Why does it feel like we have failed if we haven’t set out and achieved a grand plan? Are we actually missing the point of life itself and being too hard on ourselves?
At what age does this concern about letting life slip through your fingers art to bother people?
You’d think it’s not really a concern for people until possibly they get to an old age where they have little time left to change anything. Yet people of that old age have often made peace and just accepted their life as what it is.
This concern is increasingly a concern amongst younger and younger people each passing decade, despite us on average living longer and longer. As our self awareness grows we tend to ask more questions of ourselves which can bring up feelings of inadequacies.
WHAT TO DO
This modern tech world doesn’t exactly help us either. We are bombarded with success stories of the few who ‘make it’, yet what we don’t see is the hard work or sheer luck that went into their success. We can’t guarantee our luck but we also can work hard and ideally smart.
It still might not guarantee your plan to come to fruition or for you to get global recognition for it (but you have to ask yourself whether that would really, honesty be a good thing – usually not).
Working on it though as opposed to not will certainly see you develop some skills and knowledge that can only aid your life though. Effort is essential, as without it we can moan all we like about how it didn’t turn out as planned but moaning won’t help us make it so.
The only thing we can do is utilize our time and energy in life the best we can. People say money can buy freedom but really freedom is a mental state where we aren’t riddled by fears or bias, and where our energy is placed on bringing the best out of us in the time we make available.
Yet right now, we all still have time, even if commitments can make it feel like we don’t, and we can all choose to utilize our energy well or waste it.
We only get until the day our time is up. It can be hard to hear that but remember – time isn’t up right now. If you are reading this and seeking hope to get your life on track, firstly remember you still have time, your time is not up!
But also ask your this:
What if it was? What would you be grateful for having done? What would you regret not doing?
Well, is it possible to do that now? Why not? What else might you need to do before that to reach that goal? What’s the consequences of not doing it? Do you want life to pass you by?
There’s nearly 700,000 hours in the average modern lifetime, yet how many hours do we spend really sitting down and asking ourselves these questions? Imagine if we did that for just one hour. It could make many of the following hours a lot more meaningful.
Yet we often don’t due to fear and bias. There’s so many fears and bias installed in us over our lives that we often worry that we aren’t fitting into what we should or shouldn’t have done in society by a certain time, but we forget that we were brought into this world knowing nobody and with no expectations on us.
We had no time boundaries but we also knew nothing. We had to learn to survive and become independent. Yet part of that journey led many of us to worry about surviving and we chose safety over experience, even if we often long for experience over safety.
We may age and develop regrets of the dreams or opportunities we never followed for fear of safety, or we may never have had pursued or seemed to work our dreams at all. We get to point where we can complain about why our plans didn’t come to fruition, yet we barely even took the time to truly work our what plan was right for us, what success was to us, let alone revision that plan from time to time as we age.
There’s a growing feeling of wanting to do something more meaningful with your life once you’ve passed the need for physical survival, but also a fear of uncertainty in not know what or how to do it.
We can see many people on screen seemingly living the perfect life but we never see behind the cameras, and we might also not realise they might be very specialist and restricted to one thing they do well only.
Yet life is a lot more rounded than just finding one vocation to excel at, yet we can often be led into thinking that our career is the only thing that constitutes success – a constant mountain too struggle up, and we can beat ourselves up if we don’t get to that top, even if it’s often out of our control.
This 10/10 perfection view will always make us feel underwhelmed or underperform. We need a different look. One which goes against the specialist societal view on success. One where we see life more as a strive for balance and incremental harmony.
Of course, we might want to excel at something too, yet might not ever really know what that is compared to some people who seem so much more specialist out there. If this is you then don’t take offense in being seen as a generalist, after all a generalist is a more natural-born survival, like a crocodile who can adapt to any environment, while a specialist might seem at the top of the pile in one aspect but is not very adaptable at all beyond that.
In the western world this mountain top expectation often sees many of us feel like failures if we didn’t become a top known ‘this or that’. It leads to idolization of idols or influencers and creates a distorted view of reality of what success really is.
It really is more about the balance of harmony we achieve and how we incrementally try to learn more and fail less through life, surviving at first and thriving thereafter, but undoubtably failing some more as we push through to new challenges becoming smaller fishes in bigger ponds – until we outgrow that pond and move up again towards more uncertainty of being a small fish again in an even bigger pond and so on (although many people stay as big fish in a pond they’ve outgrown but become afraid of leaving).
