I don’t think it’s possible to live life as an individual, separate from society. We are all part of various societies, whether it’s our local community or nation. Societies exist in other ways. For example, if you’re an accountant, you probably meet with other accountants outside your own organization, whether through a club or organization. This is a society of accountants.
Societies are aggregates of individuals who have expectations of each other. They also often develop their own languages to create meaning, talk about what’s important, and so on.
I think it’s quite naive to ever assume that one has reached an existence of individuality. We’re social beings and will quite naturally act according to people’s expectations of us, within various societies.
I think it’s really important to be aware of the impact society has on our behavior. Not for the purpose of changing our behavior, though. Rather, simply for the purpose of becoming more aware.
But the original question goes a little deeper. It focuses on your goals or desires, what motivates you. The question is whether societal expectations condition the things you pursue.
In my own case, the things I do generally focus on creating content for Ideapod, building tech platforms like this discussions area and the filter bubble buster, and of course our ownline courses. Am I doing this because society tells me I should?
Absolutely! There are many people with a vested interested in Ideapod’s success. I want Ideapod to succeed. Especially, these are the people using the platforms we have, enrolling in the online courses, reading our articles, etc.
But more pertinent to the question is the identity I get from working on such “important” things. I’m clear that everything represents provides something I think the world needs, especially in an age of polarization when politicians are trying to divide and rule us. My identity benefits because I become someone working on something big and important. I get a lot of positive feedback from society for doing this. It feeds my ego.
I don’t see how I could possibly find some kind of inner connection such that I do something just because it makes me happy.