I turned 34 (and this blog turned 4) this past Sunday. It’s that funny age when if you see a group of pretty 18-year old girls on the train, you’re not sure if you’re attracted to them, completely annoyed at their needlessly dramatic conversation, impressed that you know all of their pop culture references, shocked that you could actually be their dad, or all four.
Beyond that high comedy, people asked me how I felt turning 34 to which I replied with, “It feels great. No different than yesterday did.”
I know there’s another subset of people who turn away from the stress of birthdays like they were the flash of a nuclear bomb because of what this turn of the calendar means in their greater life’s story. They think:
I’m in the same place I was last year. The same place I said I wouldn’t be. I should change something.
Birthdays end up being reminders of what they’re not doing with their lives.
How To Fix This
When you leave life’s check-ins and reflections solely for the yearly mark, you let the burden of grandiose change be the reason you can’t make the unceremonious first steps.
Note: Your mind and body will not align in some Mayan super PAC of transformation just because it’s been exactly X years since your birth.
Wait But Why had a great piece looking at your life in weeks.
I’m not suggesting you run around telling people that you’re doing away with the yearly thing and demanding that people now say that you are 1,768 weeks old, but whether you’re 34 years, 408 months, 1,768 weeks or 12,410 days old, it’s all arbitrary when it comes to change.
So make your changes mini.
Tectonic life change never comes in an instant, or because you’ve summoned it, or because someone told you to have “the best year ever.” No, it comes in the tiny thing you do differently for more days in a row than one.
You can do anything, just not by tomorrow.
I know I wrote about this on Jan 1 but my birthday is pretty much as far away from that other societal day of change, so I felt we could all use the reminder.
If there’s any one thing that I’ve taken away from my 34th year on the planet, it’s the power of consistency.
My 39-year old brother told me a story earlier this year that has stuck with me. He has always been someone who lives in the present with an ever youthful attitude. When he was interviewing for a teaching position at a new, prestigious international high school in Thailand earlier this year, the principal asked him, “Lastly, in 5 words explain where you are professionally and in life right now,” to which my brother said without a hitch, “Where I want to be.”
Where. I. Want. To. Be.
He’s always seemed to be there no matter what he was doing.
He couldn’t have said that without dedication, without consistency, without intentionality, without being present on a daily basis, year in and year out.
He got the job on the spot.
Don’t worry about what you’re going to do differently in your new birthday year. In the end, whatever you say will be a pipe dream. Worry about what you’re going to do differently today, this morning, this moment, so that an infinitesimal spark can eventually turn into what looks like lightning in a bottle at a time you didn’t see coming, in a moment you never dreamed up, on an average Wednesday when no one was looking.