Purpose Challenge: Don't Play the Game

Written by Malerie Payne, Wellbeing Team Member

Congratulations, Sisters! You’ve graduated from college, and you’re on the way to your next adventure. It could be a new job, graduate school, studying abroad, a mission trip or maybe a much needed vacation! If you don’t quite have that next step lined up yet, don’t be discouraged. Here are some success tips for whatever situation you’re in:

Don’t play the game. I’m talking about the comparison game, and whew — this can be a nasty one. If you’re already struggling with comparison now, it will only get worse as you get older, so work to kick this habit as soon as you can!

Comparing yourself to others’ accomplishments and achievements usually ends in feelings of disappointment and self-loathing. I can remember back in graduate school waiting to hear back about job interviews and offers on the same timeline that my friends were all waiting to hear back, too. Even though I didn’t apply for the same jobs and positions they did, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of hurt when they shared all about their interview offers across the lunch table. I told myself I would never get an interview. I told myself that even if I did land an interview, I probably wouldn’t get a job. I told myself I wasn’t good enough.

It’s crazy to think how quickly I let my thoughts and emotions spiral out of control… especially since just a few short days later I received several offers for an interview. Through that experience, I learned it’s hard to be truly happy for someone when you’re jealous of what they have going on. Envy is a nasty emotion that can make a mess of your relationships, behavior, intentions and outlook. It can even mess with your own heart.

Listen closely, Sisters: hearing about another’s success does not mean you have failed. I understand how it feels to be “the only one” waiting for an interview, job offer, to be asked out on a date, receive a marriage proposal, promotion or whatever next step in life you want so badly. Really, I know! But don’t go there, and don’t play that game. Stay in your lane. You are already enough.

The five-year plan. We’ve heard this one before, right? Find a great job, meet someone amazing, get married, earn a promotion, maybe have some kiddos…

A detailed five-year plan is great, but try not to get too bogged down in the details. And be realistic. I recently met with a group of women, and we chatted about how our unrealistic expectations often lead to our greatest frustrations and disappointments. It’s important to have in mind (and even to write down) goals you would like to accomplish by a certain time, but let in some wiggle room. Give yourself grace and leave space for real life to happen.

For me, it helps to think of my one and five-year plans as a bucket list – if items get accomplished, great! (And ya’ll, I love crossing things off, so this is a big deal to me!) But if not, I can reassess and add that item on to the following year’s plan. Instead of thinking about these items as things I have to do, I know that truly these are things that I want to do. This makes a huge difference in my willingness and eagerness to complete these items. My husband and I have made it a tradition to begin every New Year with a bucket list for the next 365 days. Here are some things on my bucket list for this year:

  • Present at a national conference.
  • Try three new restaurants in my town.
  • Take a spontaneous vacation.
  • Sign up for a half-marathon.
  • Pay off my car loan.

It’s exciting to look a few years out as well by creating a five-year bucket list. Here are some of the things that made it on mine:

  • Complete my doctoral program.
  • Work up to a volunteer leadership role in my community.
  • Plan a 10 year reunion with friends from graduate school.
  • Plant a vegetable garden in my backyard.
  • Pay off my student loans.

Give it a try, and let me know what dreams made it on your one and five-year bucket lists.

Be present. Try not to get stuck wondering about the past or worrying about the future. The past is in the past - you can't change it or go back to it or pick a different course than the one you're on. If you’re unhappy, take action - do something to make a change!

Similarly, try not to worry too much about what will or will not happen in the future. Don’t misunderstand - that's not to say you shouldn't have goals, but you should also have faith. Most of the things I have worried about in my life didn't actually happen, and I was able to overcome the things that did happen. You will overcome them, too.

If you’re having trouble getting a handle on being present, refer back to the Purpose Wellbeing Challenge from February/March 2017, “An Attitude of Gratitude.” I was surprised to find that simply writing down the things I am grateful for on a daily basis made a noticeable difference in my perspective and overall wellness. It made me more aware of what was going on around me, and I am getting better at recognizing the good in the here and now. Let me know if you give the Grateful Challenge a try. I know it will make a difference for you, too!