This Simple Mindset Shift Will Improve How You See Your Life

August 25, 2021

If you have ever felt like you are not where you are “supposed” to be in life…

You’ve bought into a mindset trap with assumptions that your life should unfold along a linear path to success.

While many of us were raised to lean in, the messaging about how to go after it was filtered via social media. We saw the highlight reel of promotions and upward job shifts and that backdrop perpetuates the myth of perfect linear success. If we expect success to unfold like a series of life chapters, it’s no wonder we’re thrown when it doesn’t happen that way.

We can all see that a model of life with one job, one relationship, one faith, one home and one identity from adolescence to old age feels very outdated. We can’t expect our career, health and relationships to unfold in a template of prescribed stages. Yet most of us are primed to expect a predictable path because that has been the norm for previous generations.

The downside of this mindset trap is that we must be in the right place with the right amount of success at the right time. That’s an ingrained assumption that many of us unconsciously use to define the ideal human life. As Bruce Feller writes in Life Is In The Transitions, these tidy life stages that we all expect are built more on wishful thinking than on empirical data. While life during the 20th century was defined sequentially with regimented stages of life like a conveyor belt from birth to death, that linear way of thinking about our lives no longer applies.

Feller describes the unpredictable nature of the world we now live in and how it’s becoming more nonlinear all the time. Based on his research, he estimates that the average person goes through a major life transition about every 12-18 months. These include personal setbacks like losing our job or collective disruptors like living through a global pandemic. If we are using a paradigm of perfect ascension as a marker for success in life, then we are comparing ourselves to an ideal that no longer exists.

We can all relate to feeling like at least one aspect of our lives is out of order or off schedule. That’s why this mindset trap is so dangerous: the foundations are false yet it powerfully influences how satisfied or dissatisfied we feel about ourselves and our lives. Shifting out of this mindset trap to embrace a life out of order means we can learn to be more forgiving of setbacks and open to many definitions of what makes a meaningful life.