I turn 34 next week, and I was talking to a friend a few days ago about how there are times when we feel like we are behind where we “should” be at this point in our lives. Neither one of us has kids; we’re both of us are still working towards our dream career.
As we were talking, I started thinking about how easy it can be for all of us to feel behind at certain points in our lives—no matter what our age may be. With social media, we get caught in the comparison trap. With each year that passes, we may start to panic that we somehow missed the bus to a happy relationship or lucrative career, which can lead to feelings of shame, sadness and anger.
But before you get swept away by these low-energy feelings, here are some tips that I have used in the past—and found myself using with my friend last week—which will help you when you’re feeling like you aren’t where you “should” be:
FOCUS ON WHAT'S GOING WELL
There is something going well for you in your life right now—I promise. It may be something as simple as you have a roof over your head tonight, or maybe you have thriving friendships.
Write this stuff down.
Literally, put the pen to paper (I’m old-school.) and write it down. Then stare at this list every morning and every evening. Add to your list whenever you are reminded of more things in your life that are working. I believe it is impossible to create a better reality for yourself without first acknowledging what is working.
ACCEPT THE TRUTH
So here’s the thing: There will always be someone who has something that you want.
There will always be someone who has stronger relationships, or a more fulfilling job, a better body or more money in their bank account. Accept this. And then, rather than stew in jealousy and self pity, use their success to motivate you. Applaud them. Acknowledge what they have and work towards gaining that for yourself.
Coupled with this, part of accepting the truth is also accepting that if someone else was able to get the thing you want—whether it’s a great spouse or a totally fulfilling career—it means it’s possible for you to get it, too.
THERE IS NO DEADLINE
Let me share some facts with you that help me whenever I’m feeling that I’m not where I “should” be:
Julia Child wrote first cookbook at 50. At 40 years old, Vera Wang became a fashion designer. Colonel Sanders franchised KFC when he was 62. Barbra Streisand has been married for the past 20 years but didn’t find that love of her life until she was 56.
So outside of passing early, there is absolutely no deadline for grabbing your happily ever after. If you haven’t found your dream job or life partner by the time you’re 35, it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen; all it means is that it’s on its way.
For me, the definition of success has always been progress. As long as I’m moving in the direction towards whatever goal I have, and learning from setbacks, I feel like I’m making progress.
So, if you’re someone who hasn’t met the love of your life, make sure you’re putting yourself out there. Leave your apartment. Join dating sites. Network with friends and family. Tell people you’re looking. You can do the exact same thing with your career. Make the effort to do the things you can control, and, if a date goes south or you bomb a job interview, use it as feedback, while you—
This is the biggest one. Just because you aren’t where you feel like you need to be, what you want is never going to come to you if you stay stuck in negative emotions. Focusing on what’s going well and making progress are vital when it comes to staying positive.
There is no place you’re supposed to be except for the place you currently are. But with that, it’s totally normal to want more and to look around to what other people are doing from time to time. The more you can stay positive while working towards the things you want, the quicker they will come to you. Whatever is meant for you will find you, but it's important to do everything you can to put yourself in the best position while you wait. And there's really no deadline, I'm learning. I promise.