There is a sea of media for you to be reading, listening to, and looking at right now, so thanks for clicking on this little blog post. And I know you’re busy running to your next class— or maybe looking to skip it, or maybe you said screw classes right after you graduated high school and you’re off to start your shift. (Side note, if that’s the case, you are awesome and I’m giving you a virtual fist bump for knowing what’s best for yourself at such a young age.) Regardless of what you’re up to, I want to keep this post short and sweet since I know you have a lot to do.I am 27 and I am going to be 28 this June. June also happens to be my 10 year high school graduation anniversary. Since this is a big milestone for me, it really got me thinking about everything I learned in the past 10 years and what I wish I knew sooner. Unfortunately, I can’t go back in time and teach myself what I know now, so I thought it would be fulfilling to share some of my wisdom in hopes that even one late teen or early 20 something will read it. Honestly, I could probably write a book about all of the lessons I learned from 20 to now, but I promised to keep the list short and sweet. So here we go, these are the top 3 things I wish I was told before getting into my early 20s:
1. Dream big but, more importantly, get the dreams out of your head ASAP.
How often do you find yourself talking about your dreams and goals rather than making action on them? My guess is that’s the case for many of you. Now I am not here to scold, because I personally didn’t bother writing down a single goal I had until I was 24. But that’s the point of this post.. don’t make my mistakes! To be fair, I did make the decision at 17 to defy all of the warnings and pursue my degree in Graphic Design, but besides that, I wasn’t capturing my goals onto paper for several years. So here is the secret to why this is key:
Statistics have shown that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals once you’ve written them down.
And I’m happy to tell you that statistic isn’t romantically optimistic Millennial talk because I am living proof of that number. Back in mid 2014, I realized I wasn’t fulfilled in my graphic design job and wanted to shift into UI/UX Design. I also had a few other working goals I wanted to hit, and recently read a tip somewhere that I should write them down. (Looking back, I think it was a story about Jim Carrey writing himself a million dollar check and not a Huffington Post article statistic. But I digress.) I figured there wasn’t much to lose, so I wrote out a list of things I wanted to achieve in my 20s. They included: Become a UI/UX Designer; become a Youtuber; and work for a tech company as a UI/UX Designer. For each of those goals, I went into as much detail as I could, and then I put my head down to begin the work to get there.
I am 99% positive I lost the list within a few days of writing it, but within six months everything changed. I was minding my business at my current day job when I suddenly got a recruitment message on LinkedIn for a web designer interview. In that interview, I said how UX Design was my true goal, knowing they had a position open. Long story short, I felt like I may not be able to convince them on paper to give me the UX job, but I felt confident in my ability to persuade them in person.
I had been working on building my UX skills and portfolio, and being able to speaking passionately about the work I was doing landed me the job I actually wanted. Even though the company wasn’t in the tech space, it still gave me the coveted UX Designer title. With a new career path ahead of me, I spent the next year honing my skills only to have magic strike once again.
Like with the first opportunity, I got another recruitment message. But this time it was for a UI/UX Designer opportunity at the top tech company in my area. I landed the job a few weeks later. But wait, it gets better: while all of the design work was churning, I had also been dabbling in filming YouTube videos. That took a little time to get off the ground, but once I realized what I wanted to talk about, I got nearly 6,000 subscribers in a year.
It’s true that I am still a small YouTuber, but that number is far larger than I ever thought possible. Ultimately, getting the ideas out of my head proved to be the key to making them feel real. Of course, it’s important to note that a significant amount of work went behind my goals; however, I wasn’t taking massive action on them until the day I put my dreams out into a physical form. Looking back on my journey, I feel extremely blessed to have achieved all of those goals from 24 to 27, and this brings me to my next point.
2. Write down your goals, stamp some dates on them, and then forget about the dates entirely.
Why do you ask? Because living in your 20s is way more important than boxing them into a suffocating timeline. Do not get me wrong, having your sight set on the things you want most is crucial, but putting yourself under the pressure that you must have them complete by a certain date is not. You are so young, and this may seem really cliche, but you have time. There is no written rule in life saying you need to travel to Europe as a 22 year old, meet your soulmate as a 24 year old, and buy a house before you’re 30. Life isn’t a series of checklist items that you have to get done to be “doing it right.”
The most important thing about your goals is having the drive to work through the journey to get them. Focusing solely on a date will distract you from the big picture. When I was younger, I had a habit of saying things like, “By the time I’m 23, I’ll be married and have kids. And by the time I’m 25, I’ll already be settled down in a home.” Spoiler: I’m not getting married until this June, we only have a cat, and we are in an extremely tiny apartment. But the best thing about all of that is that I am happier than ever. Seriously. Life just doesn’t always go in the exact order you assume it will. So keep those dreams big, but break them down into small steps you can achieve today, a few weeks from now, and a few months from now. Which leads us to my last point.
3. Be grateful for the time between now and when you achieve your goals.
I meant what I said about you having a lot of time to get what you want, but that time is precious. So many of us, myself included, get wrapped up in the future and thoughts about all of the things that we do not have yet. And that’s unfair to the person that you are in this moment. Even if you aren’t where you imagined you’d be— you’re still alive, and have the freedom, ability, and time to read this blog post. And that’s a lot more than many people on this planet have.
I’m not a psychologist, but I am lucky enough to be extremely close to one. Her favorite thing to remind me of is to breathe, remember that everything that has past is gone, and what is yet to be doesn’t exist.
The only moment you own is right now. And the only person you are is who you woke up as today.
If you have been caught in the cycle of “Why am I’m not there yet?” Take some time to log where you have been and what is working, and on that. The 10 year window we call our 20s is so special, and you shouldn’t live it wishing the days away. Be honest with yourself, but also be kind. If you need a reality check, take it, but forgive yourself and fix what is broken rather than dwelling on what you did wrong.
The truth is that even though you theoretically have a lot of time, we do not know when our last day is on this planet. The worst thing you could do is live your last moments in a state where you don’t love yourself or the work you’re doing. Remain optimistic and be patient. If you are putting the time and effort into your goals, you are going to get there.
So there you have it.
There are certainly other things I could go on about, but I don’t want to keep you here too long. After all, you have a lot of life to live, work to do, and fun to have. Good luck!