Would you spend the rest of your life following the notions of a 12-year-old child? Probably not. Why is it then that people feel attached to the life trajectory and vision they formed at that age?
When we’re young and imagining our futures, we don’t understand the complexities of the world. We don’t understand the tradeoffs. We don’t know that we might give up living life in order to accomplish life. But the life trajectories and visions we had as youngsters still have tremendous pull. That’s because these imagined futures are not fully our own. They’re often the product of our parents, teachers, friends, and loved ones’ visions, too, and what we feel are our obligations and debts to these strong influences.
We tend to measure our lives by outdated and unrealistic expectations—expectations that aren’t fully our own. In doing so, we don’t get any closer to solving the mystery of ourselves.
What is the true measure of your life?
There are many ways to measure your life—more ways than your young self could imagine or fully appreciate. You can measure your life by the amount of education you have by degrees or by knowledge. You can measure your life by how much power, money, political clout, and processions you accumulate. You can measure how many friends you have (via social media) and how many you influence. You can measure your life by how many operas you’ve seen or the number of books you’ve read. You can measure your life by how many football games you’ve attended or baseball cards you’ve collected. You can measure your life by your acts of generosity or kindness. Or you might measure your life by how close you feel to solving the mystery of yourself.
Don’t measure your life by others’ values, including your 12-year-old self’s values. You are, in effect, a different person now. How will you choose to measure your life?