“Time isn’t precious at all because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
You’re turning 30.
You’re turning 40.
You’re turning 50.
When are you meeting someone new?
When are you getting married?
When are you buying a home?
When are you having a baby?
The questions are endless.
The pressure relentless.
Over and over in our lives, we are advised, pressured and even shamed to meet certain life goals.
Your life is expected to go something like this:
Enroll in pre-school. Graduate from kindergarten. Learn to drive. Go to the prom. Complete college and get a degree. Go to graduate school and meet someone you’d like to spend the rest of your life with. Get a job. Get married. Buy a house. Pay it off. Have kids. Send them to college. Retire. Give back to your community. Spend time with your grandchildren.
The only problem with this kind of a pre-packaged life is that there’s expectations, time pressures and social pressures for you to keep up with.
You can’t live the life you want. You can’t be who you are.
You have to graduate. You have to marry. You have to work. You have to buy that house.
My journey to someone else’s dream.
This was my life story. I went through the motions and kept going as society cheered me on.
Graduate high school. Check.
College degree. Check.
Law degree. Check.
Getting married early. Check.
Buying a home. Check.
Professional job in fancy office. Check.
Unfortunately, as I kept checking off the boxes and moving towards a life that society was encouraging me to follow, two things happened.
One, it all came crashing down as life threw me some challenging circumstances that shook me up to the core. As my marriage ended and I decided that the law profession was not really for me in the first place, I realize that I had been living other people’s dreams.
I had fallen into the trap of society’s herd mentality and simply pursued those things that society wanted me to have – not what I wanted.
I felt unfulfilled.
And like I had been living someone else’s life.
Time and social pressures.
Society beats its deafening drum so loudly that no one is allowed to think for themselves.
You’re not allowed to have your own desires or have clarity in your own life about what you need or want. You’re turned into a socialized and pressurized robot that conforms to society’s expectations.
Your whole life you feel like you have a ticking time bomb causing you to run faster, quicker and fulfill society’s expectations. Your life clock is ticking…Your biological clock is ticking…Your career clock is ticking….
You were supposed to have been married 5 years ago. You should have had kids like your cousins already did last year. You should be purchasing your home (committing to a 30-year mortgage) by next year.
And when you’re not measuring up, you feel inadequate. You feel like you’re not living up to everyone’s expectations. And when your friends and siblings are doing all those things that you’re supposed to be doing, you end up feeling lost.
Everyone else is doing life in society’s and the Hallmark greeting card timeline. You’re doing it on your own. And you don’t even know if you can do all those things that are expected of you in the first place.
You’re on a treadmill running a race that has no finish line but everyone makes you feel like you’re way behind.
How Do You Ignore Unrealistic Demands and Social Pressures to Live Your Life on Your Own Timeline?
1. Wake up and smell the green tea.
Awareness is the first key to taking control of your life. Realize that all the expectations and pressures are a societal set-up. Your family, extended family, and community want you to follow the timelines they’ve followed.
You’ve been trained and influenced your entire life from Disney movies to Bollywood movies, TV serials, novels and telenovelas to live a certain kind of life.
These themes of what a fulfilling life are repeated so often that you begin to think it should be your life too.
Wake up and realize that going to college, becoming a professional, purchasing a home and getting married is not for everyone.
Just because many people follow this route, you don’t have to.
Notice how you’ve been programmed in life and persuaded to follow this path. Think back to family conversations that contemplated your job, your future husband or the kids you’d give birth to down the road.
Know that the life and career path that you’ve been nudged towards your entire life is a sham. It’s not the only path that you can take and it doesn’t have to be the right path for you.
2. Refuse to play up to social pressures and society’s timelines.
Once you’re aware that you’ve been snookered by society, you can do something about it.
You can calmly and boldly decide that you’re not going to play by society’s rules. You’re not going to go to graduate school. You’re not going to become a professional 9 to 5er. You’re not going to get married to someone just for the sake of getting married or because society tells you that life is more fulfilling with a partner.
You don’t have to play up to your family’s pressures or society’s timelines.
Let social pressures bounce off you like water off a duck’s back.
Know that others feel safer when you follow the chosen path. When you’re doing what everyone else is doing, your family, friends, and community feel at ease. They want to see you following the same things that they are so they don’t feel like they’ve wasted their life!
Lots of people will have advice for you but feel free to discard the ones that don’t resonate with you.
While you may feel pressure from advice coming from a parent, older relative or good family friend, know that their advice is highly biased and soaked in societal constructs.
It’s not that they’re giving you wrong advice. They, unfortunately, don’t know any better – it’s what they’ve been told their entire lives.
3. Be guided by your intuition and live your truth.
If the life you’re living feels overwhelming and pressured by others, your intuition will be screaming at you.
It will feel all wrong and you’ll feel like you’re not living your own life. You’re living someone else’s life.
You know your own truth and what’s right for you.
Your heart, some people call this a gut feeling or your intuition, knows clearly without any doubt what you should be doing with your life.
If you’re an intuitive person or are experiencing strong feelings about what to do with your life, trust that more than you trust anyone else’s opinions and words.
Talking to others and getting opinions to undermine your gut feeling is always a bad idea and will lead to unfulfilling and unhappy decisions.
Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Trust your gut feeling.
4. Live in the present moment and take it one day at a time.
Another thing that your family and society try to do is to push you to live in the next moment and to be continuously looking forward at the future.
There’s always the future to be preoccupied with.
It’s not about celebrating high school graduation today but wondering what you’re going to do after graduating college.
It’s not about how you enjoyed your field of study but what type of job you’re going to get.
It’s never about if you enjoyed meeting someone new but if you’re going to marry him.
It’s our human tendency to never live in the present moment and enjoy the gift of now.
Everyone wants more for you so they want you to look ahead and keep your eye on the prize even if ….even if ….they don’t know what the prize is.
What you want may be so different than what anyone else wants.
Maybe you don’t want to get married.
Maybe you don’t want to be a mother.
Maybe you don’t want to work in the corporate world or have a 9 to 5 job.
But you feel pressured to do these things.
And you see everyone around you blindly following these pursuits.
And you feel pressured to make decisions today that will impact your decisions tomorrow.
Just stop spinning the wheels.
Stop indulging your family and friends from living a “tomorrow” life.
Celebrate this moment and live your life here today.
Chose to live the life you want and desire instead of what others want for you.
Keep your eye on what’s in front of you today, not how it ties to a prestigious university or dream job tomorrow.
As you know, you’re not guaranteed a tomorrow – all you have is the day in front of you.
Live your life the way you want to. Cut through society’s noise, family chatter and the lives of your friends who are chasing what society values.
Instead, chose to live an authentic life that honors your desires and the present moment.
Don’t live life for a moment that is not yet here.
Your life is here and now.