Why you need to let go of the timeline to truly enjoy your 20s

May 11, 2017
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If you’re in your 20s, you probably fall into one of two categories; you’re either the person who has no idea what they’re going to do next, or you’re the person who has their ten-year plan all figured out. Friends, family and society at large make us feel bad if we don’t have a plan, but I would argue that having a plan is worse.

Expectations vs reality of living by a timeline

I have a friend who has it all figured out; she knows the job she wants and after she gets that job, she knows exactly what the next steps are and what the next few years of her life will look like until she reaches her goal of working her way up to that position. After that comes a year of travelling the world, moving overseas and coming back home just in time to buy a house and have babies.

There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you want and going out there and getting it – I envy her for having a clear-cut path to where she wants to be. But when you get set on your timeline, you also open yourself to the immense disappointment when things don’t go according to plan. In her mind, because she hadn’t landed that job she wanted at 23, she was failing and all her other plans could come crumbling around her. It also closed her mind to the fact that there could be an alternative career path to the one she was dedicating herself to, or even an alternative live path to the ten-year plan that she had to follow to be happy.

Not knowing what you want to do next doesn’t mean you’re lazy – many people who don’t know what they want to do are still actively trying to figure that out. By not having a set timeline, you’re more likely to try different things you wouldn’t have thought to do and be open to a total career change if it feels right. Instead of immense disappointment, I was completely thrilled to land my first proper job, even though it wasn’t until the age of 24, for a company I would have ever expected to work for.

The desire to have it all

My friend’s timeline made her anxious; she began to worry about all these other factors – she worried about her relationship, whether she could get her career established in Australia before she looked for a job overseas and whether she’d be able to travel at the ideal age, before 30. Her career growth clashed with her travel plans which meant she’d need to travel later… but of course she worried about putting off serious stuff until later and worried about not being able to have a baby after a certain age.

The problem with having a timeline is constantly focusing on the future, not being grateful for what you have now. You start to undermine the life you do have, when you think you’re at the bottom and it’s only going to get better from here. Sure, that’s sometimes true. You’ve got to slum it out for a bit in that entry-level job before you can progress in your career. You’ve got to save and slave away at that retail job before you can afford that big trip overseas.

And there’s nothing wrong with having plans – you’ve got to make some plans if you want to live an exciting life. But living by an age-restricted timeline will only make you feel miserable. Do all that you can now within your power and don’t worry about five-years down the track – leave yourself open to the possibility that anything could happen.