In this article, Amelia Kirk talks about the ‘imaginary timeline’ that many of us subconsciously follow. This imaginary timeline can transform the way we approach both our personal and professional lives and can prove to be detrimental to our careers as it is based on societal expectations of women. The article discusses the impact it has and how to let go of the imaginary timeline.
What is the Imaginary Timeline?
If you read my most recent article then you are hopefully familiar with what I mean by the Imaginary Timeline, if not, let me sum it up for you. It is the Imaginary Timeline within which we believe we should have achieved certain milestones in our lives, both personal and professional. Perhaps some of these will sound familiar to you:
I need to graduate from University before I’m 25.
I need to be promoted to a Senior Level by the time I’m 28.
I need to own my own house by the time I’m 30.
It’s too late to start a new career after the age of 25.
I’ll be so far behind if I make a change now.
I believe an Imaginary Timeline is a form of comparison. It is a comparison with society’s perceived ideal for how women should live their lives and behave within their careers. We do not always recognise we have been fed with society’s expectations for so long that we actually succumb to those expectations and start believing it is what we want.
We believe we have to have achieved different milestones by a certain age otherwise, they suddenly will not be as worthy or valuable or somehow less impressive. The Imaginary Timeline can have a significant impact on our confidence, similar to the impact comparison to others can have on us. Rather than celebrate ourselves and our achievements, we downplay them and chastise ourselves for not getting there quicker.
So what can you do?
I want to share with you a few tips to help you start to let go of the imaginary timeline and do things in your own time.
1. Acknowledge that the imaginary timeline is impacting you.
Take a moment to recognise the impact an imaginary timeline has on both your personal and professional life – the way it reflects on you. Increased awareness of yourself can provide you with more choices. So next time you are about to make a decision based on the imaginary timeline, give it another thought and decide what is truly the best thing for you.
2. Keep checking back in on what it is YOU actually want and ask yourself WHY you want it.
What do you want?
How often do you think about your goals and intentions and set aside time to reconnect to them? We get so caught up with chasing the next success on the career ladder that we forget to look back and reflect on our goals and whether it is something we still want or not. Whether it still inspires us and motivates us or not. Every now and then we hear about people finally getting a promotion or title, which they had been working towards for years only to realise that they did not really want. Wouldn’t you love to have figured that out earlier? I know I would as it is exactly what happened to me!
When you take time to think about what you want you should also ask yourself why you want those things.
Why do you want that promotion?
Why do you want that massive wedding?
Why do you want that additional qualification?
Is it something you really want for yourself or do you want it for other people or simply because other people seem to want it?
Take your time to connect with your why!
3. Reflect on what you have achieved in the short term AND long term.
I always encourage clients to reflect on their achievements each week and make sure they acknowledge how they are moving forward whether it is something big or small.
I do this for myself too. Every Friday I write down what I have achieved that week and at the end of the month I write down the things I am most proud of from that month. I love doing it and it helps you be specific otherwise, things can really blur together! It is also proven to improve your confidence so give it a go regularly.
Recently, I realised one step that was missing out, I was looking back over a long-term period to think how far I had come. I usually do this at the end of a year but not regularly.
I noticed that for one of the weeks I had recorded an achievement but I didn’t feel overly proud of it. When I wrote it down it didn’t feel that significant or important an achievement but adding in the context made me really note how much I had grown.
I refer to this as paying attention to your OWN Timeline, not the imaginary timeline. This is how you can truly see your progress and it allows you the freedom to make the right choices for yourself.
Trust in yourself.
Trust in your timing.
Trust in your life.
If you use these 4 steps you can begin to notice where the imaginary timeline is showing up for you and reconnect with what you truly want in life. You can make decisions in line with this and these choices will ultimately lead you to live a happier life on your timeline.
Amelia is a balanced business coach based in London. She works with new & aspiring freelancers to help them transform their mindset so that they can build a business & career from a place of balance. Through helping clients let go of people-pleasing & perfectionism and strengthen their courage & confidence they can build a business that allows them to live a life they truly love. She is passionate about helping women be bold, be brave, and be balanced through her signature program Build with Balance.