I had a chat earlier this week with someone I’m mentoring and he asked me a very paradoxical question and he wasn’t the first, “Why I’m I stuck when everybody else seems to be moving forward and succeeding?”
He felt that he was a failure despite being more educated and earning more money than some of his peers who somehow with less income and education qualifications, are renting good apartments, driving cars and raising families.
This type of anxiety is very real and increasingly high among most young people below 35 years old today especially in Uganda. They believe earning more should automatically make them more successful than their peers earning less, which is debatable because the metrics for measuring success can highly defer even if having money is considered a core factor in developing countries.
The reason why they feel this way can range from different causes such as depression, pressure from peers and family, low self-esteem, the fear that time is running out and comparing oneself to others despite the difference in background and opportunities.
You probably earn more than someone out there, but you maybe stuck with a lot of debts or you still live in your parent’s house and whenever you try to leave you feel like the world keeps throwing rocks at you.
If you feel this way, truthfully the world does not hate you and you are not cursed or being bewitched by a rival, the person you feel is better off than you just has different priorities from yours.
How are priorities related to being stuck?
Priorities motivate your performance and influence much of how you spend. For instance, John in could earn $500 and rent a house, pay utility bills and it would seem like he is living comfortably compared to Tom who earns $2,000.
The reason behind this is Tom’s dreams or goals might inspire his priorities. He may want to own a Benz which is expensive to purchase and maintain; rent a house that costs close to $1,000; hangout every night and spend on expensive liquor, buy expensive clothes and so much more.
He is living the life, after all; Y.O.L.O they said but his priorities require more money, which he doesn’t have and he’s not reaching despite the many times he saves. He occasionally may even borrow just to sustain his lifestyle.
Whereas John probably rides a motorbike or uses public transport to work, rents a cheaper house, hangouts once a month and saves much of his money. Heck, 70% of the people in town and work may not even know John’s net worth because he keeps a low profile.
John’s disposable income may seem more to Tom even when he earns less because he plans and spends based on his priorities. He knows he has less but has important goals to achieve. Some people who earn more money tend to spend more than they save because of the perception of long term job security and consistent earnings.
So, when Tom looks at John, he seems to have his life in order despite any other personal problems he might face. In retrospect, many would consider Tom to be more successful because he will be happier, he will save and buy his own house or an efficient affordable car, look after a family and start a side business.
In this case, “earning more money” doesn’t necessarily mean that you are more successful. Being stuck isn’t always about the resources, more often than not it is because people plan and focus on priorities that are too far out of their reach.
There might be a solution – work your way around steadily
Take a step back to breathe and slow down a little. Sometimes we go at life so first we forget to actually live it. Adjust your priorities to fit within your means and time, grow with your ability so that you don’t bite more than you can chew.
I tell most of the people I lead to strike a balance between – not too comfortable and not too hasty. Steady progress is built on strong foundations such as working your way up through the hierarchy of needs as described by Abraham Marslow such as starting with being able to maintain rent for 6 months or more and affording essential amenities like food, water and health care.
Plan and arrange your priorities in a hierarchy; maybe after the above, your next goal is to buy land, build a good house or buy an affordable car. The first goal later becomes part of your routine and within reach, you slowly add your next milestone to be achieved that will drive your creativity, saving culture and growth in career or business.
You are not competing with anyone, slowing down, focusing on you and having your life together might get you where you want to be faster than those you envy for getting to the same place earlier but end up forgetting to tie their shoe laces and stumble on their feet.
Remember, failure is not a life sentence nor should it be a public shame. We all fail at some point and it is how we learn to be better at we do so embrace and learn from it. There will always be respect for those who can manage their ordeals and build sustainable long-term achievements.
It is of no use buying an expensive car only to end up in debt and lose it along with your house later. Take your time to assess where you want to be and what is the steadiest comfortable pace for you to get going, the rest will fall in line.
We need to start being less impulsive and envious – and more critical to our own needs and goals.
I originally wrote this article on LinkedIn.
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Lawrence writes about tech, lifestyle, politics, business, crypto and occasionally entertainment. He writes for Newslibre and Spur Magazine while consulting with numerous international companies on strategy, community management and marketing.
He has contributed to the journalism, open source, film, youth, web, Andela and Mozilla communities.