“If you don’t program yourself, life will program you.” – Les Brown

There is an old story about two fish that are swimming around in a tank. One fish asks the other how he likes the water. That fish’s response was: “What is water?”

It is easy to approach our own lives in the same way. There are signals all around us that we become so used to that we don’t even realize they are influencing us.

Many of us grew up watching TV sitcoms, as during our formative years there was not much else on. What were some of the messages we may have subconsciously received from those shows? Do you remember how people with wealth and status were portrayed?

All of the mother-in-laws or father-in-laws who’d achieved financial success were shown as stuffy and stodgy, while their working class sons and daughters would come home exhausted and stressed out from work but still manage to be witty, funny, and have happy marriages.

This may seem inconsequential, but it’s an item on a long list of socially accepted messages that programs us to stay in our lane. Don’t become too successful, don’t make too much money, because you may end up unhappy and crotchety like those people on TV.

Needless to say, identity is not dictated by profession. Blue collar workers are just as honorable and respectable as anyone else, oftentimes even more-so, but the idea here is to choose the path you want to be on, free of outside influence.

What we observe in childhood shapes us as adults. It’s not just television, but our family, friends, communities, teachers, and personal experiences. Everything around us is shaping our view of the world and serves as the lens that we see it through.

The people who become the most fulfilled, however, are the ones who refuse to accept the circumstances they are born into as their final destination. They refuse to simply follow a path that’s been laid out for them when they feel the path isn’t in full alignment with who they really are.

It’s not about money, it’s about freedom. Happiness. Contribution to society. Making an impact and being a changemaker. If we accept all of the subconscious messages we are being fed, we will stop believing that any of those things are even possible because we are simply supposed to go to work every day, come home, and crack open our beer until it’s time for bed.

Every decision you make in your life alters its course, big or small. Always remember to ask yourself whether you’re doing what you know is right for you, or simply following the path someone else has carved.

It’s never too late to take control over your circumstances. But if you don’t, they will keep their control over you.