Not too long ago, I was an 18-year-old college freshman who had started to plan the rest of her life the second she stepped foot into her dorm room.
She had the following plans: graduate at age 21 and immediately start working full-time, get engaged to her (then) boyfriend by age 22, be married by age 24 and have two children at ages 26 and 28. She had it all figured out.
At the time, those short-term dreams seemed in my grasp — they were. What I didn't — nor wanted to — understand, though, was how quickly things could change.
Sure, I still graduated at age 21 and started my full-time work shortly thereafter, but my other plans crumbled in front of my eyes.
I broke up with my boyfriend just after graduation, which defeated the engagement, marriage and children goals (for the time being). Though my life felt like it was over, it was just the beginning.
So many of us have a set life plan. While aiming to reach those goals is certainly a positive, productive attitude to have, keep these five tips in mind while you’re working to make your plan a reality.
Only control what you can.
I wanted to be engaged at age 22, but when my boyfriend and I broke up, I realized that was no longer my plan. What was I supposed to do?
Ask the next guy I saw to marry me before I became a grandmotherly 23-year-old? Beg my boyfriend to stay with me so we could work things out and get engaged?
Ladies and gents, your 20s are your prime. Your 30s are still your prime! Chances are, if you need to force something, it isn’t meant to be. Control what you can and let the rest fall into place.
Set tangible goals that only you can reach.
I wanted to be married at age 24 and have two kids by age 28, but those kinds of goals can only be realistic with another person in the picture. Finding a full-time job in my field of study was a tangible goal I set for myself and achieved on my own.
If there’s one valuable lesson I’ve learned, it’s to never to rely on others to make yourself happy. Set short-term goals that you can achieve through your own hard work and from your own motivation.
Recognize why you’re doing what you’re doing.
During my many years of playing sports, I remember coaches saying, “Don’t just go through the motions.” We aren’t robots; we’re meant to do things with purpose and with emotion.
Recognize why you’re doing what you’re doing, whether it’s work, being in a relationship or moving away from home. Once you have a purpose, you’ll be able to set and achieve those tangible goals.
Accept and embrace change.
Though it’s so cliché, I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe you just weren’t meant to land that job right now because something better is on the horizon and maybe your recent breakup will eventually help you rekindle your romance or lead you to a new relationship.
It’s only human to want what we want when we want it, but don’t fear change. If anything, make the best of your situation and good things will fall in your favor.
Appreciate the value of time.
It seems we rush into things that shouldn’t be rushed and put off things that shouldn’t be put off. However young or old you think you are, make the best use of your time. Recognize what is and isn’t important to you.
The clock will tick either way, so make each second count!