This is outward growth, not singular, upward growth to a linear goal or mountain top. It’s developing to grow in wisdom, to pass on a legacy, to nurture our own children, to seek new experiences, to remain in good health and to be graceful with others while striving for our own goals.
The good news means there’s many things we can do towards making a good balanced life, so there’s many ways we can spend our day feeling good about ourselves for that progression. And attempted failures are part of that so embrace them too.
When we see life this way it really doesn’t matter what we might’ve had implanted in our minds at a young age or even when older by societal expectations, and if your plan didn’t come to fruition, think about the bigger picture and what you can be grateful for achieving.
There’s always things for each of us to work on, no matter what age we are, but that’s good too as it keeps us occupied and gives us things to work towards.
Enjoying the journey of what comes our way is really the key to a good life, and seeing challenges as opportunities. When you enjoy the challenge of improvement then you can’t help but improve.
It’s also really important to decipher between what really matters to you and what just seems like it matters as it’s seen as something you should have in society.
What if you still feel bad about not achieving what you planned?
Well, can you change the past? No. It’s not in your control, and there’s little point in wasting energy in things that are not in your control. Even if you feel bad about it there’s little you can do to go back to that point for real (although you can try this reframing technique to help recreate a better image of that time).
Remember that life is really just made up of lots of little moments. You can’t go back to yesterday or before, but you can try to reframe your memories by resetting and thinking of what you are grateful for and what you have achieved.
Mulling over what you haven’t done is quite human of us, and that is simply just a built in survival instinct to keep improving so don’t worry about it, instead just use that as a motivational drive to keep going.
If you had a bad day then fair enough, we all do, but use that as an extra push the next day.
Not sure about where to start in your quest for a different life or new goal? Work back from the goal and work our what small step is possible now.
Find a mentor to learn from and motivate. And reward yourself for when you tried, not when you didn’t.
Again, life is made up of lots of little moments so if a lot of your life has passed with memories that aren’t what you wished for, or regrets of not doing something you wish you did, then you can either live in that past and just let it haunt you – and in the meantime miss out on more time today trying to hide away from those missed opportunities – or you can reset and go again.
Even if you just tried this for one day and then two days, before trying to have a week or lots of little positively led moments, then you’d find your mind will reframe to believe you are capable of doing a lot more. You start to think forward instead of back.
If you do find yourself watching something or seeing feeds on social media that bring up feeling of failure, or just have a random memory from the past appear which makes you feel bad about how you didn’t do this or that, then don’t worry, it’s normal (but also often an unrealistic mirage with social media), but either way you can do two things.
You can either go with the memory and try to rework it in your mind as a positive lesson learnt so you perceive it differently, or you can try to do something right now to work towards what you do want to get from life to replace that old memory with the motivation of creating a better, new one.
One more time. Life is made up of little moments. It’s those moments that make your life and memories richer overall. Start today in making memories you want to have and soon enough the momentum will build.
It’s like smiling to someone and they likely smile back. It’s contagious. When you start seeking more meaningful moments you give yourself an extra ‘future memory’ to enjoy and feel grateful for.
This can be for any goal you have. Want to write a book? Then start by jotting some thoughts down, even just for a minute, each day. These little moments will add up, and you’ll find you will create even more as you find a flow of optimal experience.
You don’t necessary always need to plan moments either, but just try to be mindful about enjoying them as part of a journey that is your life. Some moments are purposeful towards desired goals, others just add unplanned spice to it.
Remember that and you might not worry so much about how life didn’t turn out as you planned, you might be embracing just living it now towards what you want to get out of life instead.
Also, the goals and plans we had ten years ago might be very different to what we actually want or need now, so if time has gone and you didn’t get to achieve a certain goal then just remember: you always can set new goals and you might not even really want that prior goal now anyway (it just feels like you do as you didn’t do it when you did want to).
Some goals are also potentially out of your control so if you couldn’t actually do anything about it, even if you tried your hardest, then don’t beat yourself up over it.
Make goals that are attainable and in your control and go from there.
Also remember it’s never too late until it really is (but we wouldn’t even know about it then), and each day we all have the opportunity to strive to improve, no matter what our situation. We may have tough challenges some day, but passing those challenges are achievements to be proud of and where we learn the most. Not trying or giving up is the worst thing you can do, so if you try and fail, well you haven’t actually failed, you’ve just learnt what not to do.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Rollercoasters are a lot more fun when they go up and down, rather than just slowly up. A life plan is not a mountain top aim, it’s a vista of experiences, balance and harmony.