We urgently need to call for patience

There’s so much pressure to achieve goals – goals that are often arbitrary – by a certain age; to have “made it”. But why? And more importantly, where do these goals come from?

While writing this piece I’m acutely aware of two things: 1) I was raised on conflicting messages; and 2) So were you. The messages were simple. I needed to do what made me happy and do it for myself. But I also needed to achieve goals before a certain age; in my case, 30. Looking back, they weren’t necessarily “my” things to achieve.

I want to preface this by saying I don’t think these messages come from a bad place, but they do come from a misguided one. And the reason it’s so important to talk about them is because of what really, truly matters: happiness.

Being told that “you’ve lost” if you don’t own a home, or haven’t found a partner, or haven’t “made it” in your career by a certain age is madness.

For one thing it’s not true. Oprah was 32 when she started The Oprah Winfrey Show. Samuel Jackson got his first big break in Jungle Fever aged 43. Heck, Colonel Sanders was 62 when he franchised the first KFC! Age is just a measurement of time.

So what’s all the fuss about? Why does it matter if this expectation is being set? Well, all it’s doing is creating a false sense of urgency for people to achieve – and not even achieve their own goals. And, sadly, this leads to resentment and regret.

Before getting too deep, let’s look at why it’s insane to put an arbitrary age on achievement.

30 is not old. Neither is 40. I’d argue neither is 50, nor even 60. And if you’re lucky, life is long. So neither is 70. And in 10 years, will 80 or 90 be old? 

Putting an end date on achievement when you’re only a third of the way through the game? You wouldn’t call the final score by the first quarter, so why do the same with life? Especially when you’re 100% in control.

And that’s the kicker. Accountability. You are in control. If you don’t like something, change it.

Don’t like where you live? Move. Don’t like your job? Leave. And sure, there are other factors you may need to consider (family, bills, and so forth), but what should be paramount is your happiness.

For me, this is where happiness and patience go hand in hand. Have you ever taken the time to think – and I mean really think – about what makes you happy? If not, start. Start, and realise that if you’re not on the path you want to be on, it’s not too late to change. What’s that saying?

“I’d rather be at the bottom of a ladder I want to climb, rather than halfway up one that I don’t.”

Understand what makes you happy, and then own it. Own it for you. Who cares if your friends or your parents “just don’t get” the thing that makes you happy? Thankfully, what you choose to do has zero impact on them. If that’s not true, then that’s a whole other article…

So what’s this got to do with patience? Well, the reason patience is so important is because, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we’re not good at it. Part of the reason we buy into the “30 under 30” hype is because deep down we know 30 is young. Imagine if we could achieve a lifetime’s ambition by 30. We’d still be young as hell! But that means we look for shortcuts. Hacks. Quick wins. When you understand – truly understand – that time is still on your side; that’s when it starts to get real good.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Wow, this is me. I’ve been on a path that probably wasn’t mine. What do I do now?”

I’d be asking you “Do you enjoy it?” Just because it might not have been what you would have chosen, you may nonetheless find you love it. However, if you’re asking that question I’d suggest you probably don’t. So I’d be saying that it’s not too late.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s that you have time. Even if you’re 5, 10, 15, 20 years into something, you have the ability to change your mind and do something different. What stops us is fear and judgement. Fear of the unknown, and judgement from friends / family / colleagues about your choices.

The good news is that they’re your choices. So, quite frankly, who gives a damn if someone else doesn’t get it?

You’re not doing it for them (again, if you are then that’s a whole other, other article…). So jump right in. Don’t live by others’ expectations. Because when you start doing what you love for you and your own internal happiness, it gets real good. 

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