I am sure you have a long list, just like most people including myself.
When I graduated from university, my grandma was super proud but also somewhat anxious. She was proud for obvious reasons, and she was anxious for reasons that were obvious to her, and probably to anyone of her generation, but not to me. Back in the day when she was a student, girls typically went to college or uni for one obvious reason, to find a decent husband. If they weren’t married by the time they graduated, both them and their parents were equally anxious about the future. They did get a degree, fair enough, but not many of them planned on having a career after that.
My grandma was anxious, which I found somewhat funny but it also made me wonder for a split second if I had already failed in life. This was probably the first time in my life when someone else’s idea of where I ‘should be’ didn’t align with where I thought I was supposed to be.
My classmates were not as worried about marriage as much as getting a stable job at an established corporate. Entrepreneurship? No one even heard of it, or if they did, it basically meant someone who still lived with their parents as they couldn’t get a job.
I got a job at Google, phew. Checked that corporate box. Although there were people in my life who couldn’t hide their disappointment about the fact that after finishing my education, I chose to move abroad and work in London instead of staying at home and growing my country’s GDP. You just can’t win, can you… :)
At Google, I had a fun ride, I really did. The only annoyance was the promotion process and how much people became obsessed with it. I even came across women planning their pregnancies around where they were in the promotion cycle. As for me, I was just having a lot of fun, learning a lot, traveling, etc. so I wasn’t concerned about titles, levels, and promotions, to be honest. Maybe it was also because money and ego have never been the main motivators for me in my career. That said, I definitely got a bit of a friendly nudge from my coaches and mentors about trying to get promoted fast.
Then, when I moved to San Francisco, it still felt great working for Google. The only problem was that suddenly everyone seemed to be aspiring to become an entrepreneur, as working for a corporate wasn’t that cool anymore. What’s more, not only you were supposed to be quitting your job to start your own business, but you were supposed to be working on an idea that would change the world, and would also make you a lot of money. And obviously, this was all supposed to happen before you turned 30. I can’t even count the number of conversations I had with people sipping fancy cocktails telling me how depressed they were because they ‘hadn’t made it’ yet.
As for me, I didn’t have a billion-dollar idea, I still worked at a corporate, and I was approaching 30. I wasn’t where I was supposed to be according to many of my peers. And I wasn’t married either, which made grandma so upset that she even stopped asking if I had met a nice man…
So, why am I telling you all this? I have recently come across something that I found really interesting.
Our brain is not wired to seek happiness, quite the contrary. It is wired to seek threats and focus on what is missing or where we have scarcity.
Thanks, evolution. Now that, combined with the expectations of one’s peers, family, environment, culture, etc. is a surefire way to feel like you are failing in this game called Life.
As the year-end is approaching, it is hard not to focus on all the things we haven’t accomplished, all the promises we made to ourselves but haven’t fulfilled, all the things we wanted to try but we haven’t, etc. That's where gratitude journals come in and play an important role in training our minds to also focus on the positives, what we have, and what we have accomplished.
If you have been following my blog or my Instagram, you know that I am a big fan of setting goals and developing habits and routines that help you stay focused and accomplish your goals (or, at least, make significant progress towards them).
What you might not know is that I am also a big fan of questioning the underlying reason behind these goals. Understanding your ‘why’ can help you differentiate between goals that serve you and goals that come from the self-imposed pressure of where you ‘should be’ in life. The latter usually stems from others’ expectations or projections.
Do you want to get promoted? Buy a house? Get married? Have kids? Move countries? These are all fantastic goals if set for the right reasons. However, if you set these goals to fill a void, to find fulfillment, to meet your parents’ expectations, to make someone happy, etc., well, it might be worth pausing and looking at your goals a bit closer.
Even though sometimes it can be quite difficult to tell what is the underlying reason behind a goal, if you hear yourself say ‘I should’ often, that is an important red flag you should pay attention to. Pun intended. :)