I was coaching a senior executive who was not demonstrating the leadership that he had wanted and that people expected of him in his senior position. During our session, he shared his disappointment and frustration with the fact that he had recently turned 50 and he hadn’t reached the level of promotion that he had wanted. It seemed that his miss behavior was a reaction to his sudden realization and panic that “he was behind on achieving his life goals…”.
As ambitious members of a modern and demanding society, we have the tendency to go through life with the sense that we are “not quite there yet”. We set goals for ourselves and then along the journey we often forget that we are the ones who set these goals. We fall into the trap of feeling that we are behind and/or that only when we realize the goals we set we will have truly made it, and then we can truly relax and enjoy our life to its fullest.
The entire “retirement” concept is predicated on this premise – we work extremely hard throughout our life, often sacrificing and neglecting key areas like family, marriage, health and recreation, in order to achieve financial and professional goals that would allow us to get to that stage in life where we can retire and then “truly start doing what we love to do”.
I love and resonate with this quote from Fr. Alfred D’souza::
“For a long time, it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last, it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life”.
We so often equate our material achievements and success with our self-worth. We get caught in the hamster wheel of jealousy and competitiveness, and even when we do reach certain milestones we don’t take the time to appreciate and celebrate what we have accomplished. Instead, we move right into the next goal and the rat race continues.
And let’s be honest, the dominance of social media doesn’t help at all! In fact, it only makes the pressure and stresses greater. Instead of only seeing our neighbor’s new car, we are now exposed to thousands of online “friends” who display their lives. No wonder we often feel like the grass is greener on the other side.
Throughout our prime years, as we are working our butts off, we feel like “when we get the next promotion… close the next deal… make the next million… buy the house or car of our dreams” or “get our children through college or married…” – “THEN life will truly be great”. But then when we reach a certain age we start talking about our life in terms of “the good old days”.
So if throughout our life we feel that “someday” we will start living and then at the prime of our life we feel like “the good old days are behind us”.
When is it our time? When do we ever enjoy today… the moment???
If you understand and appreciate the strong tendency we all have to focus on our future goals and ambitions at the expense of living and enjoying the present you could develop some practices and habits that will change the scale. Here are some ideas:
- Keep reminding yourself that you are the one who created your objectives and expectations in the first place. As the author of your future, if you find your goals and timelines to be too daunting and/or stressful change them to ones that empower you.
- Acknowledge your accomplishments – every month, week and every day. Focus more on your progress and what you have accomplished, and less on your gaps, deficits and what you haven’t achieved.
- Make sure to set time in your busy life for activities that empower you… If you are a workaholic take time for great vacations. If you are married and/or have kids make sure to spend quality time with them on a regular basis… force yourself to do that….
- Anticipate now what you will regret in the future if you don’t do or say, and do it today!
- Avoid falling into the trap of comparing yourself and your life with others… or even worse, being jealous of others.
It’s now or never… literally!