Hi there, it seems I have a lot to say this month. Sometimes it goes that way, so this is number 2 of 3 posts this month. As I write the snow is falling and it’s flipping freezing (-2), but that’s nothing to do with the post!!
Uh-Oh, I’m 30-ish is all around a phenomenon I see coming into my practice more and more. That there’s a general feeling amongst the 25 to 35 year old population that they ought to have achieved more by this point in their life. There’s that word again, “Ought” and along with it’s brother/cousin “Should”, that seems to cause so much grief for people. This sense comes to me from both male and female clients, and of all cultures and races. Admittedly, I’m practicing in a Western world, so as I will elucidate, a lot of the issues arise from the perception of missed goals set by the society my clients (and the wider population I suspect) live in.
A number of my clients come to me “soul searching” as they wonder why they don’t feel as accomplished as they’d like. That there’s a feeling, especially by mid-30’s of having missed the opportunity to attain their dreams. This pretty neatly sums up the “Uh-Oh” phenomenon.
I then end up working with my clients to understand where this feeling of “loss” has come from. Have they really lost the chance to be a “success” and to attain happiness? I assure them, that all is not lost. That success is a wildly subjective term, as is happiness. Time to quote another book, Derren Brown’s “Happy” is a great book for starting to explore why we often feel our expectations to be happy are unmet and how, in Derren’s opinion, the search for happiness might be redressed. He and I are certainly on the same wavelength, but as with all subjective things, I might suggest that the way to happiness/contentment is very much in the individuals’ hands.
It seems a lot of people get lost in trying to pursue other people’s wishes and ideas for a happy life. Hence where “ought” & “should” creep in. By now, at 32, I ought to have a “good” job, a “decent” car, a “nice” place to live, a partner, a family. I should feel accomplished, be admired by my friends and family and feel a sense of having “made it”.
Where do we get these narratives? Are they really our own? Probably not, if you really stop to think about it. If you take the time, either alone, or working with someone like me, you’ll most likely find you’re trying to please and fit in with – Mum and Dad, family, friends, social-media images, reality TV, advertising and pervasive social norms, to name just a few influences.
What’s the alternative/answer? It’s simple, but far from easy to achieve. You have to start to figure out what makes you “tick”. What do you actually want to experience in life? In my opinion, there are no rights and wrongs to this. If you genuinely want a huge house, fast car and expensive lifestyle because that’s what drives you and that’s the rewards for your hard/smart work then great, go for it. Just be aware you might take an age to achieve this, and you may end up in the trap of always having to “upgrade” to keep the feeling of having what you want.
A different approach, might be to think about your personal philosophy on life. What’s it all about? That will also guide you in deciding what’s going to make you feel good and happy. If you’re religious, you might find that a life devoted to greater practice might feel good, so go for that. Get more involved in your community, see what good stuff you can do for others. Just make sure at the end of each day you feel you’ve had a good and fulfilling day.
If you’re not of a religious persuasion, you might care to think about what you think life’s all about. It need not be a deep experience, but a little time spent might help you make some refreshing changes in your life. You might decide that experiences are more important than “things”, you might spend more time/money doing things you enjoy, rather than aim to buy more “stuff”. However, if you love “stuff” and it makes you tick, you carry on.
What you might find even more refreshing is a lot of experiences don’t cost a lot of money, if any. Sitting in the sun, enjoying it’s warmth (remember the snow and ice I’m looking at!) is a free pleasure. If you can find lots of little pleasures and a sense of doing worthwhile activities throughout your day, every day, life will feel full and you might feel like an accomplished human being. I certainly do, my life isn’t full of full on activities, but I do know what makes me tick. I do a combination of things that make me tick over the course of a day and I get to feel at 38, I’m doing pretty well. It feels great to go to bed in a mind frame that it’s been another good day.
To sum up, if you can spend a little time figuring out what actually makes you feel good, rather than what others tell you will make you feel good. Put that into practice and start to believe in your choices and lifestyle, then I suggest you’ll start to feel that your life feels much better. That you’re not failing to achieve, but are really enjoying your life. Only you know what you want…