Have you ever read one of those books titled something like, “Forty Things to Do Before 40”? If so, you may have ended up feeling like a slacker, very accomplished, or more likely somewhere in between.
We tend to use “age milestones” as artificial check-in points to evaluate our success in life. While I have never ridden in a helicopter or a hot air balloon and I have yet to swim with dolphins, I have traveled extensively, appeared on TV, and have gotten a tattoo. So like most, I fall somewhere in the middle when evaluating myself against these bucket lists of life achievements.
As I celebrate my 40th birthday this week, I have come across a few of these age milestone lists, which for me, hasn’t been about measuring my accomplishments or comparing myself to what others have done by this age. Rather, reading these lists has been a fun reminder of all of the amazing experiences life has to offer. And more importantly, a reminder that life is about the journey and the special connections with the people with whom you share that journey.
The acknowledgement of milestones has a purpose, particularly as a indicator of how quickly time goes by. Birthday milestones are a great time to “check in” with ourselves to ensure that we’re spending our limited time and energy on this Earth by truly living our values and accomplishing what is most important to us.
Rose Kennedy said it best when she stated, “Life is not a matter of milestones, but of moments.” As I reflect back on the experiences I’ve had, it isn’t the fact that I got a tattoo that is memorable, but rather the wacky story of how it happened, which will always make me laugh. It’s not the stamps in my passport that define me, but rather the memories of the journey with family and friends and the moments of laughter, excitement, discovery (and sometimes terror), which stand out. These are the true markers of a life well-lived.
So, while I have yet to milk a cow, spend a night in an ice hotel, or go zorbing (I had to look up that last one), if I decide to do these activities, it will be about the journey and the positive experiences shared in the moment. Life is not a checklist of activities to cross off, but rather a menu of dishes to savor. You may not get to everything, but genuine happiness will always be about the quality, not the quantity. Milestones are a great reminder to slow down and ensure that we are truly relishing life, not just going through the motions to check things off the list.
Why not take a moment to check in with yourself today and ensure that you’re enjoying the journey in whatever way is most meaningful to you?