Learning to Draw Outside the Life Lines


In your twenties, you’re consumed with figuring out what you want to get done. There is a lot of mental energy that goes into this developmental task. Ticking off the boxes. Getting to the next level. You are creating a picture in your mind of what the perfect path for you may be and then trying to go about coloring it in, perhaps taking pains to color within in the lines.

By your 40s, the picture may have changed a few times – you have gone outside the lines. In fact, you’ve thrown out the picture and drawn your own lines. The mental energy goes into getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t help you get it done.

Many women in their 40s wish they had been a little less focused on getting to the next thing, the next level at a job, the next stage of a relationship. For 20-somethings today the list gets tougher –add a success under 30 list, a secondary career (marketing manager – slash – photographer), and a volunteer association. The list goes on. It’s no wonder we talk about 20-something burnout.

So what to do? You’ve heard it before but don’t get so caught up in the achieving that you don’t do the living.

QuoteIn hindsight life is so short. You think oh I’ll get to that. But in your 20s there are so many opportunities to be alive. Take advantage of that youth today. I see too many young people being too serious at too young an age.” — Nancy, 49, widow, restaurant owner

Try to take some time outs. If you can…travel to somewhere that is very different from where you are. I recently had a friend return from a trip around the world. She saved for a long time and planned it out. She didn’t live large…but wow…did she learn large.

QuoteThis day last year marked the beginning of 31 and what unfolded as the most fulfilling year of my life. Looking back, I had no idea how surreal, beautiful and transformative the ride would be. I only knew that the time was now. In a similar spirit, I’m feeling so brand new at 32 and insanely happy to be where I am.”

I am so tempted to do this myself. But there is something we all can do today. Before marching toward the next goal or ticking the next box, make sure you know why you are doing it. Is it making you happy? Is it aligned with a value or belief that is important to you? Or it is just something you (or someone else) feels like you should do? What do you hope to get from it? Most 40-somethings I have spoken to caution against doing something simply because it’s the “next step”.

QuoteThere is a panic that the train is leaving the station. As a result you sometimes you make choices simply because you are afraid of missing some deadline. But you are not really choosing. You are just choosing by default. Give it a little thought. Seek some help.” – 40-something, Cleveland

Did you draw outside the lines? Or not? Share your story!

More like this: We Are All Works of Art In Progress

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