I don’t know about you, but I’m so tired of putting this crazy amount of pressure on myself all the time.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had wildly high expectations of myself. The strange thing is, this pressure never really came from external sources. My parents, teachers, and friends have always been 100% supportive and never put pressure on me to be a certain way.
But despite it all, I’ve heaped and piled the pressure on myself to be successful, do things perfectly (the first time, of course), and generally have my life completely figured out.
It’s taken quite a lot of time (and plenty of life coaching) for me to release a lot of this internal pressure, but I’ll be the first to admit that it still pops up from time to time.
This summer, though, I’ve decided that I’m over it.
I’ve made it my personal mission to do whatever it takes to release the mounds of stress I naturally put on myself, because it can be exhausting at best, and debilitating at worst.
As I’m going through my own personal pressure detox, I’m noticing that many of my fellow millennials and coaching clients put this kind of pressure on themselves, too. In particular, I see people stress themselves out over figuring out their passion–the thing (career, hobby, side hustle, etc.) they’ll want to do forever and ever and never get sick of it.
“I’m already (insert any age between 21 to 65–I hear this from people of all ages),” they’ll say. “I should have figured out what I want to do with my life by now!”
(God, I hate that word “should.” Let’s agree to stop “shoulding” all over ourselves, ‘kay?)
So today I want to send a reminder to you, to my clients, and yeah, to myself, too.
Whenever you feel the internal pressure mounting and you’re feeling like you “should” be a certain place in your life by now, I want you to keep this one key thing in mind:
Your decisions don’t need to be permanent.
This goes against most conventional wisdom that says you need to decide what you want to do when you’re 18 or 19 so you can pick your college major, so you can get a job in that field, so you can work there for the next several decades.
(Wow, that’s a LOT of pressure to put on a teenager!)
Because of this, people feel flakey, or self-critical, or like they’re falling “behind” if they want to change their mind later on … and that’s when they really start piling on the pressure to figure it all out immediately.
If you ask yourself, “What’s my passion? What do I want to do for the rest of my life?” you’re most likely going to freeze up and shut down. That’s a seriously loaded question that comes with a whole heck of a lot of pressure.
Instead, start asking yourself, “What do I love doing right now? What could I spend a whole day doing and be perfectly happy? What actions, causes, people, or topics light me up and make me feel the most me?” That’s a very different internal dialogue that feels spacious and free, instead of constricting and heavy.
What you decide you want in your life might change, and that’s okay–it’s great, in fact. Life would be pretty boring if your goals and desires never evolved. The key is to focus on what you love and what energizes you right now, and trust that the next step will reveal itself when the time is right.
It’s like that famous Martin Luther King, Jr., quote: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
—Kristen Walker is a professionally trained life coach for people in their twenties and thirties and the co-founder of Clarity on Fire Coaching.
This article originally appeared in Levo League and is reprinted with permission.