I’ve been shifting through an odd space in my life currently in which questions about my direction and future have heightened. For some reason I feel less certain that all I have to do to achieve my dreams is continue to believe and consistently put in the hard work. I know I have somewhat preached on this platform about the need to not look around and compare one’s life with others but sometimes this seems utterly inevitable. Its effects are even more damning during the times when you can’t help but question everything.
We are told at a very young age that the act of planning things out is imperative to our future progress and growth. We set ourselves 5 and 10 year goals and then strive toward them with vigour based on that road map. But what happens when we get 5 years down the line and realise that we are nowhere near that goal and that our direction to get to this point has veered sharply away from where we envisioned ourselves all those years ago.
I want to play devil’s advocate in this piece today to challenge the traditional rhetoric. I know I do this quite consistently without calling it out so blatantly as I have today, but I think in this particular case it is of importance that I do.
Looking back at myself and who I was 5 years ago I barely recognise that human being. At the time I was in my mid 20s, living in Sydney and in the midst of verbally abusive and emotionally manipulative relationship which had robbed me of so many things. I was young, I didn’t quite know who I was but I felt obliged to plan out the next decade of my life irrespective of that. Looking back it now makes sense that the goals I set for myself were not based on my own aspirations; I didn’t yet know what they were. They were instead based of a generic and supposedly one size fits all 101 approach on ‘How to life’ per say.
Back then if you’d asked me where I would be in 5 or 10 years, I would’ve answered without batting an eye lid. I would have told you that I wanted to be working for the United Nations at Headquarters in New York, married and on my way towards starting a family. I would not have even attempted to question that because the background narrative had been playing in the back of my head on repeat for years. This is what you should do, who you should be.
Well cut to 5 years later and I am obviously not living in New York with my husband, pregnant or with kids and working for the UN. To be honest that version of existence when considered now, represents a slight nightmare in which I have zero aspirations to embark on.
In the traditional sense, if I were to judge myself on the progress towards this goal at this point in my life, I would have to record it as an utter failure and mark myself nowhere near this benchmark. But my point here is that the finish line has shifted in a way that makes this life goal now futile. What I wanted, or thought that I wanted for myself back then is completely different from my expectation of my life now and going forward. Although I was in my mid 20s and thought myself an expert on all things, I was still attempting to make the shift into actual adulthood. I hadn’t lived enough years to understand that wisdom takes time and that knowing who I was as a human being would be a life journey.
If you’re reading this thinking is she crazy telling people that setting incremental life goals is not necessary? Well the answer to that would probably be ahh yes. But actually that isn’t what I am saying at all. It is of course important to aspire to things, it’s imperative to be able to dream and have hope. But what I am attempting to highlight is that we often judge ourselves too harshly against a set of principles and standards that we have outgrown as our years within this existence have gone on.
The life I would have imagined for myself 5 years ago is nowhere near what I would envision 5 years into the future. Goals change, people come in and out of our lives who influence a shift in thinking. Maturity and growth sometimes occur in ways that sit outside of how we conceive they will unfold. So yes maybe I am far from where I thought I would be by now. But I have grown and changed during those years in ways I couldn’t have imagined. So who is to say that this progress is of any less significance from what I had imagined when setting those 5 and 10 year goals all those years ago?