“You’re aware of the limits of time. There’s a fixed number of hours and time continues no matter what you’re doing. You can be lost in reflection of what was and could have been, never to regain that time, or you can look ahead and plan for a better future. It’s up to you.”
I wrote this recently for one of my daily inspirational messages. I have made this a daily practice, as part of starting my day with reflection, allowing myself to become emotionally grounded and my thoughts focused before I plug into technology and begin work. The reason I wrote it was simple, I’m reaching a milestone birthday this year and it has prompted a great deal of reflection, almost to the point at time I find myself thinking too much about the past and taking a proverbial trip down memory lane. I understand why it would be easy to develop feelings of regret, and more importantly, how doing this for so long can prevent a person from moving forward both mentally and emotionally.
I also then thought about the converse. What does it mean to reach the pinnacle of your life? At what point do you consider yourself to have reached the plateau of your life’s mission? Is it related to a career, your life’s purpose, both elements, or something more? Is it age-based? How do you know when you can finally state “This is as good as my life is ever going to get”? The challenge to ever achieving this pinnacle is a matter of being stuck at the bottom of your life, and by that, I mean always look behind you, at the past and thinking about the “should have been” or “could have been”.
When you view your life from the lens of the past, what it does is to put you in a mentally stagnant frame of mind, perhaps without even knowing it, in which you are not looking ahead or planning for a new or better future. The past cannot help you, as the learning you needed already occurred, and what will help you evolve is ahead of you. If you ever find yourself feeling stuck in reverse, wishing you could learn to look ahead, or unsure how to develop a strategy for mapping out the purpose of your life, then perhaps what you’ll read can help you begin to change gears and move ahead.
What it Means to Reach the Pinnacle in Life
First, I wanted to establish a working definition of what it means to be at the pinnacle of a person’s life. I thought this would be helpful for myself, as I’m thinking now about the future and determining how my life’s purpose is being fulfilled. What I believe the pinnacle in life to be is the apex or culmination of the best of who you are and will become, which includes the honed talents and skills developed, the knowing and understanding of self, the ease of sharing your expertise with others, and overall wisdom acquired. I do not believe age is always a determining factor, rather it is a matter of time and experience that brings about the growth, along with a willingness to listen and learn.
Do I believe I’ve reached my own pinnacle in life? Absolutely not. I still find myself in the process of fulfilling a life’s mission and at this point in time I can state I know what this mission is, and more importantly, I am doing everything possible to fulfill it. In other words, I’m living a life of meaning and I’m still on the way to the pinnacle. For me, it’s about the journey. My attitude can be summed up as “Yes I’m moving forward with my life and growing”. If I was continually looking back instead of ahead, I might have a mindset that believes “Yes I should consider the future but there are events which happened and I need to keep thinking about it.”
It doesn’t really seem a career or a job title is a defining aspect of person reaching for the apex of their life, or indicate they have achieved their full life purpose. For example, you could be an executive and at the peak position within your organization, and still not feel personal fulfillment about life, always looking back at past decisions in regret. I’ve known individuals without jobs or careers, along with those who were in the same position for most of their career and had not advanced, and they all felt extremely satisfied, fulfilled, and living their full potential. That’s why I believe a job or career alone is not enough of a basis to state you have reached the apex of your life.
Stages of Development to Reach the Pinnacle
What I’ve done is to break down the natural stages a person is likely to experience as they progress in life. Most people are not going to be aware of how they are progressing, unless they are involved in some form of reflective practice and intentionally attempting to pursue self-development. Since you are reading this information now, it indicates at some level you are interested in your ongoing development, and this can spark discovery and further progression in your life.
Cycles of Trial and Error: There are common cycles of trial and error many people experience as they progress through life. One of the most common is the transition from high school into adulthood. This is a time of exploration and there isn’t always a clear path present upon graduation, which means it can take many attempts to find the right direction to follow. Some may explore their options through college, others will enter the workforce. This can involve a number of starts and stops, moving from one job or career to the next, and these cycles of trial and error may not always be planned. It’s possible there are unplanned incidents along the way, such as a job loss, and with all events, learning will occur.
Learning and Discovery: As you progress through life, and you learn, you are also going through a process of discovery. This can occur with every cycle of trial and error, and it also takes place as you gain knowledge, acquire skills, relocate, change jobs, learn about your preferences, and find out what aspects of your life you want to change. Whether these moments of discovery are satisfying or otherwise, you are learning more about yourself and this will lead to a greater self-awareness, which is necessary to progress in life.
Self-Awareness: Awareness often occurs incrementally, as no one is ever fully aware of who they are becoming until they are faced with the reality of who they’ve become, and they either want to accept or change it. This is a process of developing and refining personal identities, which may also happen more than one time throughout a person’s life. Early in life there is more of pre-occupation with moving forward and exploring options, while reacting to circumstances, than initiating intentional introspection. Identities are usually formed according to roles assumed, such as a job, or taking on the role of a spouse, parent, and so on. As you become aware of yourself as a person, and develop an identity, you begin to clarify your purpose and interests.
