For the most part, our society promotes a quantitative view of time. This results in many of us running our lives like a project plan with aggressive timelines and due dates. We are rewarded for being on target and applauded for being ahead of schedule.
We learn to build our lives and careers around schedules. As unborn fetuses, we are expected to meet our first critical due date. Once we arrive, the dead-lines continue at a relentless rate. We are expected to begin crawling by 9 months, walking by 15 months, speaking by 12 months and so on.
As with any well-run project, there comes a time for quality review. This is commonly referred to as the mid-life crisis: the point at which we are forced to stop and re-assess our life; reflecting on the accomplishments, failures and lessons learned. The actual crisis is presented when the thought arises that perhaps we need to alter our original life plan.
Time is a fixed factor which we can neither start, stop or delay. Uncontrollable dependencies in any plan causes great trepidation; which in turn triggers some common coping strategies rooted in our basic fears:
Failure and Disappointment: “Quitters never win. If I give up or change direction now, I will never know if my plan would have worked and I will regret it for years to come.”
Shame and Criticism: “If I can somehow turn this into a success, I will be redeemed in the eyes of my family, friends and associates.”
Fear of the Unknown: “I’m familiar with this plan, job, role, etc. Continuing with this plan is less risky than trying something new.”
Pain of Loss: “Though this approach may continue costing me a lot financially and emotionally, I will see it through because there is still a chance that it may turn out okay and I can retrieve some of my losses.”
Going against a plan which appears to be hard-coded into our society is difficult to say the least. The challenge is in pushing through the fear and external influences to create a life plan of our own choosing.