The Problem With Age-Based Goals and How to Set Your Own
Let's not talk about what I should do before I'm 30.
Don't Tell Me What to Do by the Time I Turn 30: The Problem With Aged-Based Goals
If one more person tells me when to have children, when to get married, or when to buy a house, I might just lose it. The pressure I put on myself is barely manageable, but peeping Tom's who are staring into my life (and my age) are not welcomed.
I've noticed a huge influx of aged-based goals in the form of articles, how-to's, and even social media posts. While they aren't yelling at me personally, it feels like an ominous internet voice is hinting that I'm not doing enough with my life and my 27 years on earth have been a waste of space and time.
So, I've taken it upon myself to critique some of the content I've had the "pleasure" of witnessing in the new year.
What Are Aged-Based Goals?
What I mean when I say "aged-based goals" is simple. You've seen the lists, "40 Things to Do Before You Turn 40". A publication, writer, or author is urging you to accomplish subjective goals before you reach a certain age. They're usually skewed younger, aiming content at the millennial woman who might be more inclined to click on an article telling them what they should be accomplishing by a certain age.
A quick Google search proves that there are tons of articles on such topics:
20 Things to Do Before You Turn 20 from HerCampus
Teenage Bucket List: 20 Things to Do Before You're 20! from Huffington Post
20 Things to Do Before You Turn 30 to Live Your Best Life from MyDomaine
30 Things You Have To Check Off Your Bucket List Before Turning 30 from Thought Catalog
30 Things to Do Before You Reach 30 from Career Girl Daily
The Before You're 40 Bucketlist from Relevant
50 Things Everyone Should Do Before They're 50 by Reader's Digest
10 Things Everyone Should Do Before Turning 60 by Next Avenue
Making a List of Things to Do Before Turning 60 by Aging Options
And the list goes on and on and on. You'll notice that as the age range climbs, the content shifts. I guess by the time you reach 60 you should have accomplished a whole bunch of life goals and now you must take advice from publications like Aging Options. The aged-based goal content certainly feels more scarce as you add years on to your life, a problem the older generation has witnessed in digital content across the web.
While it might seem harmless to read (or be inspired by) a set of goals that include "try a shorter hair cut" or "watch every film on the AFI Top 100," these lists can cause unnecessary stress and reinforce a competitive nature that is so unimportant in our world today.
The Problem With Aged-Based Goals
I have a birthday looming as I write this piece, which makes this article more timely than usual.
I turn to certain publications for inspiration; I seek out creativity from other writers; I read content I want to emulate or celebrate; and I find solace in connecting with something that is either personal to me or a foreign topic that I can learn from. Reading articles like "30 Things to Do Before Turning 30" is not one of them.
Frankly, I don't need a list (or rather, multiple lists) telling me what to accomplish before an arbitrary age. I already add enough pressure to myself to know what I want, or "need," to accomplish before another trip around the sun. As a millennial, there are many goals or life events that seem out of the realm of possibility that a cute reminder in pink font isn't a welcomed addition to my world.
Even Taylor Swift, jumped in to share "30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30", a list that shortly went viral. It's safe to say Taylor Swift and I have a few things in common, so reading a piece wherein she celebrates learning that "vitamins make me feel so much better" is certainly a daft way to spend my free time.
And why are we reinforcing age-based goals? Haven't we strayed away from old school theories that were once thrusted upon older generations? You must have kids before you turn [enter age here]. You must have this much money in your 401k by the time you turn [insert age here]. What if I don't have kids till I'm 40 or don't leave the country till I'm 70?
These colorful goals can do more harm than good, shoving facts in your face that might never come to fruition or cast blame on yourself if you haven't accomplished said thing by your next birthday. Such goals are not concrete, they differ greatly from one another and if it doesn't bring you joy, listen to Marie Kondo and bid it farewell.
I can't speak for everyone but it seems that we are so infatuated with other people's perception of time, aging, and goals that we are poised to compare ourselves to such lists. If you haven't landed your dream job before 30, what does that mean for you in relation to these lists? You're screwed? Pack up your bags now and retreat?
What if you don't want to travel the world alone? Or read a certain book? I can tell you I never want to know how to knit, I'm simply not interested in it. It might be easy to say, "well don't read them then!" But when you come across a title that suggests you change something that you can't control (say, "find a mentor") it's infuriating and exhausting. Just another reminder of something you haven't attained but your peers may have.
So I implore you to make your own goals, stick to them if that makes you happy, but take the advice from the internet with a grain of salt. You should accomplish what you want to accomplish, when you decide to do so. As women, age and its implications seem to follow us wherever we go, but it doesn't have to and age-based goals shouldn't either.
This is a friendly reminder, maybe a daily reminder, that you should do what you want, when you want while making yourself happy.
How To Set Your Own Goals
Don't put age constraints on your goals. If you want to run a marathon, do it at your own speed, not before you turn a certain age.
Write it all down. Write in on paper, in your phone, or type it out because doing so might increase the chances of them coming true.
Do not, I repeat, do not compare your goals to others. If your annoying friend wants to lose two pounds by going to a yoga retreat where all they eat is tree bark, but all you want to do is make it through Thanksgiving without crying, then so be it! Your goals are yours, that's the beauty about them.
Set attainable goals. This seems like a no-brainer, but if you start with something you can accomplish, then your goals can snowball. You have to start on the ground floor when working your way up to the penthouse—a phrase I just made up, but sounds really interesting.
Your goals should be a guideline to life, not a rule book. Live your life and do what makes you happy, even if it's sitting on your couch all weekend watching Bravo. That's a lofty goal that sounds amazing.
Let's Keep the Conversation Going...
What are your thoughts on age-based goals? We want to hear from you!