Repeat after me: Growth is growth no matter how small
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It’s been years and we still can’t get over Amanda Gorman’s phenomenal inauguration speech. She is the youngest person to ever deliver a poem at the inauguration. Her book is still on the bestseller list on Amazon. And she even gave an inspiring speech at the Super Bowl. Plus, she is a Vogue cover girl. Not to mention, she’s faced the challenge of speech impediment, auditory processing disorder and risen above it. Then, there’s Haley Taylor Schlitz, who’s become the youngest Black law school graduate at 19 years old.
To say that many including myself are in awe of people like them is an understatement. Yet, whenever someone like Amanda Gorman comes around and captures the spotlight it’s not uncommon to go from awe to sadness. For some reason, remarkable people have a way of shining a light on where you went wrong in your own life making you question why you’re falling behind in life.
I’ve been there before. Actually, I’ve been there frequently. When I left school I had big dreams of being featured on a 25 under 25 list noting my contributions to society. When that didn’t happen, I felt down and set my sights on a 30 under 30 list. Now that I’m over 30, I have little hope of making a 40 under 40 list. And not to mention, I’m STILL not free of student loan debt and it sucks.
Unfortunately, the 2020 pandemic has made all the areas of your life in which you’ve fallen behind all the more noticeable. If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s now extremely apparent to you that you definitely should have more money in your savings account, more friends to lean on during times of crisis, and done a better job of setting up systems to make your life more seamless. And of course, we all know that if you had gotten farther in your career the pandemic wouldn’t have hit you as hard, or if you were more organized you’d be in a better place- except you don’t know that.
You could have done all the “right things” and be exactly where you would have liked to be and still find yourself in the same predicament. Yet, it’s still hard not to look back and get lost in shoulda, woulda, coulda. Honestly, it’s not the end of the world. You should be allowed to feel whatever it is in this moment freely and without guilt from the “positive vibes only” tribe. It’s unrealistic to think that you’re gonna be happy with your life at all times. And honestly, that’s a good thing because it’s in those moments of sadness and discomfort that you’re motivated to do more. Those are the moments that set you up to reframe your life positively.
The trick is to not stay in that place of self-pity when thinking you’re falling behind in life. And that shouldn’t be so hard because I can bet that you’re not behind. There’s no rule that you’re supposed to have a certain credit score by 35 and there’s no one with a time watch ready to give you a medal for making ten new friends by 20. And no one says that you had to be listed as one of the best business innovators before buying your new car at age 45. Those are all arbitrary dates we’ve constructed in our minds after comparing our successes and setbacks to everyone else. And while goals with hard deadlines are good, it’s also good to give yourself some grace and tell yourself, “I’m doing the best I can with what I have and I’m right on track for the timeline of my life.”
Still, I know it’s not always easy to admit that to yourself when you’re in a mood so here are 8 things you can do right now when you are convinced you’re falling behind in life.
- Recognize how far you’ve come.
Maybe you didn’t own a house by 30 like you planned, or maybe you’re business still hasn’t hit the million-dollar mark, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t overcome some hurdles. There’s a chance you’ve overcome some challenges that you’re just glossing over. Do yourself a favor and make a personal resume of all your accomplishments AND failures. While it sounds odd, seeing all those setbacks makes what you have accomplished thus far feel much more satisfying.
2. Focus on everyday fulfillment
You don’t need to have every item on your bucket list completed to feel fulfilled. There are people who have all the money, glory and awards you could imagine yet still feel empty inside. Recognize the things you do every day that make your heart smile. Maybe it’s watching your kids get off the bus and running into your arms for a big hug. Perhaps you feel fulfilled laughing and texting with some friends in your group chat. Or maybe nothing makes your soul light up like journaling at the end of the day. Take the time to recognize whatever it is that you do that makes you feel whole and fulfilled. You may feel like you’re falling behind in life, but those small moments of bliss and fulfillment are proof that you’re doing something right.
And when you can, write them down and put them in a jar and reread at the end of the year. Doing so will help you realize that a year that felt flat and unfulfilled was actually amazing, and placed you exactly where you need to be.
