You Don’t Need to Have It All Figured Out
Here on Medium, there’s no end of self-improvement tips. Get up at 5 a.m. Scratch that, get up at 4 a.m. Start a side hustle. Start three! If you’re not a CEO by 21, what are you even doing with your life?
Stressed yet? I could feel my heartbeat race as I typed that.
Don’t get me wrong: I love improving myself. I love learning new things and trying new challenges.
But there seems to be a concept, which I’m seeing especially among young people, that you must have everything in your life sorted out right away, or else you’re falling behind. Everything meaning: marriage, buying a home, the perfect career … and it all needs to fall into place quickly.
And to that I say: What’s the rush?
Why not enjoy life, taking it easy sometimes? Why not search for what you really want, without putting strict deadlines on everything?
After all, we’re not like characters in a fairy tale, fated to be cursed if we don’t fall in love by a certain date.
But if you feel this way, you’re in good company. A lot of young people really are struggling to fit the puzzle pieces of their lives together, and for valid reasons. Right now, a lot of millennials are broke. Compared to wages, the cost of housing is astronomically high in a lot of places. The cost of education is high. The cost of pretty much everything is high.
The natural reaction is to think, “I’m not working hard enough. I need to get more accomplished.” But that’s not quite the whole story.
You’ll have to work hard in life to get what you want, but I give you permission, right now, to not have a full-time job and three side hustles.
Pay the bills, sure, but relax once in awhile.
This is the time of the year when people start to think about resolutions. Someone surprised me recently by saying, with a smile, “This year, I’m not going to make any resolutions. I’m just going to keep going on the way I am.”
I was really impressed by that idea: that who you are now is great, amazing even, and you don’t need to push yourself to extremes.
I give you permission, right now, to not have three side hustles.
But look on the Internet, and just about everyone will tell you that you need more: more friends, more accomplishments, and most certainly, more money. If you’re not chasing those, well, everyone else is way ahead of you, and by the way, they’re having a great time.
There’s even a term for this envy: FOMO, fear of missing out. I wrote an article about what to do when you feel like you’re overburdened, and it was my best-received story here on Medium. Clearly, a lot of people feel stressed.
Recently, I read a piece written by someone who was still in college. He was feeling frustrated because he didn’t have his life sorted out yet. And that made my heart ache. It would be weird to have your life completely sorted out in college. No one expects you to, right?
Yet there’s so much pressure. If you look on social media, you’ll see an endless feed of people’s accomplishments. Everything positive must be photographed and shared for the world to see.
There are times in our lives when we’re not accomplishing anything; we’re just treading water and can’t find the shore. That’s normal. But that empty feeling, that we have nothing great to share, really stings if we’re always comparing ourselves to other people.
I wanted to type a reply to that young man, but I feel there are a lot of people who could use this advice. So here it goes.
I have to tell you, if you haven’t achieved everything you want yet, please be patient with yourself.
Right now, where you are is the stepping stone to the rest of your life. There will be jobs or side hustles where you don’t make a lot of money. There will be good dates and bad dates.
There will be times when you look at your bank account and think you will never be able to afford what you want. Don’t worry about that. Most people out there driving fancy cars or taking crazy vacations are doing it on credit.
Don’t lose sight of what’s important. What’s important is that you invest in yourself, in your skills, in your happiness, and in your self-esteem. Never forget that you are the captain of your life. Make sure you follow your own dreams — this is important.
Accomplishments won’t always fix your feelings of restlessness, this need to make the puzzle pieces of your life complete. Being at peace with yourself will help.
Keep wanting more good stuff for yourself, but also recognize everything amazing you’ve done and are currently doing.
Accomplishments won’t always fix your feelings of restlessness, this need to make the puzzle pieces of your life complete.
Work slowly, and find grace in the work, not just in the achievement. As you achieve your goals in life, like graduations or a wedding or buying a house or raising a family, the goalposts will move. So at each stage of life you will have accomplished something, and will be left wanting more.
It will always seem like there is someone with more, so find joy in what you have.
Go through life with a lot of forgiveness and understanding that things will take time and effort. What happens may not be what you predicted or even thought you wanted, but it might.
And if everything goes exactly right, you might wake up one day and realize you have everything you wanted: all the money, and the status, and the achievements. But that will only matter if you developed into the person you want to be.
Don’t worry so much about the trappings of the perfect life. Worry about the person who has to live it.