Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

A whole personal growth industry is predicated on getting us to compare ourselves unfavourably with others, because feeding those insecurities sells “reach your potential” webinars. But even knowing that, it’s hard not to let it get under your skin. Reading what I “should” have achieved gives me the same twitchy, defensive feeling I get from those “30 people under 30 to watch” lists, resentfully scanning pictures of fresh-faced overachievers. The sense you aren’t where you should be, and that others are, is a surefire thief of joy, and we shouldn’t let blokes who overuse fire emojis steal our joy.

If I had a platinum-tier subscriber level newsletter to sell you, this is what I would argue you should have achieved by my age (47):

  • A burning fury about some trivial aspect of your neighbourhood (lighting, bollards, men who trim between the paving stones with scissors).
  • Three to five relationships – romantic or platonic – that you feel lasting guilt about.
  • A part of your face or body that you don’t recognise any more. Whose chin is that? What’s that lump on my eyelid? When did my heels take on the texture of barnacles?
  • A miasma of pension dread.
  • An anecdote you cannot stop telling even though you know your interlocutor has heard it before. (Me: this was my grandfather’s knife. My husband: I know, you tell me every time you touch it.)
  • An alternative career you truly believe you would have been happier in.

But at 47, I have also found a way to deal with that self-flagellatory itch, so here it is, for your vision boards. Read the Guardian’s New Start After 60 or the New York Times’ It’s Never Too Late series, exploring later life changes. People, you discover, do awe-inspiring things at every age: there’s an 86-year-old water polo player in this week’s New York Times. But more importantly, they do the things they, not anyone else, wants: what fulfils them and what they enjoy. If you’re selling a seminar on how to achieve that, take my money.

—  Emma Beddington, from “Ignore those lists of goals to hit by age 30 – here’s what you should have done by 47” (The Guardian, August 10, 2022)


  1. It is so hard to fully embrace the things one wants to do, when bowed by the weight of what one should do…It’s a difficult but critical lesson to integrate before you lose the option to choose

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Emma B. is absolutely right, there is a big industry that makes you feel bad for being able to sell you products to become ‘better’. But should we become better, more beautiful, more intelligent etc.? The problem is not how we are but this attitude of more, better etc.
    Thanks for this article from our favourite paper
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. WMS…this constant need to compare ourselves to others (and usually diminish our accomplishments in the process) is toxic and really pointless. And Mimi is right…we drag our feet at integrating this lesson at our peril.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Good one

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As long as we keep moving.
    At some point one stops. It’s ok to do nothing, for some time.
    Truly and honestly, one of my biggest fears in life is stagnation.
    It’s not about achievement, or money. It’s about contributing.
    I feel that “achievers ” are driven by status and the desire to check stuff off of some mental list they only see. Achievers hate my presence around them because I’m blind to status and to this imaginary list they have.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Poignant. I’m only 28 and I feel like I’m running out of time to do and achieve all the things I’m expected to, before I turn 30. I’m sure once I hit that milestone it will be another set of disappointments that I don’t achieve before I’m 40. It’s a relentless, and utterly unhelpful cultural mindset. And it takes us away from being, and from being in the present.


  8. Social media has had such a humongous hand in this feeling of lack. Heaven forbid we be happy with where we are (are we ever? Gah! I hope one day to be so!) It’s like when you are told you look good for your age. What is my age supposed to look like? What the magazines show us? I think not… You “should” be close to retirement – some don’t ever want to, why make them feel guilty about it? We are constantly bombarded by those lists and shoulds. I can’t look at them or I’ll throw myself off the bridge for being such a failure.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Right on. It’s also why there shouldn’t be so much attention paid to impersonal assessors like Myers-Briggs. We are all unfathomable surprises, dammit, not “types”!


  10. good to know I’m not alone in having such thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So many cable channels and so many social media outlets in need of “content”. And then there’s no shortage of oracles running around dispensing their vision of what we should achieve by each age or career “milestone”. Yikes

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The greatest gift I gave myself was to accept and understand that my way of seeing or expressing life is beautiful and unique! And my hope is that each of us remember this. We don’t need more conformity or comparison in this world, we need more openness, love and individual expression. 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This holds for the beauty industry too. Undermine in order to sell.

    Liked by 1 person

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