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Rethinking the Passage of Life: 3 Mistakes to Avoid

Stable career and income first, then settle down? Life doesn’t always unfold like a structured five-year plan. In fact, who’s to say you can’t have both career and personal fulfilment?

By Jonathan Meur

Passage of LifeWith every passing year, you may feel pressure to achieve certain life goals within a certain timeframe, especially in a fast-paced country like Singapore. You may worry about creating a stable, financially sound career before getting into a relationship and starting a family when, in fact, everyone goes through these key milestones at different paces and not necessarily in that order.

Here are four mistakes to avoid when thinking about the passage of life.

Mistake #1: Assuming your career should be steady within the first few years

Finding the sweet spot between passion for your work and financial prosperity takes time. We may envision a certain career path in our 20s, but as we mature and better understand the kind of life we want to lead, we sometimes end up adjusting or even completely changing that path. American fashion designer Vera Wang was a figure skater and fashion magazine editor before she started designing bridal gowns – at 40. Taiwanese film director Ang Lee was an unemployed stay-at-home dad for six years after graduating from New York University (NYU) – he was 38 when he released his first movie. These celebrity stories perfectly illustrate the notion that it can take time to find your calling or, if you do know where your passion lies, it can take time to make things happen. There is no one template to reaching your goals.

Passage of LifeMistake #2: Thinking “career first, family second”

Many of us aim to obtain the best of everything in all aspects of our lives, but more often than not, that’s an unrealistic expectation. For instance, you may be spending much energy on your professional success and financial stability, and putting off starting a family – fair enough. But starting a family when young also makes sense: besides being mindful of your biological clock, having children early means you’ll be able to raise them while youthful energy is on your side, which is both to your and their benefit. It also means they’ll have relatively younger grandparents to dote on them. Ultimately, you might also find that the love and fulfilment you receive from your children more than makes up for whatever gap you wanted to fill on your way to professional bliss.

Mistake #3: Believing you can’t start over

What if you achieve success in your career and in your private life? Will you be all done then? Life is full of surprises, sometimes unpleasant, that will force you to re-evaluate your situation and make small or drastic changes. If that happens, avoid getting into the mindset that it’s “too late” – this defeatist mindset is not productive. At any point in time, you can choose to steer your life in a new direction that will make you happier and more fulfilled.

In short, if you want a career, a relationship and a family, there’s no one-size-fits-all: it’s OK to aim to have all three at the same time, or to put a relationship and a family before your career. Occasionally try to take a step back from the daily grind to re-evaluate your goals, what makes sense for you, without comparing yourself to others. There are as many life journeys as there are people on the planet, with a host of experiences and lessons learnt that are different from your own. Do you!