When your goals take longer to reach than you expected, you might feel anxious, discouraged, and confused. You wonder when you’ll feel like a “real” adult. You question how long it will take to reach your goals, wonder if your dreams will ever come true.
Fortunately, even when life doesn’t go the way you want, there are ways to make the most of it.
1. Scrap the plan.
Don’t throw away your goals and dreams. Don’t stop paying off debt, or saving for retirement. Don’t stop working for what you want.
But if you set rigid plans that extend years in advance, it will be much more frustrating when those plans are disrupted.
Instead, think about what you can do for the next few weeks or months to reach your long-term goals.
Take one day at a time, stay flexible, and create a Plan B … or even C.
2. Take a break from social media.
Social media can be like a dysfunctional relationship. You might feel like you can’t live without it, and that it does amazing things for your life.
Unfortunately, it also distracts you from the people around you. It can encourage you to compare yourself to everyone else online, thinking their lives are so much better.
As with any other relationship, boundaries are essential. It’s time to put social media in the “friendzone.”
Though it’s a useful tool, social media makes it too easy to compare ourselves to friends, coworkers, and celebrities. When you struggle to get where you want to be in life, the comparisons can be nothing short of soul-crushing.
Limit the amount of time you spend on social media, or how you use it (such as professional networking). Constantly remind yourself that no one’s lives are as perfect as they may seem on Instagram. Everyone has messy or mundane details that they may not share.
3. Nurture relationships.
When you’re struggling to get where you want to be in life, it is easy to isolate yourself. Whether you’re working so hard that you don’t have time to socialize, or you’re feeling depressed and alone, don’t let friendships slide.
There is no shame in being open and honest with someone that your life hasn’t gone as you’d hoped. There’s no need to share everything with everyone, but it’s good to develop friendships with a few trustworthy, compassionate people.
These people may reciprocate and share some of their own difficulties with you. This provides mutual support, and will help you both feel less alone.
If you struggle with relationships, or don’t have a person you can safely open up to, consider seeing a professional therapist. They can help you talk through problems, offer an outside perspective, and point you toward practical solutions.
4. Live outside yourself.
It is important to practice mindfulness and self-care. However, constantly focusing on yourself, your thoughts, and your needs can make it easier to become self-absorbed and obsess over your disappointment.
It’s time to step outside of your own mind and forget yourself for a while.
Volunteer at a local nonprofit, invite a neighbor over for coffee, or email a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Try a new hobby, or take a class–even if it has nothing to do with your goals.
You don’t have to ignore problems or live in denial. Just give your brain a break. This can help ease anxiety, reduce stress, and give you a chance to make life better for someone else.
5. Use it or lose it (the present, that is).
When we’re dissatisfied with the present, we may be tempted to live almost exclusively in the past or the future. While we should learn from the past and plan for the future, the present is where we are. If you don’t use it, you can’t enjoy it or learn from it.
Learn to find and savor the things you still enjoy now–a meal, a song, or a sunny day.
If you are working toward future goals, take some time to think about the work instead of the goals. What are you learning in the process? What can you share about it with others? Think about what you can do with your time now.
This way, when you reach your goals–when your future becomes the present–you’ll be even better able to enjoy it!
Unlike plants, humans don’t have specific seasons for growing and blooming. People “blossom” in different seasons, and some take longer to grow than others. What’s important is to make the most of every season.
When you look back on this period of your life, what will you see?
Will you remember feeling discouraged and behind as you waited for time to pass?
Or will you remember that you made the most of the time you had, even if things weren’t always as you’d hoped?
Will you continue to grow and learn, and appreciate what you already have?