3. Make a list of all you have
Since you feel like you’re behind in life, it’s clear you believe you don’t have what you want. But have you ever taken into account that you have what you need? Maybe you don’t have a bestie, but you have that Facebook support group that helps you feel heard. And maybe you don’t have the money to pay all your bills on time, but you are amazing with budgets. Maybe you don’t have your dream job or any job at the moment, but you know that you have amazing interviewing skills. Make all those things part of your personal inventory list. Inventory lists aren’t only reserved for insurance claims and business proposals. They are exactly what you need to do to put what you do have in perspective. Once you know what you are working with, you’ll be able to use those tools to your advantage. Plus, it’s always a nice feeling to realize that you have much more than you think you do.
4. Get clear with what you want
If you’re not happy with where you are, you need to figure out exactly where you want to go. Be as specific as possible. It’s not enough to say you want a high paying job with a corner office. You need to be clear about your job title, your salary and even your desk decor. Truly envision it. The clearer you are about where you want to go, the more motivated you will be to get there. Manifestation is a real thing and you want to make sure goals are specific so you don’t manifest the wrong thing. Nothing is worse than saying I want a high-paying job and getting that in the form of a job with no resources, horrible coworkers, and no vacation. Make a clear vision and claim it. Making a vision board can help!
5. Make a plan
Sometimes we don’t receive all of our fruits because of things outside of our control. And other times it’s because you didn’t make a clear plan. Once you know exactly where you want to go, figure out where to go and what to do from this moment. Decide what you will do one month from now, one week from now and even 10 minutes from now. Sometimes, creating an easy-to-follow roadmap is the one thing separating you from where you are now and where you want to go.
7. Define success on your terms
Forget what the dictionary, social medial, the NY Times and even what your parents say about success. Regardless of what they say or what your inner circle wants for you they don’t know you need. When most people think of success they often think of fame and money. However, their definition may not align with your goals. Success is so personal that it can only be defined you. Once you define what success means to you, you may learn that you were never falling behind in life at all, and just looking at your placement through the wrong lens.
9. Set yourself up for easy wins.
Sometimes the notion that we’re falling behind stems from our addiction to struggle. It should come as no surprise either. In generally, we’re constantly told rags-to-riches stories or anecdotes of business owners who had to “bootstrap” their way to the top. That often leads to unintentionally glorifying the struggle. And sometimes we think this came too easy so I didn’t amount to anything and it’s not worth celebrating.
Well, I’ve got news for you. Everything in your life doesn’t have to be hard. Even easy wins are a sign of growth and more progress to come. Release the idea that everything you come by has to come to you with difficulty to be worth acknowledging. You work hard enough. Allow some things to be easy for once. Who cares, if the celebrated thing yet more difficult thing is creating a podcast right now. If it’s easier for you, skip the podcast creation and focus on going live on Linkedin or create a thread on Twitter. Regardless of ease, it still requires effort and doesn’t mean you are worse off, behind, or less talented than anyone else. All it means is you got something done while avoiding burnout, and mental exhaustion. You aren’t failing behind in life. You were strategic and worked efficiently.
9. Stop comparing
One of the main reasons why we get caught up in feeling like we’re falling behind in life is because we’re too busy comparing our lives to someone else. And in doing that, we miss out on all we have going in our favor now. It’s likely you’re comparing your middle to another person’s end. If you must compare something, aim to compare your today to your yesterday. Once you make yourself your own competition, going to great lengths and celebrating them becomes even easier. Plus, you likely won’t feel you’re behind once you recognize growth is growth no matter how insignificant it may seem. There is no falling behind when all you can hope for is being better than you were yesterday. And of course, it will help you see that you are not behind. Besides, there is magic to be made exactly where you are.
No matter where you are in your personal journey, you are not late in life or falling behind in life. All those crossroads you passed over brought you here and feeling behind, because deep down you know there’s more for you out there. As long as you continue believing that, all you imagined for yourself is still in reach.