

    I hope you don’t mind my jumping in here, but your situation tugged at my heart. If you want to know and your passions, you may want to check out the personality enneagram. You can do a search. It is a path that follows your soul’s path which is your passion. It may help you get more focused. Lots of books and other products and sites to visit.
    Good fortune to you. Susan

    Reply
  25. I love this post Alison! Sometimes we pay too much attention to what others say and adjust our lives to conform with their opinion that we fail to lead our lives to the direction we want to. I was this person a year ago and honestly, sometimes, I still am but I’ve learned to ignore what others say and do what I want to do and what makes me happy.

    As long as we’re not stepping on someone or hurting others, we should not hesitate to do whatever will make us happy.

    Reply

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