There are a lot of ways in which people feel pressure. When you’re a child, you feel pressure to make friends and fit in at school. You feel pressure to impress your friends and teachers. You even feel pressure to impress your parents, mostly through fitting in and doing well at school!
As you grow older, you feel pressure to study hard and get the grades expected of you. Nothing seems worse than falling below a grade somebody else has told you you’re expected to achieve. So early on in life, we’re put through a rigorous examination process, which we’re led to believe will determine our path throughout the remainder of our lives on this planet. I experienced this close to home recently, through my younger brother receiving his exam results. At a time in his life where opportunities for new experiences should be endless, fuelled by curiosity, freedom and optimism about the future, a few unexpected results had made him feel quite the opposite.
It seems incredible that we’re placed in an environment of pressure and expectation from such a young age. Heck, my daughter is seven weeks old as I write this and my wife and I are already comparing her development with our friends’ babies (despite our best intentions not to!).
There is simply no escape from then pressure of today’s society. Even away from reality in the world of social media, we all feel the pressure to not only keep up with but indeed outdo ‘The Jones’s’ . In doing so however, we are ultimately living by other people’s expectations and this, I can assure you, is not the path to a content and fulfilled life.
It is also very easy to apply too much pressure from within, longing to achieve the best we can in life. We work hard at school, not to receive a truly meaningful and profound education, but to pass the exams required to hopefully end up in the job we want. And why do we want this job? Well, so we can earn enough money to pay for the things we want to own of course; the house, the car, the golf membership, the weekly shop at M&S.
Once we have all of this though, where do we go next? What happens when you have everything you thought you wanted and was so important for you to achieve all those years ago?
Now appears a different kind of pressure. The pressure of keeping up the large mortgage payments you were so convinced you needed before. The pressure of raising children, which you always thought would come so naturally. The pressure of working hard, to get the promotion and subsequent pay-rise that will keep you one step ahead in the rat race of this wonderful blessing called ‘Life’.
If this sounds familiar, I can promise you are not alone. I’ve met with many people who have found themselves swept up by life; feeling as though they are somehow controlled by the life they’ve built for themselves and no longer in charge of their destiny. Whilst there may not be a magic solution for this, there may be a way to ease the pressure we put on ourselves and take back some control.
We must stop living our lives based on other the expectations of others. Too often people find themselves in situations they never wanted to be in, by simply letting ‘stuff’ happen around them and not giving themselves permission to grab life and take control.
By re-framing our own expectations of how we should live our lives according to ourselves and nobody else, we can begin the journey towards increased happiness and fulfilment. Do not put pressure on yourself to achieve the things society or even your close family and friends expect of you. Instead, spend time with yourself to discover what truly matters to you in life and the things that bring you joy. I know that can seem a bit wishy-washy and, of course, these will be different things for different people – but that is the beauty of it. Here are a few things you could try:
- Spend time with yourself to think about what truly matters to you. Perhaps try some guided meditation for a week and see if this helps you to find focus, or take yourself away for a couple of nights alone to simply think and refresh.
- Write it down. Thoughts are way more likely to turn into action once they’ve been scribbled down on paper. It can help to make lists, such as; your top 5 priorities or, the 5 things that bring you most joy.
- Think about things you currently have in your life that you dislike or do not bring you any sense of joy or fulfilment. If you can, cut these out as soon as possible. Is anything weighing on your mind? If so, address this immediately. Relieve yourself of the pressure and feel the weight life from your shoulders. Why waste energy stressing over something you’re not passionate about?
- Once you’ve discovered the things that are important to you; ask yourself, why are they important? The answers will provide a deeper understanding of what you really want out of life. Asking yourself why more often will ensure you end up with more of what you like, and less of what you don’t like. Simples.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Remember, you and you alone are in control of your destiny during your short time on this planet. When an opportunity comes your way, unless your immediate response is ‘Hell Yeah!’, then your ultimate reply should be a straightforward ‘No thank you.’ Saying yes to things that don’t excite you will lead to no more than disappointing results for everyone involved.
Remember, life only ever gets shorter. Put yourself in the driving seat and leave unwanted pressure behind.