Many of us have ideas on where we want to be at certain points in our life. We as humans spend a lot of our time planning out where we want our life to go. Our lives are made up of arbitrary timelines and arbitrary deadlines.
By 32 I’ll have my dream job
By 26 I’ll have traveled outside the country
By 16 I’ll get my driver’s license
By 55 I’ll retire early
It should only take me 4 years to get my degree
By this time next year I will have bought a house and adopted a dog.
We can get fixated on these goals and feel like we have failed if we don’t meet them. But there is so much more to your life than deadlines you impose upon yourself.
There is no predetermined place you are supposed to be right now
The reality is the timelines are not set by the universe or some higher power, they are set by you. Timelines are not bad in and of themselves, they can be helpful ways to navigate and plan your life. But when they become your sole focus, they can have a negative impact on your life.
We must allow timelines to move and shift with the unpredictability that comes with life. Obstacles show up, new opportunities arise, and experiences give us new insight into who we are and what we want.
By holding on to where we thought we should be, we ignore all the things that we have done, all that we have in our life right now, and all the other directions we can take our life.
Many of the timelines and deadlines we impose upon our life are based on where society says we should be. There are no rules about at what age you should have accomplished something or how long it should take you to get something done.
Many of the deadlines we give ourselves are completely arbitrary. There is no universal law about when/if you ever have children or when/if you ever own a house.
Questions to ask yourself
When you feel stressed, disappointed, or overwhelmed because you are not where you thought you would be, ask yourself a few questions.
Why did I feel the need to have met this goal by this point in my life?
Does it truly matter that I am in a different place than I thought I would be?
Am I the same person now as when I first made my goals?
Are these truly my goals or goals that society has put on me?
Are each of my goals still important to me and who I am?
Asking yourself these questions can help you determine if the goals you had are still the goals you want to have. It can be hard to let go of a goal as it can feel like you failed, but the reality may be that it just doesn’t fit who you are any more. Maybe you will realize that some goals are based on what others want or pressure from society. Or maybe a goal you had been working towards is no longer based on who you are but rather who you were.
Are the priorities you had when you gave yourself the deadline the same priorities you have now? It’s important to reassess what is important to you, what makes you happy, and the life you want to have. We are ever-changing beings and our goals should reflect that.
Acknowledge where you are
Take a look at where your life is right now. Your mind may immediately think of all the things you are not and all the things you have hoped to have accomplished. We tend to be much harder on ourselves than we are on others. This can mean we are more critical of ourselves than we would be of others.
If you’re not used to thinking positively about yourself it can be a challenge to allow yourself to be proud of all you have done and how far you have come. It can also be a challenge to think about your own journey and not compare yourself to others.
It can be helpful to view your life from an outside perspective. If you were someone else, what would you say about your life? It can help us be less critical of ourselves when we work to look at our life from an outside perspective.
It’s OK to feel what you feel
Whether you are annoyed, frustrated, guilty, sad, disheartened, or any other emotion, that’s totally OK. Allow yourself to feel what you feel, but don’t let it become you.
Figuring out what you are feeling can help you become emotionally literate and better understand yourself. The emotion you experience can help you determine why you feel that way and can allow you to move forward.
Don’t push away your feelings or try to mask them with something more positive. Acknowledge how you feel, be honest with yourself, and then work through why you feel those emotions.
Shift your focus to enjoying the journey
As we work towards goals it is easy to have laser focus on accomplishing them. But too much focus on something in the future means we miss what is happening right here and now in our life. The future will come, we don’t need to try and rush it.
When you do make a goal, instead of focusing just on getting to that goal, think about the journey that will get you there. Take the time to look back at all your have done.