Tick tock, tick tock can you hear the ticking of your timeline clock?
It can be agonizing. The ticking. The tocking. The pressure. The comparisons. Having to figure out what we want, how to get it, and when to do it can be overwhelming. Comparing ourselves, our goals, and our aspirations to other’s timelines–and then not measuring up–can make us feel inadequate, unfulfilled, or dissatisfied with our life.
So many people experience this intense pressure of trying to make their lives fit into this stereotypical timeline of life events. Why is that?
We all have timelines. We’ve been hitting, or attempting to reach, milestones since before we were born! Apparently you are supposed to be “about the size of an avocado” at 16 weeks in utero. There are timelines for when are you supposed to start walking, talking, and ditching diapers for the porcelain throne. We have been under pressure to accomplish goals and tasks before even knew how to spell goals or tasks! And here we are today still trying to reach these milestones in our life at a specific time and in a specific way. Our personal “timelines” can shape and drive our motivations and behaviors.
*Spoiler alert: Life doesn’t always pan out the way we want or when we want.*
I know this is not breaking news here. However, the problem is that even though we know that life can be unpredictable, messy, and unconventional we still feel this immense pressure to stick to our perfectly delineated timelines.
Society tells us what we age we should start kindergarten, drive a car, graduate, have a beer, get a job, find a spouse, buy a house, have a kid, have another kid, retire, etc. You name it and society has told us what “a good age” to meet the mark should be. So it is only natural that we feel inclined to meet these milestones because that’s when “everyone else is doing it!”
It’s time to toss out your timeline.
Stop the social comparisons
Chances are if you open up a social media application right now you can find a personal announcement of some sort. New house! New baby! New job! Surprise engagement! New car! Seeing all of your “friends” experience these perceived positive and exciting life events forces you to examine your own timeline. You may find yourself thinking, “they are younger than me, how did they already accomplish so much?” or “when will it be my time?” These comparisons between you and others can have a negative impact on your mental health. Don’t designate a specific age with some of life’s major milestones. Tackle these tasks when you are physically, mentally, and emotionally ready—not just because you’ve turned another year older.
Know that you are enough
Stop equating accomplishment of these timeline tasks with your self-worth. Know that you are good enough just as you are. Chances are you are doing the best you can, with what you’ve got right now. Take pride in that! Reflect on the accomplishments you’ve made so far. Identify your strengths, know your skills, and then use those strengths and skills to take the next steps towards your goals and aspirations.
Brag on yourself
When is the last time you complimented yourself? Go ahead and stop whatever you’re doing right now and brag on yourself for a minute. Wish you had more social time and didn’t work so much? Brag on your strong work ethic, then pencil in some friends and family time next week. Want a bigger house? Compliment yourself for being able to afford the home that you do have. Wish you were in a romantic relationship? Brag about being self-sufficient, independent and individually successful. If you haven’t reached some of the milestones you had hoped to by now, praise yourself for where you are so far.
Don’t settle for less
Don’t settle. Don’t stay in a job you hate because a career change sounds scary. Don’t marry someone just because you’re almost 30. Don’t be afraid to start over. Don’t give up hope if life is throwing you some curve balls right now. Don’t settle on your values, morals, and beliefs trying to stick to your timeline. Don’t try to beat the clock. Do what makes you happy on whatever timeline works for you.
I tell my clients all the time: change doesn’t happen overnight. You have to be patient and gentle with yourself. Take pride in your daily growth and progress towards your larger, long-term goals. If something is important enough and meaningful enough to you then you will find a way to get there—on your own time.
There is no instruction manual that guarantees if you follow a certain timeline you will be eternally happy, fulfilled, and satisfied. So don’t put that pressure on yourself!
Toss out that timeline. Focus on your goals and aspirations. Tackle those goals in whatever manner and time frame works best for you. Use your individual strengths, skill sets, and motivations to achieve your own personal success. Do it for you, not for the ‘gram.