When you buy something online, during the checkout process, there is almost always a checkbox with an invitation to receive promotional emails of some sort. Sometimes you have to check the box to get the emails. Other sites have pre-checked the box for you, automatically assuming that you want their stuff. If you don’t, you physically have to uncheck the box — or opt-out — yourself.
If you’re not paying attention, you could end up getting a bunch of stuff you didn’t really want.
Too many people live life with their checkboxes pre-checked.
Every society has certain norms about how one is supposed to navigate through life. Here are a few that are pretty standard in America these days:
- You work a job you only kinda like — if you’re lucky — and then get to do what you really want when you retire.
- You always take the promotion.
- You should live together before you get married.
- A household needs two incomes in order to survive.
- A family must have two cars.
- Your family room should be centered around a television.
- You carry a monthly balance on your credit card.
- You have your babies in a hospital.
- When they are four or five, you send them off to school.
- Your kids should be involved in as many extracurricular activities as possible as early as possible. (If you want them to be well-adjusted and get into good colleges, that is.)
- You need to decide what you want to do with your life in high school so you can decide what degree you want to pursue in order to decide what colleges to apply to.
- Once you get that degree, find someone to hire you to work that job you only kinda like…
Interestingly, most of the norms above only became norms within the past 50-100 years. Which makes it all the more peculiar that we are so quick to follow them. “The way we do things” hasn’t always been the way we’ve done things. And yet, many people go through life with these “checkboxes” pre-selected.
It’s time to opt-out.
Opt-out of all the preconceived notions, assumptions, and stereotypes. Then mindfully choose what’s best for you.
Just because everyone around you is running around like chickens with their heads cut off, overcommitted, overwhelmed, and financially overextended doesn’t mean you have to be, too. Just like online, if you don’t pay attention to what you’re signing up for (and why), you could end up with a life flooded with things you don’t want. Things like stress, debt, and regret.
Of course, opting-out requires a fair measure of thought. You have to think: is this what I really want? Where did this norm come from? What are the pros and cons of sticking with it or ignoring it? Are there any alternatives?
On top of the heavy thinking, opting-out requires faith and courage as well.
It’s not my job or my aim to tell you WHAT to choose. I just want you to be intentional about your choosing. Your life doesn’t have to stick to the same standard plot as everyone else. In the end, you may end up choosing to keep many of the things the same. But at least the decisions are yours, and not anyone else’s.
In the end, that’s what leads to a rewarding life filled with meaning and adventure. And keeps you from getting a flood of stuff you never signed up for.