What to do when you’re falling behind in life

You may recall that in 2018, I wrote a blog post on the topic of falling behind in life. This seemed to have struck a chord with a lot of you, and I received many e-mails and messages from readers who shared their own struggles with the timing of their life. This article also happens to be one of my personal favourites from my blog, and one that I too go back to from time to time.

This has been a theme of my life since I graduated from med school in 2016 and found that my life took a different turn to my peers. It was a topic that filled me with dread in the pit of my stomach, accompanied with this incessant feeling of unworthiness. It was paralyzing and I just couldn’t do anything about it.

But you know what? I did. I did do something about it.

Today, I don’t feel the way I did a couple years ago. My life is still not where I thought it would be, and while it is much closer, I just love where it is right now. I love what has been and what is to come; and I love living life on the brink of both.

It took a great deal of daily practiced courage to change how I felt in and about my life. And I felt compelled to revisit this topic today and share with you some of the things that have helped me feel more secure in how my life is unfolding.

Develop an unwavering commitment to your unique path

This. This single handedly changed the entire trajectory of my life and melted away the pit in my stomach.

The more involved you get with your own life, the less you focus on ruminating on how another person’s life turned out so different to your own.

You simply won’t have the time, nor the interest to do so.

Getting involved in your life means;

  • Setting goals.
  • Steadily show up every day to do the work.
  • Meeting goals
  • Taking steps forward
  • Taking action
  • Doing things.
  • Doing new things.
  • Learning new skills
  • Developing the skills you already have
  • Doing the right thing at the right time

Strengthen your commitment to yourself by putting all your time, energy and intentionality into these things. Over time, this commitment transforms into devotion and that is when the magic starts happening. That’s when people feel a change in your energy. That’s when people start looking at you and saying “you seem different.” or “you look like you’re in a really good place.”

And you think – Yes. Yes, I am. Because I am here and now and that is the only place I can ever be. And yes, it is a good place to be. Because I am devoted to this place, and this life, and my path through it.

Devotion is intertwined with passion. You cannot feel passionate about someone else’s life. You can admire it, but you cannot feel truly passionate about it. You can only feel passionate about your own life. And once you can bring yourself to this point, things will start to blossom.

Leaving the herd might be a good thing for you

Remember that to do something remarkable, you have to stray from the herd at some point. Those who have achieved great success, at some point in their journey, had to do something that is not done by most.

Once you have attained your goal or claimed your success, it is easy to look back and affirm that taking the road less traveled was in-fact a worthwhile decision and a calculated act of bravery.

…but I am almost certain that in that critical moment of stepping onto that quiet, empty and dark path, they too had moments of uncertainty and doubt. They too had moments of quietly thinking to themselves “Ok…what the hell am I doing right now?!”

Measure what is important to you

You need to know what matters to you. This time of uncertainty is a great invitation to get clear on what that is.

If you don’t take the time to define or redefine your parameters of success, you will inherit the ones that society or your family/friends place on you. These parameters often have timelines, check boxes and hoops to jump through. It might be things like

  • Make X amount of money each year
  • Be promoted to X position by age Y
  • Get married by 30
  • Have 3 kids before Y
  • Win X award

For me, success is;

  • Growth – am I evolving as a human being? Am I challenging myself? Am I learning? Am I getting better?
  • Quality, depth and richness of experiences and relationships.
  • Impact
  • Joy and fulfillment.

My definition of success now, is unrelated to outside circumstances. No one can give it to me or take it away. It’s something I can cultivate within myself by the way I choose to live. External accomplishments can certainly enhance my sense of success, but they cannot take away from it. And I can feel successful without any of it.

Following your own calling is empowering

It feels far more empowering to follow your own unique calling, than to follow the path that you think you should take because everyone takes it. Every time you answer that inner call, you begin to transcend from a person to a force. This is a powerful way to live.

Gather with a small group of people who believe in you.

These are your people. Nurture and cherish these relationships. Show up for these people, and be the best person you can be for them.

These relationships in my life have held me through it all. They are the people who lift me when I stumble, and the people who tell me “I never doubted it!” when I share with them my successes. They are the ones who celebrate my wins, and walk me through my lows. They see my potential and always encourage me to step into it. They have played a big part in finding not only acceptance for my life, but an appreciation for it too.

Find a mentor

Though we can find mentorship in all areas of our life, it was most helpful for me to find a mentor in my professional life, because that was the area that I was most unclear for me. It helps to be taken under the wing of someone you admire and respect. They help illuminate the path ahead and guide you to your next steps. In my time studying medicine, I have come across plenty of good doctors, but only one or two who I truly aspire to be like. My mentor is one of those people. Recently, she advised me not to seek out only one inspiring mentor/friend, but to surround yourself with a group of aspirational people so that it becomes normal to you. This will elevate you in the loveliest way possible.

See the wisdom in watching and waiting

There is wisdom to be gained from just watching and waiting. Take time to observe the life-paths of those around you. You will see that everyone’s journey is rich with depth and variety, even those who you compare yourself to, even those who seem to be checking every box. They too, face their own growth lessons. “Falling behind” gives you an opportunity to see how other trajectories of life play out. So, just watch. Instead of trying to insert yourself into a different storyline of life, just observe how these different options unfold for those around you. Maybe there is something to learn from it. Maybe you will be shown exactly what you should do, or maybe you will be shown exactly what not to do. Or perhaps you are just given the gift of simply appreciating that everyone on this planet has their own unique experience that requires courage and growth too. How can we ever compare, and what is the use in it anyway?

Every intentional step you take aligns you to your core purpose

Have confidence that every intentional step you take has the potential to align you to your core purpose. Every “Yes” brings you more of what you want. Every “No” strips away what isn’t in alignment. Don’t be afraid of taking steps, and don’t be afraid of rejection; be grateful for it – for it leaves behind what is important and true. If you don’t take a step, you won’t be able to align yourself to what truly matters.

The alchemy of luck

We have all heard the quote “luck is when preparation meets opportunity” and this has demonstrated to be true in my life over the last few years.

On a spiritual level – what does it mean to “prepare”? – It is the actions taken that put you in vibrational alignment with a particular outcome.  

This means that more committed you are to your own journey, the luckier you get. It’s as simple as that.

Start enjoying doing difficult things

A few years ago, I dreaded doing difficult things. I procrastinated, avoided, made excuses- the works. And these difficult things piled up until every thing felt so overwhelming. The gap between where I was and where I wanted to be felt insurmountable. One day, I made a list of all the difficult things I had to do to be where I wanted to be, and I committed myself to start working through this list. I love how Robin Sharma refers to doing the activities that scare you as “bravery training” and that is exactly what it was. I felt stronger, and more sure of myself. I realized that I can do hard things. Once I got comfortable with that, I developed a taste for it. Now I look forward to doing hard things. I like how it makes me feel. I like feeling the stretch of growth. When you become a person who embraces doing difficult things, there becomes very little that life can throw at you that can derail you. This has been a huge source of strength for me.

And I hope the suggestions in this article can be a source of strength for you too.

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