“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans” – John Lennon
It seems many people around me are reaching milestone birthdays. They are reaching 18, 30, 40, 50, 65 and 80. For some reason, birthdays cause many to look back on their lives and measure what they have achieved so far – and what, perhaps, they have failed to achieve. Some of these reaching milestones are happy, calm and thankful when they look back on their lives and others have growing anxiety about the future.
It is common to have a vision for how our lives should be – and many of us add a certain timeframe for when our lives should fit that vision. We may think that by the time we reach age 30, we should be married, living in a house in the suburbs and have 2.3 children. We may think that we should be making a certain amount of money by the time we reach age 40. We may think that we should have grandchildren by the time we retire. We may think that we should have traveled to a certain number of places before we die. Goal-setting is an admirable practice, but determining what our goals are in the first place, should be done carefully.
If the goals we have set for ourselves emanated from our true spirit, we are on the right track. If, instead, we looked outside of ourselves to decide who, what or where we should be, we are probably going to have difficulty finding true fulfillment, even if we achieve these goals. My friend Anna expressed her feelings about turning 40 recently. “Almost all of my friend are married with children”, she says, “Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who isn’t and I question if there is something wrong with me.”
Comparing ourselves to others can cause us to feel that we are very much alone, as if are the “only one” who did not achieve a particular goal. On the other hand, Anna also confided that in all of her long-term relationships she has not had the feeling that anyone in particular was her true partner. Also, the desire to have children is something she has been unsure about. “I think I assumed that the desire to have children would happen when I fell in love.”
What guides us to get married – or not – or to have children – or not – or to make any other life decisions? Even when feeling conflicted or unsure about our decisions, perhaps we are receiving guidance all along. Ultimately, despite Anna’s disappointment about being single and child free at 40, it also sounds as if she has not found the right opportunities to motivate her to make either of those life changes. So, could it be that Anna has been making the right choices all along?
Self-doubt is a pattern that can block us from staying true to ourselves. We can receive very strong messages from our family, friends and community about the way we are supposed to be. In most cases no one ever sat us down and informed us clearly what these rules were, however, we internalize them as children and unless conscious of them, will continue to follow them until we realize they are not working for us.
If we trust ourselves, we are not swayed by the opinions of others and we do not feel the need to look outside of ourselves for approval. When being true to our own spirit, we do not doubt the choices we have made. Strengthening our resolve in going against the crowd can take practice, especially if we are surrounded by a group of people telling us that we are wrong. Author John Bradshaw used to say, “It is possible for all the fish to be swimming in the wrong direction.”
It’s important to ask ourselves what milestones do we think we “should” attain and do such milestones really fit our true purpose? As with any pattern, once we become conscious of it, we can work to remove it from our lives, clearing the way for a better connection with our authentic path, which always leads us to true fulfillment.
“Why are you trying so hard to fit in, when you were born to stand out?” – Oliver James