Monday Musings: The Supposed-To Loop and How to Break Free From It

Courtesy of geralt @

Hi, everybody! I’m back from my summer blogging break! How are you guys? Did you go to the beach? Did you graduate? Did your kids graduate? Are you getting your ducks in order?

Reason I ask is today, we’re going to talk about life and the stress associated with it caused by what I like to call the “Supposed-To Loop.”


What’s the Supposed-To Loop?

The Supposed-To Loop is a thought pattern that anybody can get stuck in, but I find that it comes up pretty often with young people who’ve just graduated, aren’t graduating just yet, or are thinking about their life in general. To give an example, let’s say you’ve taken a year off from school then come back and see all your friends in your same class graduating ahead of you. You might be looking at them in their caps and gowns, thinking, “Ugh, man, I was supposed to be with them. I’m supposed to have graduated by now.”

See that “supposed to” phrase in there? That’s the Supposed-To Loop talking to you.

The Supposed-To Loop tells you that you’re supposed to be doing something that your peers are doing because society or any other circumstances are telling you to do it. It’s a recognition of the mismatch between where you are and where you think you should be.

To give another example, maybe you’re recent college grad like me. And maybe you see all your friends with jobs and internships, going up the ladder in their lives, and you’re like, “Ugh, dude. What’s up with me? I’m supposed to have a job by now. I should have my life figured out by now.”

That’s right. Another Supposed-To Loop. Another thought pattern that is trying to tell me that where I am right now is light years behind everyone else.

And let me tell you, dear readers — that kind of thought pattern is very harmful.

Understanding the “Loop” Aspect

I call this train of thought a “loop” is because it can hold you down and prevent you from achieving what you want indefinitely. However, the existence of the Supposed-To Loop is not an entirely bad thing. The desire to graduate, the desire to get published, the desire to get a job and be independent — Those desires aren’t bad to have. The Supposed-To Loop coming up again and again indicates that you have a lot of drive and ambition and want to succeed in life. I mean, who doesn’t, right?

But when your drive and ambition get snuffed out by the pressure you put on yourself to achieve these goals right away, you get caught in a loop. Because you don’t achieve your goals, you feel bad. Because you feel bad, you still don’t achieve your goals. Because you still don’t achieve your goals, you feel even worse and on and on and on.

It’s a vicious, cruel cycle — one that I admit I was caught in. After graduating college, I thought I was “supposed to” get a 9-5 job, get something published; get a driver’s license; move into an apartment, and all these other “adult” things.

Well, guess what?

I became a freelance online tutor four months ago; I have no paid publications (yet); I still don’t have a driver’s license (though I’m working on it); and I’m currently living with my parents.

And I’m not ashamed of any of that.

How did I not become so ashamed of it?

By breaking myself free from it.

Breaking Free in 3 Steps

1. Catch yourself in the Supposed-To Loop every chance you get.

The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that you have one.

And now that you know what the supposed-to loop is and where it can appear, you’re now equipped with the knowledge that will help you get out of that loop before it snuffs your motivation.

Whenever you catch yourself feeling down about yourself or comparing yourself to other people, stop. Take a deep breath. Then take another.

Then remind yourself that you are you and no one else.

2. Accept the fact that everyone’s path in life is different — including yours.

There are seven billion people and counting on this Earth. A great deal of them are newborn babies who will probably grow up and want to be writers, millionaires, artists, and whatever it is that makes them happy. But along the way, something is likely going to happen to those babies that knocks them off course. Some of them might not graduate college at all. Some of them might have to take a temp job to help them take care of their parents. Some of them might not need to do any of this and just head right into the world.

But above all, each and every one of their lives is going to be unique, special, and different.

So it makes absolutely no sense for you and I to be envious of those who we think are “ahead” of us or mourn over what we didn’t accomplish right away. And even then, your “behind” might be someone’s else’s “ahead,” so comparing yourself to others is just not productive.

But you know what is productive?

Cultivating self-awareness.

3. Take your time.

You have a whole lifetime ahead of you to figure out what makes you happy. Take your time; figure things out. And if your plans don’t go the way that you intended for them the first time, don’t mourn over it. Keep going at your own pace. Readjust if necessary. Take the progress that you can get instead of mourning over the progress you don’t get. Be true to yourself.

Make no mistake. I still want to get paid and published, and all those other “adult” things. But it’s not productive for me to be envious of those who are ahead of me or mourn over what I didn’t accomplish right away. I’m taking my time in my own way to figure out my life.

And so should you.

Stay true to you, dear readers.

And as always, I’ll see you on the next post.


I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s