Life decisions get complicated. So many expectations, so much pressure, so many unknowns. The whirlwind process of choosing a college, a major, and a career path is intense and stressful.
The rest of your life is on the line, right? Don’t mess this up, kid. No pressure. Figure it out. You’re young.
Which major would be more interesting? But which one would lead to a better job? Should you listen to your teacher’s advice? Or your dad’s? Or maybe your neighbor’s? What about financial aid? What’s the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans? Is the debt worth it if you get into your dream school? But what if my credits don’t transfer? Should I add a double major? An extra semester? How about off-campus living? What if you live at home? But what about the college experience? If you take a year off to work, could you save enough money to cover the rest of your degree? But what if you lose out on true freshman scholarships? What’s more important – your major, your GPA, or your alma mater? But does that school have a study abroad program? What if that lousy school offers a better scholarship? Aren’t the classes too big? Isn’t that school too small?
Today, we’re simplifying theses life decisions. Just five questions.
Clarity. Focus. Purpose. Intentionality. Choice.
What would success look like, in your eyes?
It’s different for everyone. Let go of the cultural narrative. Embrace what matters to you.
- “I’d feel successful if I could help people face their issues head-on, and get paid to do it.
- “I want to own a house – no mortgage.”
- “All I want is to travel, all the time, everywhere. Success would mean a location independent career that provided me the funds to criss-cross the globe.”
- “I want to feel important. To be in charge and be needed and be a leader.”
- “A company expense account and a corner office. Done and done.”
- “Success for me is simple. A family and time to be with them.”
- “I want to design my own days. Write my own schedule. Be my own boss.”
- “Can I just create stuff? All day?”
In light of your success vision, what’s your “for now” end goal?
Just look ahead five or ten years. You don’t need to plan out your entire life. In fact, you can’t. Change is inevitable and okay.
- “I want to teach music, cello and piano, to young students. In my own studio.”
- “I’m going to be a lawyer. Human rights.”
- “It sounds crazy, but I want to launch a magazine. Like, a real print magazine for indie writers.”
- “I want to develop apps independently.”
- “All I’ve ever loved is writing, but I’ve realized I like to do it mostly for myself. So, I’d love to teach writing to students who are passionate and invested. I’m flexible – maybe at a high school, maybe college-level, maybe online.”
- “I just started a travel blog. I plan to monetize it and build a travel-writing career. While I travel, of course.”
- “I want a steady job in IT. 9-5 with benefits. Stable and freeing.”
- “I know med school is expensive and intense, but being a doctor is all I’ve ever wanted. Specifically? Radiology.”
- “I want to be a big-hearted life coach for teenage girls struggling with depression.”
To reach your end goal, what skills and experiences do you need to pick up along the way?
Be creative, honest, and realistic all at once. Get rid of “should.” Focus on what is necessary and world-expanding.
- To be a lawyer? During my undergrad, I need to gain practical work experience, make smart connections with professors, and stay out of debt. Next, get into a great law program – for my field, this is crucial, even if it’s expensive. I’ll stay on top of the debt by working part-time at my mom’s company.
- To launch a magazine? Um, I need to master graphic design and clarify my style. Network like crazy. Get an internship in publishing. Brainstorm ways to keep costs low while starting up. Start small. Build hiring and management skills – maybe even by working as a manager at a coffee shop. A crystal clear business plan. More networking.
- To teach writing? I guess I should clarify my goals. If I want to teach college-level writing, I’d need a bachelor’s and a master’s. But to teach online, I don’t even need a degree! I just need to write and write and write. Get published and build a small following. Learn the basics of online course creation and try to understand the tech side. And get out there!
What are you prepared to say NO to?
Because boundaries are clarifying and life-giving and keep you on the right track. Don’t fall off the bandwagon here.
- Dead-end, part-time jobs. For some fields, working at a restaurant or coffee shop is a great way to earn money during school. But for my field, I need to already have lots of valuable work experience in order to be hireable when I graduate. So I need to find entry-level jobs or internships.
- Debt. I want to have the freedom to travel and work on my own projects on the side, so I need to be able to keep my expenses low. If I have a boatload of debt, I’ll have to make decisions based on that…instead of my dreams.
- College. After a bunch of research, I’ve realized that, in my field, my portfolio and work experience matter way more than whether or not I have a degree. I know that’s not true for a lot of people, but for me, those four years would be a waste of time.
- College, for now. I know I want a degree someday, but I’m not ready yet. I want to save money and just live for a little while. A lot of people in my life disagree, but the reality is that getting a college education is riskier and more expensive than it used to be. So, for right now, I’m working at a local non-profit and taking a few online photography courses, just because it’s something I’m passionate about.
- Kids. I’ve seen people go through med school with families and I don’t think I could handle it – emotionally or financially. I’d love to have a family someday, but I don’t think I’ll have the margin to do it well for a few more years.
- Bad advice. I used to let other people’s opinions shape all of my decisions. I felt like I was in the middle of a game of tug-of-war, constantly being pulled between “follow your heart” and “you’ll never make money doing that” and “but don’t you want the college experience” and “well, here’s what I did…”
What’s the first step, the one that will launch you towards your goal in the best way?
People often default to college here. Don’t default to anything. Balance realism and individualism. Forge your own path.
- Instead of getting a minimum wage job this summer, I’m going to spend all of my time on applying to scholarships. Especially niche scholarships.
- I’m going to drop the cash on a coaching call with an expert in my chosen field. I need been-there-done-that advice, and some perspective.
- I’m scared of networking, but I’m going to do it. I’m making a list of the ten newspapers in my area and I’m going to call all of them and ask for an unpaid internship.
- 20 hours a week working at the cafe, 20 hours a week working on my blog. Starting now.
- I need a degree, but it doesn’t need to be from an elite school. So I’m diving into accelerated education. It will feel so good to get this done – with no debt.
- I know someone who was accepted to three Ivy League schools. In my field, my alma mater matters, so I want to take her out to breakfast and get some solid advice.
- I’m going to reach out to an amazing ministry in India. I’m going to offer my photography skills and web design know-how; I’d love to help them get the word out on social media too. I’ll ask for room and board in return.
Remember, your destiny is not determined by your dreams. It’s determined by your decisions. So, take action today. Email me with your next step.