Unless you are phenomenally successful with whatever you do, you may very well have moments that you feel behind in life. You check your social media, see postings of old acquaintances, classmates, distant friends and a range of celebrities you may follow and wonder why you are not where you thought you should be at this point in your life.
Why is seemingly everyone more successful than you, has ‘got it together’ and gets to post about it when you are stuck in your same old life, wanting more, more, more and having no clue how to go about it?
What is success?
This is probably the first question we should ask before we delve any deeper. What do we define as success? Owning a car at 25, getting a mortgage to our first home at 30 or 35? Having started a family by then? Being famous and rich in our chosen field? Or at least moderately recognised? Being able to afford five exotic vacations every year?
What is it you actually want for yourself? Are you keen on having a car and all the expenses that come with owning it? Do you want to be tied down by a 25-year mortgage? Were you planning on having 2.5 children with the next best person to show up?
Is your path in life defined by these conventional milestones?
Admittedly, I do wonder where I am at in life sometimes, if I couldn’t be more successful, completely debt-free, have published half a dozen books already and maybe think about buying an apartment.
But that’s not where I am. I’ve made decisions in life that took me down a different path. And you know what? I’m happy that I made those decisions. I got to travel and live overseas for ten years. I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life doing that and nobody will ever be able to take that away from me.
Yes, I traded in other experiences, but I can only have one life. I have to choose. We all do. I may not have had success by conventional standards. But I have incredible memories and made wonderful experiences and they brought me happiness. They will continue to make me happy for the rest of my life. That is what I call success.
Why do we feel the need to compare ourselves?
Because here we are, comparing ourselves to others. This is easier than ever thanks to social media. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we follow people we know and don’t know, those we want to stay in touch with or whom we admire.
You see an old classmate, who is obviously your age, posting about their accomplishments and inevitably feel that twinge of envy because they have more than you do and are already ‘further’ along the road.
Why? Do you truly want what they have?
Why do we compare ourselves to others? The only standard that should count is the one we choose for ourselves. If you have a goal and don’t reach that, you can still beat yourself up over it. But don’t set it arbitrarily based on conventions others may have set.
Is there a way to ‘catch up’?
Look only at your life and set expectations that are realistic. You want to be rid of your credit card debt? Come up with a payment plan to pay off a reasonable amount every month. Set goals you can achieve. There’s no point to set yourself up for failure.
This goes for every other goal you may have as well.
We don’t have to catch up to anyone else. Their lives are none of our business. However they got to where they are, you can bet they have faced their own struggles, probably still are. And no life is ever as happy or successful as social media makes it out to be.
If you feel the need to ‘catch up’ to anyone else, don’t let yourself be driven by envy. If anything, find someone who is already at a point you hope to one day reach but let them inspire you. This isn’t a race.
Nobody is keeping score and if you are, you should stop doing that.
You get to define what counts as success to you. Sometimes it is a success to get out of bed, shower, eat and do some chores. Other times it is finishing a project at work and receiving well-deserved praise for it.
I firmly believe that we are never behind in our own lives. Not if we manage to be happy with where we are at. And that is only possible if we own our past decisions and accept that we chose this path for a reason.
Sure, we all go wrong sometimes, we make mistakes and stupid decisions. But we need to own those too. Our failures are as important on this journey as our successes.
Sometimes I look back at the path I took, wondering how I got here and what it would look like if I had made a different choice elsewhere. I can identify some key crossroads, where fundamental decisions would have changed my trajectory.
Then I realise that I am happy with where I am at. And I can never know where else I may have ended up if I had chosen differently. If the multiverse exists, another version of me made that decision, which is strangely comforting. But I will never meet her so that she may tell me of her experiences. I have this life to worry about and work on.
And yes, I do still have goals to accomplish. Plenty of steps to take to get there. If I never manage to reach some of those goals, it’ll be okay as well. Because whatever I do to get there, I will make sure that I live my life well and that I am happy. That’s all the success I ultimately need.