Do you have a timeline for your life? Before you get too eager to jump up and scream "No!", really sit and think about it. Have you (ever) set time- or age-based milestones for your life?
- I'll be married by 25.
- I'll have two kids by 28.
- I'll buy my first home before I'm 30.
- I'll have my dream career by 35.
- I'll retire by 65... (meaning 65 at the earliest).
I feel very confident that at least one of those applies to you. If not, congratulations! You are very special and deserve a medal.
Look, I'm definitely not judging by any means. At one point, all of those were part of my timeline:
- I was 25, convincing myself to stay in a toxic relationship. We had been together for 2.5 years and we were right on schedule to get married. I was happy enough. We loved each other... enough. No relationship is perfect, right?
- I was 25, starting a new marketing career. Even though I wasn't passionate about my daily duties nor the industry, it was fun...enough. I was thinking that I'll pay my dues and work my way up the managerial ladder so that I'm a VP by 35 for a really cool company. It'll be my dream career then, right?
- Save, 401k, save, IRA, save! Then I can retire comfortably at 65.
My timeline would have held my hand as it walked me down the aisle into a very toxic marriage, a big house in the suburbs too close to my neighbors, and an unfulfilling corporate career.
You see, the problem with having a timeline is that it restricts your purview.
This isn't to say you shouldn't have goals. You should absolutely have goals—very specific goals. Manifest the shit outta your goals until you build the life you've always dreamed of, just be flexible with when those goals can happen.
Maybe you'll build your dream company or get that killer promotion before you start a family. Maybe you'll actually retire at 80 instead of 65 (sorry). Maybe you'll meet the love of your life a week after ending a five-year relationship.
But Paaaaigeeeee, how am I supposed to know if/when any of that will happen?! You actually don't, so may I introduce two words into your vocab: faith and worth.
- Faith - whether you're religious or not, having faith simply means putting your complete confidence and trust in something or someone (often unknown).
- Worth - know your worth so when faced with the choice to keep what you have or walk away and potentially find something better, you'll be so confident in your decision you won't even have to hesitate.
How many times have you looked back on your life and thought: "Wow I am so glad I didn't stay in that relationship/job/city; otherwise I wouldn't be where I'm at today, in this incredible relationship, doing what I've always loved to do."
The thing is, it's a lot easier to look back and appreciate the seemingly impossible decisions you had to make once you're in a better situation. So how do you make those tough decisions in the moment without knowing what the "something better" may be?
Faith that there is something/someone better out there and enough self-worth to know that you deserve pure happiness.
(Also, the chances that you've already told your 'timeline' to kick rocks a few times—maybe unknowingly until now—for a better relationship, career, more happiness, work-life balance, etc. are very high. You can do it!)
Think of a shitty job or relationship you've had. You feel exhausted, annoyed, and unfulfilled more than you feel energized, balanced, and excited. You know you won't make it if you spend the rest of your life feeling like this—dreading going home, going to work, or both. You don't know what another job will bring you or who your next partner will be, but deep down you know you deserve better than whatever this is so you make the leap, even if it completely throws off your plans.
Faith and worth working together, my friend.
So take a look at your life. Separate your goals from your timeline. Keep the goals; throw the timeline away. Open yourself up to endless opportunities that you never could have predicted for your timeline!
I completely threw my timeline out the window when I was about 28. (Full disclosure: I acknowledge that this may have been easier for me since I was already past my own projected timeline for many of my "goals." I was 28, single, no kids, and no money for a house, so it made it a lot easier to throw those babies out the window!) But, I wish someone would have told me all of this when I was 22 because now I'm the happiest I've ever been. I know I will marry my person, start a family, have a fulfilling career, build my dream home, check items off my bucket list and retire comfortably, but I also know those things will happen when they're supposed to and it will be so much more than I ever imagined. Shit, in just two short years since throwing my timeline out the window, my sister and I started a company in an industry we are SO passionate about, I am actively CEO, and quit my full-time job. That's a major upgrade from some marketing VP hooblah.
So what are you waiting for? Throw your timeline out the window! Think of a box of tissues. Each tissue is one of your goals associated with a very specific date/age. Now, hold that tissue box out the car window while driving 65 mph on the highway. Too-da-loo!