Write your Own Recipe for Life

  • A successful lawyer in his mid 40s goes on Prozac, confessing to me that he suffers from anxiety and depression. Yet he’s afraid to leave his job for fear of not being able to support his family's high priced lifestyle.
  • A middle aged acquaintance admitted that the day he was walking down the aisle to get married 10 years ago, his gut feeling told him not to do it, but he didn’t want to disappoint all the guests and ”it wouldn’t be right” to call off the wedding at that late date. Six years later he divorced. 
  • A 56 year old woman who runs a successful business with her husband and has four healthy grown children tells me that as much as she loves them, if she had it to do over again, she wouldn’t have kids.
  • A 32 year old woman is still living with her parents in a suburb of Boston. She has long dreamed of relocating to San Diego, but her own fears and lack of family support have held her back. As the years pass it’s harder for her to leave, even though she’s miserable where she is.

What do these four people have in common? They all followed the recipes in the “The Conformists Cookbook” given to us by family, friends and society. We were told that if we just followed the recipes written in the book, we’d have a good life.

The fallacy in this idea is evident from the beginning. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a good life. I want a GREAT life. And greatness never came from conformity.

It also negates the beauty and gifts inherent in our uniqueness. We’re not all oranges, or even apples. Some of us are kumquats. Some are dates, mangoes, pomegranates, kiwis, prunes or strawberries, bananas or…you get the idea.

As an outed non-conformist who’s tried to fit into mainstream living at various times in my life, asking myself “What’s wrong with me that I’m just not excited at the thought of living like (fill in blank with name of a conforming friend)?” This question is not helpful or true. First of all there’s nothing wrong with me – or you. A better question would be “What kind of recipe for my life do I feel most inspired to write? What are the most delicious ingredients I want to include? What kind of recipe would allow me to express my unique gifts, values and passions in a way that helps me feel fully alive, and helps others too?”

I’m here to give you permission to fully be your wild, crazy authentic self – with all your idiosyncrasies, perceived “flaws” and quirks. I urge you and encourage you to get to know yourself, and embrace your unique gifts and values unabashedly. Come out to yourself first, and then come out to the world, with “Free to Be” and “Do No Harm” as the modus operandi . The path that is right for you is that path that which aligns you with your deepest peace, most expansive joy, and full aliveness and vitality. The path that when you’re on it, helps you be the most wise, compassionate and loving version of yourself. A path that feels like “home”.

I encourage you to write, create and live your own recipe for life. Experiment with the ingredients. Create something delicious that’s uniquely you. Be the best kumquat, pomegranate, orange, kiwi or prune you were made to be.

What are some of the Recipes in The Conformist’s Cookbook?

Get a good, practical education so you can get a good job with a reputable company so you can do well which means making lots of money. Along the way, you get married, buy a house in the suburbs, and have 2.3 kids. You climb the corporate ladder, retire at 65, and then do what you really want, blah, blah, blah.

What’s wrong with this recipe? It assumes there’s only one path to a good life, and doesn’t give people the space or encouragement to ask questions and explore other options. As a result, many people, including the four I described at the beginning, follow these instructions, only to be met with disillusionment and unhappiness. They reach their 40s or 50s feeling cheated and misled, asking themselves, “What’s wrong with me? I have everything I could possible want, but I feel there’s something missing.”

Why do we follow The Conformist’s Cookbook? Most people are like lemmings, or sheep. We’re more comfortable being told what to do rather than having to think for ourselves. We’ve been brainwashed and bombarded by society and the media, telling us what success is, and have found it easier to swim with the flow rather than against it. We also don’t know where to find role models and mentors for other lifestyles.

Another reason I tried following The Conformist’s Cookbook recipes, was when I was younger, I started trusting other people more than I trusted myself, giving away my energy and power to the opinions of well-meaning people I assumed knew better than me what was right for me and my life. I’ve needed to take back my power and learn to rely on my own intuition and deep inner knowing and am a big advocate for my clients doing the same, giving them tools and asking questions that can help them release the stuff that’s clouded their inner knowing and wisdom. My mom said to me years ago “Barbara, stop asking everyone what they think you should do with your career. Only you can know what’s best for you.” She was right.  Stop giving away your power.

8 Steps to Writing your Own Recipe

1. Be aware of comments from people masking a complaint that you’re not following the recipe the way it was written in “The Conformist’s Cookbook”:

“Are you sure you want to leave Raton Aweil Corp? You get a great salary and benefits! Just stay with it another 20 years; then you can retire and do what you really want.”

“Why don’t you want to marry Bob Boring? He’s so good to you. You’re too picky.”

“When are you going to start a family?” or “Don’t you want kids?”

“Everyone in our family has always lived here! Why do you have to move?”

2. Know that these types of comments originate from people who feel threatened that you’re questioning the status quo, since this forces them to look at areas in their own lives they’re not happy with; areas where they were afraid to write and follow their own recipe.

3. Take a good look at anyone offering unsolicited advice. Ask yourself three questions: “Is this person truly happy? Is she/he at peace with themselves? Is what he/she suggesting resonating as being true for me? If you can’t answer yes to all three questions, disregard the advice.

4. Be a devil’s advocate. Question, question, question. If you hear someone asking “Why?” ask “Why not?” As my friend Helen from the Czech Republic (who happily lives in CA) once asked, “Where would the United States would be if no one left their hometown?”

5. Know that ultimately only you can know what’s right for you. Journey inward to find the answers. Stop asking other’s advice (Thanks Mom!).

6.  Consciously, write your own recipe of what an amazing life would look like for you. Here are some questions to help you make more mindful decisions in four key areas of your life:

A.  Career: Do you love your work? If not, what is keeping you there? What are the limiting beliefs you hold? What is your job costing you in terms of health, energy, fulfillment and relationships? What would you rather be doing? What’s a first step you can take towards that? In the meantime, how can you enjoy your current job more?

B.  Marriage & Lifestyle: If you aren’t married, ask yourself why you want to be married. Is it because all your friends are doing it/have done it, or you’re afraid to be alone? Are there aspects of self-care & self-love you need to commit to on your own first before committing to a partnership?  If you're married and not happy with your marriage even after doing work on yourself and as a couple, why are you staying? What's the pay-off? Is it worth it? If you are gay, lesbian, trans, or a member of any other non-mainstream group, how much peace do you have with coming out or not? How free do you feel to be your True Self, shining your unique light in the world?

C. Children: If you think you want children, get clear on why. Is it because you were told you’re supposed to? Or is it a calling from your heart? Are you drawn to having your own children or adopting? Or maybe working with kids? There are many ways to nurture and parent others.

D. Location: Do you love where you live? What keeps you there? If you don’t love it, and don’t have to be there to take care of an ill parent or other good reason, get clear on what’s missing for you and start researching places that would be a better fit for who you are and the kind of lifestyle you want.

7. Find role models or mentors who’ve created what you want to create. Watch Biography. Read biographies; network to find these people. Create an imaginary Board of Directors with your favorite role models, living or departed. Ask them questions and imagine their answers.

8. Close your eyes. Imagine you’re 80 years old, sitting by the fire in your rocking chair and looking back at your life. What are you most proud of? What are your biggest regrets? Are they the things you did or things you wanted to try, but didn’t due to fear? Did you follow all the recipes as they were written in the “Conformist’s Cookbook” Or did you write and make your own inspiring, luscious, creative recipes that made you sit back in great satisfaction saying “Mmmmm! This was a delicious life!” 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. - Robert Frost

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. – Henry David Thoreau


The Purpose of Your Life by Carol Adrienne
Risking by David Viscott, M.D.
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers