Dealing With The Intense Pressure to Succed After College (especially when you have people to take care of)

I am the first of seven kids in a low income family. My family went into debt sending me to school and now that I have graduated college, it is up to me to take care of the family. Needless to say, the pressure to make something of myself and to make increasing amounts of money every year is high.

But I am just a normal 23 year old trying to figure life out. Looking for a balance between providing for my family and making a difference. The pressure is insane. I am always making hasty decisions that come back to bite me because of this pressure. 

For example, almost always, I chose opportunities that will help me make money in the short term above more long term and potentially better ones because my family has immediate needs.

However, a few months ago, I made the life changing realization that I was constantly messing up because of all the pressure I was under. I was suffering from burn out and decision fatigue and made rash and unnecessary decisions such as quitting my job (a job I actually liked). Quitting at the time felt like an escape. It felt like the only choice I had but looking back now, I could have waited a few more months.

Once I realized that the expectation to make a lot of money and make a name for the family was killing me (quite literally because of my increased blood pressure), I made some of the following changes. These things have alleviated most of the pressure but I am still a work in progress.

1. Letting go of what is not in my control

I can predict outcomes based on patterns but cannot control them. A professional athlete can never guarantee what will happen in a match. A coach cannot promise to have an unbeaten season. A doctor cannot promise that the patient will recover. A farmer cannot make it rain but he plants anyway and he hopes. 

I felt as if I was working my fanny off but there was nothing guaranteed and so I hopped from one thing to another looking for something more secure. I wanted to see tangible results and some validation that I was on the right track because people were depending on me and I really did not have time to waste. And that is how I wound up wasting a ton of time looking for guarantees.

Once I realized that God wired the world to work in patterns and seasons but not certainties, it has become easier to breathe. I have stopped quitting too soon and begun to make better decisions. I know that if I do the research, work hard enough and long enough, there will be results. It is not up to me to know when, I just have to give my best.

2. Consequences impede your performance

This one I heard from a lawyer called Tony Gorry. He gave the example of walking across a wooden plank that was just a few inches from the ground. You would have no difficulty walking across. It would be really easy. However you wouldn’t be able to walk across that same plank put a few miles from the ground.

Your mind quickly assesses the situation and does everything in its power to keep you from getting on that plank. Your feet become more wobbly, your vision blurred, your heart beats faster and you are almost guaranteed to fail. Yet the task is exactly the same, walk across the plank. Focusing on what would happen if you fail makes it harder to actually do anything.

In order to give myself the best chance at success and reduce the pressure on me, I need to attend to the process, not the outcome. I was not thinking about the drop from a few inches off the ground and I breezed through. That is also the only way I can do it from a few miles.

Whenever I am working on a project, I do not need to worry about what will happen if I do not make enough money for my family’s rent and utilities. It only serves a distractions that my competitors do not have. I need to focus on the task at hand and doing it excellently.

3. Take charge of what is within my control

Once I stop focusing on the outcome that is out of my control anyway, I put my energy in preparing well and giving my best. I like the saying, ‘do your best and let God do the rest.’ That is my motto when it comes to projects. 

Sometimes I work really hard and my work does not meet the criteria and I am not paid and sometimes I work really hard and I take home a good paycheck. So is life. 

I just need to always give myself the best possible chance by being prepared every single time. Success is when opportunity meets preparation. I know that once you have suffered several failures and rejection, it is often hard to pick yourself up again, but you have to be resilient.

Find the strength to give your all again and again without getting sloppy. Professional athletes can take a beating all season but they have to show up to every game motivated to conjure up some magic on the field. No matter who the opponent is.

They may be in bad shape and using all the wrong strategies, but you have to hand it to them for always picking themselves up and trying something else until they win at least a game. 

They cannot control who will win the game, but they can control how they prepare and what frame of mind they are in. 

Give yourself the best possible chance to get as far as you can possibly get with all that is available to you. I am not able to buy a blogging or freelance writing course but I can use my research skills and critical thinking to find out everything I possibly can from all the free resources available on the internet.

You need to set yourself up for success however you can. That is your only job. The outcome is not your business. You learn from your failures and you make changes and you keep going. Focus on doing your best, not on getting the best result the soonest. 

4. Patience

It is a good thing that we want to be successful, but we need to let go of unrealistic and insane timelines. I now know that everyone is operating on a different timeline and no matter how badly I need my time to be now, that is not within my control. 

I want to be able to repay all my family’s debts. I want to buy them a house and pay tuition for my siblings. I want to pay off my student loan and make enough to give to the poor of the world. I want these things so badly. But I cannot have them right now. Not just yet.

There are things that I can do to make it sooner but not overnight. Success takes time and in between now and then, we have to endure. That is the reality that is not on social media. That instant success is an anomaly, not the norm. 

Life is meant to be enjoyed and I believe that. But joy is not the absence of difficulty. Happy and difficult are not mutually exclusive as I heard from The Village. We can enjoy and endure. We can hope and be content. We can work towards something and stand to smell the roses. 

When I understood that everything worthwhile takes time, I was able to work on my blog and my writing with more ease. It is okay for my family to struggle right now. It won’t always be like this.