Sometimes you sit down somewhere — maybe in a coffee shop, at the office, or in front of your TV — and out of nowhere, a thought pops up in your mind. And you start feeling behind in life.
“Why am I not more successful?”
Maybe you thought you’d have kids by now. A business that would make a lot of money. Or that you were a well-respected person that makes a difference in the world. Maybe you thought you’d own a house by now. And that you had everything figured out.
But none of that shit has happened.
In those moments, it’s easy to panic — especially if you look around you. It’s easy to look at others and compare your own path to theirs. But why are we so obsessed with timing?
- “This guy was a millionaire by 30.”
- “She had her first bestseller by 26.”
- “He became CEO at 40.”
So what!? They are not you. But still, it stings, right? “Why not me?” you might think.
Everyone has their own path.
I know, that sounds corny. But you know what’s also corny? Being an unhappy person. Because that’s what happens when you try to control your future. Every time you feel that your life is not the way it SHOULD be, you’re trying to play God.
Give yourself a break and understand one thing: Your work matters.
Most of our unhappiness comes from believing that no one cares. It’s easy to feel irrelevant in a crowded world. You wake up, go to work, get back, and watch TV until you fall asleep. You’re just going through the motions.
You forget what your actual job is: To make yourself useful. What’s the alternative? Give up? Drink a glass of scotch and say that the world is messed up? Come on — life’s not an Ernest Hemingway novel.
You’ve got to believe that your work matters. Why? Because it does. It’s about your mindset. William James, a leader in the philosophical movement of Pragmatism, said it best:
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
We collectively believe that you must do big things to matter. You don’t have to solve starvation to contribute to the world. Similarly, you don’t need to become an important person to make a difference.
Maybe you want to do big things. That’s great. But you’re not some kind of puppet master who can control life.
Sometimes it takes a while to get where we want to be. But that doesn’t mean the journey is useless. And because we’re all so obsessed with outcomes, we think that life is measured in milestones.
But life is not only about achieving outcomes. That’s why we try to hack our way into living productive lives that matter. Some people believe that productivity is about cramming more into each day. It’s not. Productivity is about trying to find a way to enjoy your work and life. Often, that’s not the case. We hate our work and we hate our days.
But we try to justify that by dangling a lofty goal in front of our face. Everything will be all right in the end, as long as we achieve that goal, right? That degree, job, promotion, income, revenue, bestseller, or a big hit. But what if that doesn’t happen? Yeah, we fell behind.
You don’t need bigger goals or more motivation.
You need to realize that whatever you’re doing NOW matters. You need to act that way. And you need to stop listening to people who are at a different stage in life.
So what if this person drives a Porsche? So what if that person bought a new house? Don’t make yourself miserable by going faster in life. And to work more, more, more.
Stop beating yourself up because you’re not where you want to be. Look, your work matters. YOU matter. Because what happens if you don’t show up tomorrow? You will be missed.
And don’t give me that emo shit that no one cares about you. That’s the most egotistical perspective you can have. People who keep living like this eventually turn into what Seneca says in his book, On the Shortness of Life:
“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.”
People who think no one cares about them care too much about themselves. Open your eyes and look at the world around you. People care. And you should care too.
It’s not about trusting the universe or God. It’s about trusting yourself. Because life doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to matter. And if you act like your life matters, it does.