Growing up as a child, you were probably not much worried about the concept of time and aging. Somehow, you felt a sense of autonomy over your life, regardless of whether this was actually the case or not. Sure, you would have to listen to your mom and take orders from pretty much every other adult around you, but at least you didn’t felt pressured by a clock ticking away the minutes of your life.
Unfortunately, all of that changed as soon as you turned 18, when you officially became an adult and had to go to college. All of a sudden, you were confronted with all these big life choices that you had to make, like, “What the hell do I want for the rest of my life?!” You went from living every day as it came, to being the most future-oriented kiddo in a heartbeat, and with that you felt an enormous pressure to perform and to “make something of your life”, whatever that meant. Needless to say, things only got worse as soon as you graduated and mom and dad wanted you to apply for a “real job”.
Does the above description sounds familiar to you? I guess that for most of us today, especially the millennial generation, it most definitely does. I can tell you that it definitely did for me. In today’s blog, I would like to share my personal viewpoints on age pressure and how I learned to cope with it over the years.
Time is NOT the enemy of age
Regardless of which part of the world you live in today, we can all agree that every culture has its own societal expectations that we are supposed to live up to. We are expected to be at a certain place when we reach a specific age, whether it concerns the age at which we’re supposed to graduate and start climbing the career ladder or the age at which we should consider buying a fancy independent house so we can settle down and have some babies.
However, what I didn’t realize back when I was in college is that not having everything figured out was part of the journey, and that the only reason I felt so pressured was because I allowed the outside world to pressure me. Whether you believe it or not, there is no need to hurry. Time is on your side, regardless of whether you’re in your early 20’s, mid 40’s or late 60’s. It is the expectations that are not. Thinking that you need to be at a certain place, just because everyone else says so, is probably the biggest source of your unhappiness. This is what causes you to compare yourself against other people’s “progress” and to doubt your own journey.
Somehow, we bought into this concept that life’s greatest accomplishments need to happen before a certain age and in a specific order. No wonder most of us are running around like headless chickens at the verge of depression. Trying to live up to other people’s expectation is indeed extremely stressful and, more often than not, elicits the opposite effect. To put it differently, giving in to the pressure to succeed in life is exactly what keeps you crippled. Ironic isn’t it?
Long-Term Patience vs. Short-Term Haste
As goes for every other blog post that I’ve written, it usually all comes down to finding the right balance and doing what works for you. What I can tell you for a fact is that there is no expiration date on happiness and success. That is not to say that regret isn’t real. Because, although I firmly believe that it is never too late to pursue your goals and dreams, I believe that it would be clever to add a healthy dose of realism into the equation.
Some things can rarely be done after a certain age, such as becoming a professional athlete, building a multi-billion dollar company, or carrying a baby. Having said that, I would urge you to have another look at your timeline and realize that you can still create a life that you can live on your own terms, if you are willing to put in the work and effort. It is evident, however, that doing so is easier said than done.
Personally, I think a nice way to look at our life’s sandglass is to realize that we don’t really know how many grains of sand it contains, and that its flow is dependent on many factors, such as quantity, coarseness of the grains, size of the bulb, width of the neck, all of which confirm once again that every timeline is different, literally! Looking at it this way may help you feel more relaxed, but just in case you get it twisted: accepting your timeline does NOT mean sitting back and letting the universe take care of your dirty jobs. It just means that you have to redefine your relationship with time.
I believe that a viable solution in dealing with our unceasing age pressure and constant worry about the future is learning to be patient in the long-term and creating a sense of urgency in the short-term. In other words, get as many things done as possible in 24 hours, but understand that it will require many years before you can taste the fruits of those efforts. I believe I have already touched upon this in the article “8 rules to increase your ROI on happiness” in which I stated that everything worthy of having in life is earned over time and we must first go through all the trials and tribulations.
The Vicious Cycle of Worry
I often find myself speechless when I talk to people my age telling me how upset they are that they haven’t changed the world yet. It seems like almost every millennial I talk to these days is having some sort of a quarter-life crisis because they haven’t done anything “meaningful” with their lives so far. No great surprise there, considering that we’re living in a society that tells us we’re total failures if we’re not successful entrepreneurs by the age of 25.
What is more, this endless discord between expectation and reality only becomes worse, to the point that we’re not only worried about our course of action, but also about the fact that we’re constantly worried, creating a vicious cycle of perpetual anxiety. The fact is that we all deal with it, some more than others. And, whether we like it or not, the only way to break the cycle is by accepting that changing the status quo is done by letting go.
We need to let go of all the underlying assumptions that make us believe that we’re not good enough just because we’re not living up to the expectations of the world around us, or, even worse, our own unrealistic standards. I have always said that comparing is a game you will always lose, even when it’s with your future self. That is not to say that you shouldn’t be future conscious, rather that you shouldn’t overestimate what you can do in one year and underestimate what you can do in 10. Comprende?
Our perception of time is subjective. Where 10 minutes may seem like forever when in pain, a day may seem like nothing when having a blast. We know that. Yet, somehow, we seem to have more difficulty understanding that we don’t need to have everything figured out before a certain age. Quite to the contrary, I’ve actually come to learn that no one really has everything figured out at any age. There will always be another reason to worry about the future, no matter how old or how successful you are. So, unburden yourself from what should be and start thinking about what could be and, who knows, just like the reflection in the side mirror of a car, the life you always dreamed of may be closer than it appears.…