Not Pursuing Standardized Expectations can Lead to Even Greater Opportunities

Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path

Photo by sippakorn yamkasikorn on Unsplash

A few days ago I was on a hike with a friend and a couple of mountain bikers passed by us. The woman said hello, and we replied the salutation. She said, “It’s hot isn’t it!” We live in the desert and this statement was nothing short of the obvious. But considering that we had met to hike at 12 noon, the sentiment was amplified. We nodded our heads in agreement.

But then the woman went on to say, “but that means we have the trail to ourselves!” I smiled as I replied, “yes, it’s wonderful!” It was so true.

Sure, going at noon we had to experience the most intense rays of the sun (some would call it stupid), but we also had essentially the whole trial to be peacefully by ourselves. Lathered up in sunscreen and a hat I loved that short 45 minute hike.

The last time I had done this trail I could barely even find a parking space at the entrance and passed someone coming the other direction every minute or so.

Sometimes, going against what we think (or what society tells us to think) is the normal time or way to do things, can provide unforeseen advantages or opportunity.

Standard Timelines

Most people have a general expectation for themselves and their life. At the very least, they know someone who has an expectation for them.

For many, it’s expected to go from elementary school, to middle school, to high school, to college, to a 9–5 job, to retirement. You’ll get married, have kids, have grandchildren, etc., etc., etc.

But what happens if you want to take a gap year between high school and college or between college and graduate school? I took a year off between college graduation and my enrollment in a PhD program and I have no regrets.

What happens if midway through your career you deicide you want to do something else and you go back to school and switch paths entirely? My dad did this. He was a mechanical engineer for over 30 years and then went back to night school and became a registered nurse.

What happens if you don’t want to go to college at all and would rather pursue a trade or an entrepreneurial venture?

What happens if you don’t want to wait until 65 to retire?

What happens if you don’t want to get married, let alone have children?

Not pursuing standardized expectations can at times lead to even greater opportunities.

Off the Beaten Path

What lies off the beaten path? You don’t know unless explore it.

Sometimes you can predict. One could predict going hiking in the heat of the day would be less crowded. In the time of COVID, this was particularly beneficial.

But taking a gap year? How can you really predict how that will go? For me, I didn’t have anything special lined up. I didn’t have a fantastic interenship I was already on the payroll for. I didn’t have a full time job or even a plan for what would happen when the year was over.

All I knew was that in that moment, I couldn’t follow the standard routine. I needed a break to figure out my next steps. Was it graduate school, was it a full time job, was it a move across the country? I needed time to figure it out. And it led me to a fantastic opportunity pursuing graduate school in a new place that has been pivotal to my growth.

Don’t be afraid to take a pause. Halt from the hustle and bustle of your life and take a moment to contemplate. Is this what you want? Could you consider something outside of the box?

The Challenge

I challenge you to start with something small. Stop your daily routine and do something different.

It takes time to train your mind into understanding that you don’t have to do things at the same time or the same way that those around you are doing them.

  • Everyone says to work out in the morning but you’ve never found motivation to do it? Try working out in the middle of the afternoon when you have more energy.
  • The latest fad is intermittent fasting but you’re starving when you wake up? Eat breakfast.
  • People tell you not to study late at night but that seems to work best for you? Do it.
  • Society tells you that you need a 9–5 but you’ve always dreamed of entrepreneurship? Start your dream business on the side and see how it goes.

Even if you don’t know what you want or what will work best for you, try something new and you may be surprised.

From there, you can make further amendments to your plan with the newly gained knowledge of experience.

Yes, hiking in the heat wasn’t fantastic but I did love that it wasn’t as crowded. Maybe next time I’ll go very early in the morning before most people are up but when it’s still cooler.

The Takeaway

Going against the grain, away from the crowd, and to the opposite of societal standards and expectations can lead to opportunities you could have never imagined.

As humans, we tend to do what is comfortable. What feels normal. What everyone else is doing.

The thing is, majorities don’t often form because everyone hates an action. Peple go hiking when it’s cool because it feels better. But that doesn’t mean that you as an individual necessarily fit that grain. Perhaps for you, peace and quiet on the trail is more meaningful.

Writer. PhD Student. Frugal Traveler. Passionate about health, personal growth, and saving money.

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