It makes sense why so many of us are feeling this way. For the first 18 (or more) years of our lives, we’re all pretty much on the same trajectory. While we’re in school, our paths are mostly laid out for us. We’re among peers, growing and going through the same milestones at the same general pace.
Then, after high school or college, we start going off on different paths, and the comparison about “who’s ahead” and “who’s behind” starts to gets murky.
So, because we don’t have clear indicators of measuring progress anymore — the way we did when we were in school — we end up comparing how “behind” we are based on external things we can see, like promotions, marriages, kids, houses, and other external mile markers.
It felt like, everywhere I looked, people were progressing faster than me. Hitting milestones earlier, climbing the ranks with more ease, figuring things out faster, leaving me in the dust wondering, “How did I fall so far behind?”
I feel like at my age, I’m SO far behind and need to be insanely productive every single day.
I thought the reason I felt this way was because I was doing something wrong. Maybe I’d focused on the wrong things after graduation, or maybe I just wasn’t meant to have the things that seemed to come so easily to other people.
But that wasn’t it at all. My comparison actually had nothing to do with what had happened (or NOT happened) in my life so far. It had everything to do with how I was feeling about my life at the time.
When I was unhappy with my job or my living situation or my social life, my first instinct was to look around and assume the reason for my unhappiness was because I lacked something that other people had.
But now I know better.
At this point in my life, I still haven’t hit a lot of the life milestones for a happy existence, according to societal norms (marriage, kids, house with a big backyard, luxurious vacations, etc.), but I no longer worry about being behind. That’s because I genuinely like the life I’ve built for myself because it aligns with what I most care about.
The reason I was unhappy before wasn’t because I was “behind” … it was because I didn’t know how to measure my life according to the things that actually matter to me.
Pursuing external markers of success simply because you feel “behind” isn’t the right reason and isn’t going to lead to the results you want. On the other hand, when you make pursuing your NEW (internal) metrics for measuring progress the ones you care most about, the external ones are bound to follow naturally.