If you want true inner peace, start ignoring these 3 expectations from society

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we all feel some pressure to fit in. 

And often, without even realizing it, we allow certain societal expectations to play a role in how we make decisions.

But here’s the truth: these expectations aren’t always in line with what brings us true inner peace. 

Life is not a one-size-fits-all. 

Today, we dive into three such expectations that may be influencing your happiness without you even knowing. 

It’s time to start ignoring what society says about these and making our decisions on how to live. 

What’s to come in this post might ruffle some feathers (especially point 3), so let me preface it by saying that I am not here to preach or tell you what to do. 

I don’t have all the answers (and neither do you). 

Instead, think of it as a conversation starter, a nudge to rethink and challenge what many have been told is the ‘right way’ to live.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in. 

1) The expectation that we should all own a big house (or at least aim to)

Let’s start with some facts. 

As of 2023, about 66% of U.S. citizens are homeowners. It stands about the same in the UK. 

Why am I telling you this? 

Well, many would presume it to be much higher. 

Not owning a house is not especially unusual despite the seemingly deep-rooted belief in society that achieving true adulthood or success is synonymous with buying a home. 

We have all seen the social media posts of our friends holding up a set of keys outside their new 4-bedroom, mortgaged suburban crib.

And there is nothing wrong with this; owning a home can offer a sense of security and serve as a potentially sound investment.

But it’s not for everyone. 

Houses can also tie people down, both financially and geographically.

Putting a 20% downpayment aside, the average mortgage payment in the US in 2022 was 31% of the median American household income. 

That’s quite a chunk of change, and as you may have noticed, house prices are only rising. 

In the 1980s, the median house price was roughly $63,000, which is about $234,000 in today’s money, adjusting for inflation. Back then, the median household income was around $21,020 – or about $78,000 after adjusting for inflation. 

Fast forward to 2022, and the median household income was slightly lower (yes, lower), at around $74,580. A post by Forbes suggests the median house price in 2023 is $412,000. 

That is since the 1980s, average house prices in the US have almost doubled while household incomes have remained stagnant. 

Maybe that’s why your parents were able to buy a home in their mid-twenties. 

And yes, I hear you; rent is also expensive in the USA. 

So what’s the alternative?

Well, what if you were to embrace a digital nomad lifestyle, something akin to what Tim Ferris described as geoarbitrage in The 4-Hour Work Week? 

That is, you relocate to a cheaper place with a lower cost of living. This is becoming more and more possible with remote working options. 

Does venturing around the world and living in cheaper countries than your own while still saving money sound appealing to you? 

Well, it’s possible. Keep in mind that this wasn’t as achievable for previous generations. 

Or you could live in a tiny house. Many are doing it. 

Think about it; do you really need all that space, or would you prefer more liquid cash and the choices it might give you?

I’ll let you decide that. 

Buying a large house will still make sense for many. 

However, surely it’s worth ignoring the societal expectation of owning a house and adding up the pros and cons for yourself. 

2) The expectation that we need a fancy degree and an impressive job title

Another societal expectation that stands particularly tall is the belief that a prestigious degree and a job with an impressive title are non-negotiable tickets to ‘success’ and respect. 

For many, this has been hammered into our collective psyche, creating a relentless pursuit of academic accolades and high-status professional roles. 

But is this really the only way to fulfillment and success?

Of course not. 

Yes, such a path can result in higher earnings and a certain societal prestige. However, it’s also fraught with its own set of challenges. 

Firstly, the cost of higher education has skyrocketed, leaving many graduates with a mountain of debt and no guarantee of a job that matches their qualifications. 

…many of you reading this will know what I am talking about. 

In 2023, the average student loan debt in the U.S. was a staggering figure. This financial burden can weigh on the shoulders of young professionals for years if not decades. 

Furthermore, the relentless chase for a prestigious job title often leads to high-stress environments, long working hours, and a questionable work-life balance.

Some people are made for this; they love it. 

Others can’t stand it. There is little success in being miserable 8-12 hours a day so that society thinks well of you. 

Personal satisfaction, work-life balance, mental health, and the pursuit of passions often weigh more in the balance of a fulfilling life than the name of the college on your degree or the title on your business card.

3) The expectation that we should all have kids

Whether we know it or not, we are often led to believe in a very particular path – growing up, marrying, and…having kids. 

In 2013, research by Gallup suggested that just 5% of Americans did not desire to have any children – 74% already had at least one. 

But here’s the kicker: research also suggests that 8-17% of parents regret having kids.

Moreover, the assumption that childlessness equates to a life lacking in joy or purpose is misleading. A Princeton Study suggested that parents and non-parents have similar levels of life satisfaction.

It begs the question, is it time we reevaluate this expectation in light of changing times and diverse individual needs?

Of course, the decision to have children is profoundly personal. 

Factors including financial stability, personal values, lifestyle preferences, and biological or health considerations can all play a role. 

Even if having kids empirically gave our lives more meaning and happiness, would it be the right reason to bring another human into this world? 

I’ll leave that up to you. 

The point is the richness of life does not solely spring from parenthood – at least not for everyone. 

People find meaning and fulfillment in many ways – through careers, hobbies, relationships, travel, creative pursuits, and contributions to their communities. 

Look, I am not saying you shouldn’t have kids. 

What I am saying is that we would do well to make our own choices and ignore the pressures put on us by society when it comes to major decisions like this. 

The bottom line

There is no universal blueprint for a fulfilling life. 

The pressure to conform to these norms – owning a house, acquiring prestigious educational credentials, and having children – can be overwhelming and, at times, misaligned with our true aspirations and circumstances. 

These decisions are deeply personal and should be approached from a place of individual understanding and desire, not just societal pressure or tradition.
Until next time. 

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