When I was 17, I used to think I’d be married (complete with at least one kid and a nice, normal job) by 24.
It’s been years since I turned 24, and I’m totally single, I don’t have kids, and, while I have a job … it’s certainly not normal. To say that life didn’t go according to my timeline is an understatement.
And, while in hindsight I’m very glad that my 17-year-old vision didn’t come true, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been attached to plenty of other timelines since then.
The thing is, I’ve always really loved being right. I like having control, and I’m thrilled when life goes my way.
Since I can remember — even earlier than 17 — I’ve gone into each New Year with a determined (some might call it incredibly stubborn) timeline of what has to happen … and usually, it happens.
When I was 17, I decided I was going to get into the college of my choice, so I only applied to that school. And I got in.
When I was 21, I decided I wanted an internship. I never even considered that anyone else would get it. I got that, too.
When I was 25, I decided I was going to quit my job and do my business full time. I had next to no money, but I didn’t care. That has somehow worked out, too.
2015 started out no different than any other year.
Back in January, I went into the New Year with a lot of firm intentions. I was going to enroll a ton of people into our online programs and have a boatload of clients, for a start.
BUT THINGS DIDN’T EXACTLY GO AS PLANNED
When we launched the Passion Plan Virtual Experience this past January, we actually did enroll a lot of people (over 60, which is a fantastic number for a very new program) … but I was really disappointed.
I’d had the number “100” in my mind. Even though it was an arbitrary and unrealistic number for such a new course, that was what I wanted. And when it didn’t happen … I felt like I’d failed.
It took me months to recover from this “failure.”
I’m not saying I moped around (well, I did do a little moping) for weeks. But I was angry and frustrated, and I felt annoyed with the Universe at large.
I’d put in so much hard work, and I’d really believed that what I wanted was possible … I felt like I’d been ripped off.
And then I remembered all of those other times I had gotten what I wanted.
I applied to only one college, got in, … and hated it. I transferred to a different school the next year (that new school was where I met Kristen).
I got that internship I’d been so confident about … and was bored to tears. It had looked good on paper, but it wasn’t the start of a fulfilling career that I’d envisioned.
I quit my job and started my own business … but I quit too soon. In my eagerness to be free, I experienced a solid year of having meltdowns about money.
I HAVEN’T ALWAYS “KNOWN BEST” WHEN IT COMES TO MY TIMELINE
I’ve been so attached to my timeline for so long that I kept repeating the same pattern — believing that there’s one “right way” for things to work out, and stubbornly pursuing that — even when it caused me pain.
But just because I have the ability to get what I want … doesn’t mean that I actually know what I need.
And maybe … just maybe … there’s a better timeline than the one I’m attached to. **Gulp.**
I have a lot of clients who are just as guilty of this as me.
One of them is turning 30 soon, and she’s been anxious and depressed because she’s not as “far along” as she thinks she should be by now. She’s single, no kids, and isn’t making as much money as she thought she would be by 30.
Another client bought a house and took on a mortgage, even though she didn’t really want to, because “that’s what people do,” according to the timeline she’s on.
THE WHOLE “TIMELINE” THING IS SUCH A SCAM
Seeing it from an outside perspective, with the help of my clients, has made it so much easier for me to see the truth … that there is no such thing as a “right” timeline and that almost all timelines come from a place of “should.”
As in, “I should buy a house because that’s what people do at my age.”
Or, “I should be married by now because that’s what all my friends are doing.”
And, “I should be further along in my career by now.”
In my case, the “shoulds” don’t come from comparing myself to others — although that’s where a lot of my clients’ “shoulds” are coming from — but more just me being attached to what I think is right.
The “shoulds” are such a scam because they completely rob me of any joy or peace I might find in the here and now.
Judging your life based on an arbitrary timeline of where you “should” be by now will rob you of joy.
They make me feel like a failure, even when I’m doing really well. They’ve depressed me, even when I’ve had so many reasons to feel good.
SO IN 2016, I’M DONE WITH BEING RIGHT AND THINKING I KNOW BEST
If my mom’s reading this, she’s probably falling over with shock … because me admitting I could be wrong has historically been equivalent to hell freezing over.
But seriously … I’m done with timelines.
That doesn’t mean I won’t set intentions or have goals. I think both of those things are important for direction and clarity. But I am done with stubbornly pursuing only my idea of what’s “right,” without being open to anything else.
