Whose agenda are you living?
So often we find ourselves doing things in order to be accepted by others. We worry what people would think of us. We say things, wear things, buy things, do things, and think things because we believe they will be pleasing or acceptable to other people.
I see this all of the time in my programs. Fully grown adults filled with anxiety over their parents’ opinion of them, still trying to get mom and dad’s approval at age 40, 50, 60. Younger people blaming, gossiping, and criticizing to go along with the crowd because they don’t have a path for themselves.
Over time, we forget how to be ourselves, if we ever knew. We end up living this shadow life of everyone else’s expectations.
That was me. For a long time. I didn’t have the conviction of my own agenda, so I followed the agenda other people had for me.
Until I finally decided to follow my own agenda.
When I was studying for the Ph.D., I lingered in the program for as long as possible, deciding that I would leave when they threatened to kick me out.
The thing is, I had an additional, secret agenda. I never told anyone about it. When the professors would say, “Joe, it’s time to get moving with your dissertation,” I would smile and nod. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
I knew that my agenda would not have mattered to them. And it shouldn’t have. It was mine.
My agenda was to reclaim my agenda. I grew up in such fear that I never pursued the agenda that was burning inside me.
I wanted to write articles for the high school newspaper, but I never did for fear of criticism. So, during the Ph.D. program, I ran an international crime magazine.
I wanted to learn to play musical instruments growing up and join the high school band, but I never did. So, during the Ph.D. program, I learned to play guitar and joined a band in Texas.
I wanted to write books, but I never did. So, during the Ph.D. program, I wrote a book about my research and experiences in investigating the Russian mafia.
I wanted to join the drama club in high school, but I never did. So, during the Ph.D. program, I got to perform for 150 undergrads twice a week as I taught them introduction to criminal justice.
When the official letter arrived saying that I had six months to jump through the remaining hoops to graduate or else be terminated from the program, the time had arrived to stop lingering.
Going back to claim my personal agenda is the best thing I ever did in my life. It wasn’t easy. It required a lot of energy and planning. But it was worth it since now I’ve done pretty much everything I’ve wanted to do in my life.
And it opened doors I would never have been able to open otherwise.
A key part to the whole experience was not telling anyone about my agenda. No one needed to know.
And no one needs to know your agenda.
What would you do if you were living your own agenda?
Get the Nerve!