How do you avoid ending up in a spot that you really don’t want to be in? How do you avoid waking up one day and realizing that you inadvertently ended up somewhere you don’t want to be? Oftentimes, it’s because we adopt someone else’s values and pretended that they are our own. When you make decisions based on someone else’s values, those decisions will generally lead you far from where you really want to be.
Before you say yes to something, you have to truly understand what makes you feel valuable. Are you making decisions based on that value, what is true for you? Or, are you just going through the motions of what everyone else told you to do? If you’re doing what other people are telling you to do instead of using your values as a guide, all of a sudden you’re being guided by what everyone else wants to accomplish in their own lives, and you’re the tool to get them there, rather than the other way around.
This can be difficult for us because for our entire lives, we are being told to conform to someone else’s values, starting with our parents. There’s got to be some sense of order in the house, so everyone’s got to conform to the parents’ idea of what it means to be a family. And then we go to school, and we have to conform to what the teacher believes is the best way to have a classroom. And then we have friends, and we want to fit in with our friends, so we conform to what they want to do. And pretty soon, if we’re not the alpha male or if we’re not the alpha female, then we’re conforming ourselves all the time. We get hired by a boss and the boss has an idea of what he or she wants from an employee, and we just fit in because we want the job. It’s not because we belong there, it’s because we just want the job. And we just keep conforming ourselves, and pretty soon everyone else is running our lives and we’re not.
"When we’re planning for retirement and we don’t have to conform to anyone else’s ideas or values anymore "
So, when we’re planning for retirement and we don’t have to conform to anyone else’s ideas or values anymore, we have this idea that we’re going to be able to make that mental shift automatically, even though we’ve never done it. That’s the toughest part of working with people and helping them with retirement: helping them step out of that automatic reflex of conforming and help them think about what’s really important to them.