I’ll set intentions … but I’m going to be open to how they might evolve.
I’ll make a few goals … but I’m OK if I don’t hit them the way I imagined.
I’ll release most of my expectations … because life has rarely turned out the way I planned, anyway.
MOST OF ALL, I’M NO LONGER INTERESTED IN GETTING WHAT I WANT
My life is awesome! When I’m overly attached to my timeline, I tend to become ungrateful and impatient … which means I end up missing everything that’s good about my life now.
I’m over being ashamed, disappointed, or frustrated because my timeline isn’t working out the way I want it to.
It feels disrespectful to my own life to disregard all that’s good because of some arbitrary attachment to what I assume is best.
What do I know, really? Who’s to say there isn’t so much more, and better, than what my limited human imagination can conceive of?
So, that’s my intention for 2016 … to be available to the magic, mystery, and evolution of my life. To not suffocate all of the good things that could have happened by grasping on to what I think is best.
Let go of your timeline and be open to magic, mystery, & evolution in 2016.
I’m actually sort of excited. It’s the first time ever that I’ve been more open and available to life (and what the New Year has in store) than I’ve been stubborn and closed-minded about it.
And I’m pretty sure that, regardless of what ends up happening, I’m going to be much happier … because I’m confident that my idea of what’s best pales in comparison to what’s actually possible.
So, what about you? How attached are you to your timeline … and are you willing to loosen your hold in 2016? Tell me in the comments!
Rachel (+ Kristen)
Very interesting post… it’s true that each of us can feel very guilty and/or frustrated when we have a year “perfectly planned” and while time goes on, we don’t see the “checkpoints” accomplished. Like in an equation, there will be always variables we didn’t took in consideration and it’s important to learn how to handle them to obtain the best possible result.
Hey Rafael! I agree … I think that loosening our hold on timelines means that when unexpected variables pop up (and they always do!), we’re so much better equipped to evolve and roll with the punches. When we’re stuck on one idea of what’s right, we’re so inflexible that we end up taking change REALLY hard!
I so needed to read this, perfect timing! Everything you stated is completely accurate. Never even thought of life from this perspective. Thank you sooo much for this post! Happy New Year!
Happy New Year to you too, Zipora! It always makes my day when I could help someone see their life from a new perspective, so thank you for sharing! 🙂 I hope your 2016 is a great one.
I love this! I’ve only very recently realised how rigid and structured I want everything in life to be to the point that I become obessive and overwhelmed and really discontent.
I especially like the part in post about how ungrateful we can become when life doesn’t go according to our plan. I’m trying to go more with the flow which will be interesting since I’ve always needed structure and routine but I’m getting a little bored of that so I think it’s time to mix it up a bit.
I would say that I’m very attached to my timeline. I have a lot of “shoulds” and the older I get the more my “shoulds” lurk in my mind and cloud my thinking and make me feel somewhat helpless. On the brighter side, I do find that when I’m more open to the freedom of what life has to offer, I’m happier and I feel like I get more accomplished. I like that feeling. So, I’m also going to work on loosening up my timeline and let things evolve. This won’t be easy for me.
Thank you for your thoughts.
Another great post Rachel! Absolutely love your honesty and the intention you’ve set for yourself in the New Year. Sending you the BEST wishes in the New Year! XOXO!
Hi Rachel, I am exactly like you I have a goal and before I read this blog post I used to think there is only one way it can happen, but now I’m willing to open up to other ways it can happen, but I don’t know where to look to be honest I feel confused about it.
by the way I have been subscribed to your newsletter for a while but this is the first time I comment on your blog and the reason is what you’re talking about here is so me haha.
Happy New Year to you and to everyone 🙂
Wow this really made me take a moment and think about the way I approach things which is very similar to a timeline. Thanks so much for posting this. It’s definitely sparking a change in myself
Hi Rachel – Thanks for this, I really needed it!
I am so guilty of this. I love to make unrealistic ‘to-do’ lists and then become disappointed when I don’t complete them. I’ve even found myself counting the number of items I’ve left instead of the number of items I’ve finished, then vowed to do better tomorrow.
This ends now!
So true! I’m just as stubborn. It’s only in hindsight that I can see I dodged a few bullets, and how what I wanted wasn’t going to bring me happiness. I’ve been working on letting go of striving, and being more open-minded in the present moment.