Reflection and Growth: I’ve found the times when I was most engaged in self-reflection occurred after triggering events, and I believe this is common for many people. For example, the death of someone close to you can prompt a time of internal reflection about life and past events. This is also true for other events such as divorce, job loss, and anything which is deeply personal in nature. Reflection becomes beneficial when it is used to look forward with a renewed sense of hope, and a better understanding of how to proceed in a purposeful manner. When this occurs, personal growth is certain to follow. Growth is also the result of learning, discovery, and developing self-awareness. It may not always come about in the easiest manner, especially if life lessons were challenging, but growth helps lead to an awakening.
Awakening and the Pinnacle: A personal awakening is the phase in life I believe I’ve been at for the past few years, as I’ve clarified my purpose in life, engaged in reflection, and really understand what future direction I should be focused on. What’s been wonderful about being in this time of awakening, knowing that I’m still to achieve the apex or pinnacle of my life, is a job came along two years ago which matched my purpose and mission. Now I feel this greater sense of fulfillment, and it was the sense of awakening which came first, then the job. In other words, I didn’t use a job to define the progress in my life, or get stuck looking back. This is what moving towards the apex of your life should be about, awakening to an understanding of your full purpose and what will provide you with the greatest fulfillment.
How to Prompt an Awakening to Remove Mental Barriers
How you progress in life is dependent upon your state of mind first and foremost. Often what occurs is happening at a subconscious level, as to decisions and reactions. There will be times of reflection and moments when you may get stuck from a mindset perspective. For example, feelings of regret can sideline progress, as long as you continue to dwell on past events or decisions made. What follows are a few basic strategies to help you any time you would like to prompt self-development and continue progress towards the apex or pinnacle in your life.
Daily Mindset Tune-Up: Every day you will find it helpful to start with a positive frame of reference. This is more than just reading affirmations; it’s about setting a positive tone for the day. This is one of the reasons why I write and post daily messages. I want to provide something that causes a feeling of being inspired, as a positive message can help set the tone for your entire day. What follows are two examples of what I’ve written and shared.
“There’s no limit to what life can teach you. Whether through time and experience, or trial and error, the lessons to be learned are infinite. The primary barrier to growth is an attitude of inflexibility and unwillingness to adapt. If you want to grow, you’ve got to learn.”
“The person you become is your decision. You can remain exactly as you are and never change. That’s your choice. But you can also give yourself time to acquire knowledge, skills, and opportunities that allow you to learn. Learning leads to discovery and that leads to growth.”
Use a Springboard When You Get Stuck: If you ever find yourself thinking about the past, or taking a trip down memory lane and you don’t return back to the present mentally, then try a technique I’ve learned called the Springboard. What you first do is to not blame, disparage, or use any form of negative wording with yourself. Instead, you want to immediately reframe what you are thinking. For example, if you are thinking about a past decision, ask yourself the following question: What do I now want to do to ensure I have a better future? There are many similar questions to ask, including: What actions can I take to work towards making better decisions? The purpose is to spring forward from thinking about the past to the present, and then forward into the future where your apex is located.
Reflection and Planning: The last set of suggestions I can make involve intentional work on your part, moving from subconsciously allowing life to unfold and events to lead you, to taking control of how you progress. There are two methods you can use to accomplish this goal. The first is to develop a regular practice of reflection. I know it may sound complex and involve meditation, which it doesn’t need to if you are looking for something simpler. You can start or end the day by gathering your thoughts for just a few minutes. This allows you to check in with yourself and clear out any mental clutter, which is especially helpful if you have been getting stuck lately. The other suggestion is to engage in a process of purposeful planning, whether it’s for your life or your career. If you are concerned about reaching the apex of your life, or at least continuing to make progress, you’ll find it helpful to establish a plan for development of your goals.
Your Life is a Limitless Time of Progress
Reaching the pinnacle of your life is not something you have to be focused on or worried about, as it will come about or evolve in time. However, the time to be concerned is when you find yourself stuck in a mode of thinking about the past, worried about past decisions, events, or circumstances you can never go back and change. Even if you could go back and change one past decision or action taken, how do you know with certainty you would take a different action?
The number of elements that come together to produce the culmination of where you are at in life right now cannot be explained, nor can you ever begin to understand which decision, action, or event was responsible for leading you to this point. In other words, you’ve reached today and the only mindset that will serve you well is to understand you are on a journey of limitless progress and you should make the most of it by always trying to learn from it.
Every day presents an opportunity to start anew, to gain greater awareness of your purpose and life’s mission. Eventually you’ll understand what it will take to reach your pinnacle, and until then, give yourself time for self-discovery, self-development, and mindset maintenance to improve your well-being. There’s no race to the top, only a need to prevent yourself from getting stuck at the bottom. The greater clarity you gain about yourself in time, the more satisfying your life will become, as you will be living according to a well-defined mission that is deeply personal and satisfying for you.