Living by timelines is a trap.
But if you get honest with yourself you will see that we live out our lives expecting to have achieved certain milestones by certain ages.
Graduate high school by 17. Leave college with a degree by 21. Marry by 23. Become a successful CEO of a company by 25. Become a parent of two by 27.
That may not be the exact timeline you’ve constructed for yourself. But isn’t there something in you that agrees with the timeline you’ve created? Don’t you think about it all the time? Can’t you see yourself on a set of rails, inching closer to your next milestone every single day?
Unfortunately, this is not how life works.
Where do These Expectations Come From?
Let’s face it — everybody has expectations. Your significant other, your friends, your parents, your family, your pastor, your coach, your mentor… the list goes on. You would be hard pressed to find a single person on this planet that doesn’t have expectations.
So, we go on living out these expectations. Some we embrace. Some we discount. But ultimately, we are ushered on in life by the hands of these expectations.
But what are expectations?
When it comes down to it, they are nothing. Let me prove it to you.
If I was sitting across from you and I was instructed to find your expectations, I wouldn’t know where to look! Your expectations are in your head. But even if I examined your head, I would not find them there. We couldn’t do a brain scan and detect your expectations. So, expectations do not exist.
What’s my point?
My point is that living by other people’s expectations is insanity. How do you know you’ve interpreted other people’s expectations correctly? Are you actually living congruently to those expectations? Are you living at all if this is how you’re living?
Other people did not create expectations for you. You did!
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy or Massive Disappointment
The biggest trap of timelines is that when we succeed, we become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And, when we fail we become a massive disappointment.
But isn’t there something in you that agrees with that?
“If I just made $1 million by the time I’m 40, I would be happy!”
When everything is viewed through this lens of success or failure, it’s all black and white. Up or down. You made it, or you didn’t. It’s time for celebration, or it’s time to wallow in a blanket of self-pity. There’s no room for anything in between.
So, you simply can’t escape it — either you’ve succeeded most of the time, or you’ve failed most of the time!
But by whose standards have you succeeded or failed? Others? No, you’ve only succeeded or failed by your own standards.
“That’s not true — my coach told me I was a failure!”
Your coach may have said that to you. But any meaning you added to the event was an interpretation, a story. If I went back into your story and tried to identify the moment you became a failure, I would not find it. It did not happen.
You can only succeed or fail by your own standards, and that’s only if you insist on adding meaning to the event.
I’m 35. I’m not married. I don’t have kids. My business hasn’t reached six-figures. I don’t have a college degree.
These are just facts.
But I would be adding meaning to these facts if I said things like:
I must be a loser. Nobody likes me. I’m incapable of growing a business. I’m stupid.
Until recently, I would have said I’m just a person who’s experienced some disappointments.
It sounds right, doesn’t it?
But now I can see there is no need to attach a meaning to any of it. I don’t live in the past. The past happened and there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t live in the future. The future has yet to happen and projecting myself into it doesn’t make it real.
I live now. And, right now, I’m free of all interpretation and meaning. It’s unnecessary. I would just be weighing myself down with an imaginary burden if I attached meaning to how I’ve lived.
There is no meaning. Only possibilities.
We all have ideas in our head about how we hope things will turn out for us.
But these expectations just set us up for success or failure. They set us up for a black and white life.
Life is not black or white. It’s not shades of gray either. It just is.
We put a lot of pressure on life to be something. We want to give it meaning and a purpose.
And yet, everything that we think will make us happy won’t. Happiness is not available in the future. It is only available in the present. So, if you’re waiting to be happy, give up. It’s not going to happen.
If you want to stop living in the insanity of timelines, you need to become present to the fact that now is all there is. There is freedom in living now because the burdens of the past melt away, and the expectations for the future fade.