I remember that pain. I recall ten years ago when, on the eve of my own 30th birthday, I faced pressure from everybody around me to "make things happen because you're fixing to turn 30." I never figured out what the magical benchmark was on age 30, but society feels the pressure to be successful by that age. I fell into the trap, too. I wanted to have my master's degree, build our dream home, and be a stay at home writer. When that magical birthday rolled around, I had achieved none of those things. The house came at 32. My first book was published when I was 28, but it flopped and I didn't get published again until just before my 36th birthday. And the master's degree never happened. More on that later.
Here's my question: if you achieve all of your goals by age 30, what does that leave for the next 60 or so years of your life?
My suggestion to this young woman was one that I've given often from personal experience. In fact, I have three pieces of advice if you're facing the "move the world by 30" thing that may relieve some of the pressure to conquer life by this imaginary deadline:
1. Cancel the deadlines. If the rest of the world has ideas about achieving it all by 30, that's their problem, and it doesn't have to be yours. In fact, I encourage you to throw out the timelines on all of your goals *RIGHT NOW*. You have your entire life to reach your goals and unless you've been given a terminal diagnoses for your 30th birthday, then forget about what the calendar says, because reality pays no heed to it. In fact, there isn't much that reality does pay heed to. Click back on the home tab and look at my opening dialogue to this website: your best laid plans can and will be destroyed sometimes, and you have to learn how to adapt and adjust.
Would you consider me a failure because I hadn't achieved all of my self-defined goals by 30? Because by the definition that a lot of people have, I was, despite the fact that things came later and in different ways than imagined. For example, ebooks weren't around when I initially made my writing goals, but when that trend broke five years later, I jumped on top of it, and my writing has been growing ever since.
Drop the deadlines. Reality isn't going to play along with them anyway, so you may as well take that pressure off and give yourself the grace to grow, learn, and achieve at a natural pace, instead of based on imaginary deadlines.
2. Allow yourself space to modify. Life changes, which inevitably leads to adjustments to what you want. I actually did have the opportunity to get my master's degree eight years ago, but I let it go because we were also at a place where we could finally build our home, and I decided I wanted the house more than the degree. I had also fallen in love with writing, and decided that I'd much rather see that grow than trap myself in a career that may no longer fit me. As somebody at church pointed out, the degree would trap me, but the writing would free me to pursue a wider variety of job options, or perhaps none at all but writing from home in my retirement. Why would I hold fast to a goal that now threatened to trap me, potentially in a place I no longer want to be?
Reality is not only unreliable, but it's also full of surprises. We never see the full impact of what we want unless we're in it because, as one person so eloquently put it, if God let us, then we'd run away screaming from all the "unexpected's" we'd have to face. That's so true. We only see in part until we're into something, and then we often see in full later. There's nothing wrong with having goals, but don't make them idols. Keep an open mind and be willing to flex and adapt yourself and your desires based on the knowledge and wisdom you're gaining on the path toward your future.
3. Clearly define what you want the most, and pursue one thing at a time. Often, young people (and even middle age and older people) want so much, that it seems logical to cast a wide net, see what pays off, and go with that. The truth is that goals are no place to multi-task, because there are two things that almost always go wrong. First of all, what you catch first might not be what you want the most, and you could find yourself investing a tremendous amount of time and energy doing something your heart isn't fully in because doing something seems better than doing nothing. Second, you may catch too much at once. Over the course of a few months or years, you may find things rolling in, and picking up more than you can handle along the way. This happened to me 4 years ago. After several years in an awful rut, all of a sudden EVERYTHING was bearing fruit, and I took on too much. In the end, I had to define what I wanted the most and quit many other things, because I failed to focus my efforts.
It's alright to have multiple goals, but you only have so much time and energy, so you need to focus. Find what's truly in your heart, and give that your all until you achieve it, or until you feel an unquestionable prompting in your soul that it's time to leave this effort and pursue another. That "little voice" inside of you is actually quite useful, because it's normally right. Use it. And please, don't make the mistake of stretching yourself too thin. People will pressure you to do it all, and the truth is that you can have it all - you just can't have it all at the same time.
Do yourself a favor, and accept this. After all, as I said above, you have your whole life to achieve your dreams. Why not use every minute of that time to enjoy the journey, and live it to the fullest?
That's all today. Take care. Have a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend.