A Milestone for Every Birthday?
A common corollary to self-reflection is the knee-jerk reaction to pummel oneself with constant criticism, usually tied to arbitrary numbers associated with age. Why am I not married by 30? Or conversely, did I get married too young in my 20s? Why haven’t I bought a house by 35? Have I had the same job too long by 40? Am I not getting promoted fast enough to show my merit at 27 or 33 or 55? If you find that no matter how much you achieve, and no matter how many years pass, you still judge yourself via endless questions that tear you down rather than build you up, you may be suffering from the myth of the milestone.
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Don’t allow your pursuit of self-improvement to strip all the joy from your life and make every birthday a nightmare. Here is how I suggest you work on self-improvement without paralyzing yourself with fear or disappointment if certain birthdays pass without a previously expected result.
Stop Torturing Yourself
You will not fall prey to the myth of the milestone if you allow yourself to find enjoyment in the journey of chasing perfection. Find it fun to think about how you can change things to bring what you feel may be missing. Do you procrastinate and that’s why things haven’t happened as quickly as you’d like? If so, find things to do each day to get your closer to your goal. Try getting things done before deadlines as a test of your determination. See how long you can keep it up, but also grant yourself the freedom to enjoy being imperfect.
You’re here and every day survived is an accomplishment. Part of self-improvement is recognizing another year lived. It’s hard being a person; give yourself a break and don’t always get into a brain battle about what’s wrong with you. It’s okay to focus on what’s great about you, knowing you aren’t 100% perfect. And being perfect isn’t fun because it means you’re out of new things to learn and goals to meet. It’s all a balance, so don’t forget to praise yourself for acknowledging that you’re an evolving creature who refuses to remain dormant.
Make Goals Seasonal Rather Than Personal
Create goals tied to times of the year, specific dates, months, seasons, etc. Don’t make it about you completing a novel or buying a new car by a certain age. When it’s about your age it’s personally tied to you and that kind of pressure puts you in a harder position to accomplish things. The weight alone of feeling like you must do something by a certain birthday can cause you to do everything possible to put off actually doing what you want to achieve. And when you make plans, give yourself mini-deadlines to achieve smaller aspects of larger wants. Chip away month by month with smaller goals that are achievable and don’t inherently put stressful vibes upon each birthday milestone.
Don’t Add to an Already Checked-Off List
Do you create lists and check off each thing as it’s completed, but then add more to your existing list? This creates a feeling that you’ll never get everything completed. If you track your goals with a list, be sure to make smaller lists rather than just one giant never-ending “to do” list. As you check off the items on each list, consider those lists complete. Congratulate yourself for finishing everything on your list rather than berating yourself by just adding more tasks. This will allow you to see how many lists you have checked off with growth and accomplishments.
Don’t Blame Your Age
Please know that even those who are traditionally considered the most successful report feeling like they are just fooling others. In our attempts to improve and meet birthday timelines we often lose track of how far we’ve come on our journey. Don’t blame your age. Instead, thank your age for being a marker of life. Don’t only value your path by the stop signs of achievements. Let yourself learn along the way. The only goal you need to meet by your next birthday is the appreciation of your own excellence.