Why Most 20-Somethings Never Achieve Their Potential & What To Do About It
I've just wrapped up 4 weeks of leading the Ready To Rise Mentorship Program for ambitious students. I've really enjoyed coaching these young adults and helping them make the big decisions over what they'll do next in life.
Over the years, my students and friends have taught me that the biggest hurdle to pursuing a career we love is usually not what other people think of us. It's ourselves. We stop themselves from even dreaming up the kind of lives we want to live because we don't believe it will happen.
It's not that we don't have enough time (Most of us are only in our in 20's!). It's not that we don't have enough money (we could make it).
It's that we don't even think it's possible.
We box ourselves into programs and structures and then wonder why our lives feel constricted. It starts out with really small decisions, but over time becomes a big fucking fence.
It starts in high school when we're trying to decide what we should do next. Rather than considering all that we could do and want to do - we go straight to the university prospectus and see what program looks closest too what we desire. Its like marrying someone someone you picked out from a catalogue instead of getting out there, dating and seeing what works for you.
When it comes to our work life, we don't go for our desires and dreams. We settle for what we think we could get. Why is that?
At some point between ages 5-15, the proverbial "what do you want to do?" question became code for "are you going to do something that I consider socially acceptable and financially viable?"
If we proposed something too creative or too ambitious, they shut our ideas down and told us do to something more "practical." Rinse and repeat and by the time we're 18, our imaginations are a fraction of what they could have been.
When I was in university, I remember feeling exciting when January rolled around because it was time to explore what I wanted to do that summer! My friends in co-op programs felt very different because they HAD to find a job or else they’d get kicked out of the program. I’d spend months googling and talking to people who had traveled abroad or done interesting internships, learning about how I could do it for myself, while my peers would be on the job boards and stressing about application deadlines.
They didn’t necessarily do anything wrong but I had more adventurous summers and traveled to 21 countries over the last 3 years while getting paid for most of it.
They got caught in a university education system that’s designed to keep them hostage. They sold their freedom for the security of having a job upon graduation.
When I decided that I wanted to travel in university, I looked for opportunities, found them, and booked my ticket. I’ve noticed that my friends stuck in the system never even allow themselves to consider the options.
You always have a choice though and at any give time, you are the master of your fate. When we get too caught up in the daily hustle and bustle, we forget that we determine the outcome of our lives.
You live your life. Your life doesn’t live you.
You need the seed of an idea though. You need to break the mental-shackles of system-incest and dream first.
How do we open the flood gates of our imagination?
1. Brainstorm with categories.
What would you LOVE to do you want to do this summer? *The question is not what CAN you do, but what would you LOVE to do.*
In 3 years?
What do you want to be doing in 10 years?
What do you want to create?
Who do you want to be?
What do you want to experience?
What do you want to have?
Make a giant list (or a mind map) of everything comes to mind. Let it rip and riff. It doesn’t matter if you can’t think of everything you want to do now, the point is to start dreaming and imagining. I found that I’ll have one idea that excites me on one day. I’ll hold onto it. A week later, I’ll discover something that sparks a bigger, bolder, and even exciting idea.
Like, I want to keep exploring the world. Wouldn’t it be cool if I ran retreats one day? Wouldn’t it be cool if I ran a series of retreats around the world one day? Wouldn’t it be cool if I did yoga + life affirming + career empowering stuff at retreats one day?
It starts with the little one idea. But Instead of squashing it, let it grow.
Your brain is a muscle and the more you exercise it, the better it gets at creating new neuron connections. Your passion is a muscle too and the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets (and the more likely you are to be able to make a living off it).
2. Decide how you want to feel.
How do you want to feel in life? What do you need to do to feel that way?
When people say they want to travel, what they really want is to feel free. Freedom is a state of mind. It’s how you frame your life and your future. I’ve been happy in my background and moping in Greece, so I know that changing your external environment is never the solution. You have to change your mind.
We set goals and create bucket lists, but we don’t actually want the end goal. We want to feel how we think that goal will make us feel. I want to see the Northern Lights because I think it will make me feel awestruck, connected to the universe and free. So I do little things today, like working laying on the grass in my backyard to begin creating the life I want today. Getting clear on how you want to feel first is the best way to make decisions on next steps.
3. My all time favourite mind-blasting tactic.
I’m regularly amazed by how much I learn through simple Google searches. I’ll stumble across something and an idea gets planted. One idea builds on another and a dozen Google searches later, I uncover a treasure trove of people living wildly courageous and unconventional lives (the kind of life I want to be living, so, bingo. Virtual mentors. Inspiration. Fuel for the imagination. )
I’m not the type to spend my time watching funny videos of cats a and I can’t say I’ve missed out on much. On the other hand, I’ve learned a hundred times more what I learnt in university from reading blogs and useful articles.
4. Decide you can too.
Creating a life and a career that you love starts with a personal decision. We can’t always reply on people in our social circles to do the validating for us because everyone has their own set of subconscious limiting beliefs. Well meaning friends may be just as conditioned by their family and past teachers to believe in the religion of Get a Good Job First And Figure Out What You Want After (Or Never). Some people may encourage you and will shut you down.
In my experience going through this mental metamorphosis from impossible to it’s totally possible, it can take months for the people come around. Before you share your idea with too many people, I recommend finding people who are doing what you love and learn everything you can about how they did it. Strengthen your belief in yourself and in the realistic-ness of your ideas.
“Some people say that I have an attitude- Maybe I do. But I think that you have to. You have to believe in yourself when no one else does- that makes you a winner right there.”
Believe in your abilities first, and you’ll attract the people who also believe in you.
So what's your impossible dream? Tell me in the comments below! It might sound impossible to others, but you can be sure that I believe in you. :)
With Google & Goodness,