I’ve watched young people struggle under the pressure of needing to perform. We all need pressure, but some of it is unnecessary, born of a people-pleasing spirit or a sense of inadequacy.
One of the best ways to relieve the stress of feeling inadequate is to change the expectations you’re listening to. I’ve found it helpful for young people to look at life as having five seasons, roughly divided into decades. As you develop, your focus changes.
1. Season of development
In your first two decades of life you grow in every way. The focus is your growth. Just the process of developing requires a lot of energy. People mature at different rates – most obviously physically, but also emotionally, socially, spiritually and intellectually.
Your twenties are a season to press into a specific field and focus on developing a skill. Too many 20-somethings feel an urgency to accomplish a lot. They look at their peers and feel inadequate. My advice is apply yourself, but relax and focus more on getting good opportunities to learn. Apprenticeships are a great way to learn more about a field you’re interested in.
In your thirties, you begin to get traction. You’ve learned enough to be able to make a difference in your chosen field. You use the skills you’ve acquired to get stuff done. If you’re a manager, you’re still learning your craft.
Your forties are a season of learning how to work more effectively with others. Though not everyone is a leader, everyone can influence others and some will rise to the top and help groups move toward goals. Many people will remain behind, stuck in the season of the doer, not able to master the nuance of accomplishing tasks through others.
As you move into your fifties and beyond, age becomes an issue. You’re more aware that “this isn’t about me” and you look for opportunities to give back. Your greatest joy may come not in what you accomplish, but in how you’re able to help others accomplish their goals as you mentor them.
Questions to ask in the season of the learner
1. What information or skills do I need to learn?
2. Who can help me learn?
3. How do I learn best?
4. How can I maximize my learning?
5. How will my learning connect to my purpose?
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Where are you? Have you given much thought to what will help you make the transition to the next level?