Your days are numbered. In the age of social media, the idea that life is short has turned into countless variations of a cringe-worthy cliche. I honestly don’t think enough people really acknowledge the magnitude of its truth though. If you’re like me, a type-A goal-getter, the idea of running out of time is terrifying. As my high school theatre nerd self used to say, life doesn’t have a dress rehearsal; the show is now and no matter what, it goes on. So why waste it?
Yeah yeah, cliches, I know. Read the list.
1. Your only limit is you
Why haven’t you spent six weeks solo backpacking through Europe? Why haven’t you made that big purchase or landed your dream job or moved across the country just because you want to? Because you, my dear, haven’t made it happen.
There’s a cynical tween in all of that says “no bitch, money is my limit” or time, family, obligations, fear. Truth be told though, every excuse in the book comes back to you. YOU alone have the power to change your circumstances and redefine your excuses. If you aren’t obsessed with the path you’re on, change it.
2. Big goals and time frames are daunting – small steps are not!
If you’ve ever tried to write a 5,000 word research essay two days before it’s due (when you know damn well that your semester-long plan from syllabus week was fool-proof), you feel me on this.
Taking the time to define the why’s and how’s of your dreams for the foreseeable future gives you control over the tiny tangible steps that add up to major success. Landing the dream job and moving to the beach? Sounds impossible as an undergrad in sweats eating Ben & Jerry’s and crying into her history readings. But planning ahead, getting an A on this essay, working up to a killer GPA, graduating with a great resume and being 100% prepared to get that dream job makes it all seem doable (because IT IS).
3. Perspective – See the big picture
That timeline you’ve established using all of those small steps? It’s now your road map of the next few years that has turned months of unknowns and the total abyss that is the future into an idea, a dream, one that you can absolutely manifest for yourself.
Perspective is the most incredible gift you can give yourself, as a twenty-something and beyond.
4. Be your own reality check
It’s easy to imagine your perfect sunkissed body laying in Cabo writing your latest novel and single-handedly solving America’s education crisis while drinking margaritas.
It’s even easier to let those thoughts slip away with the suckfest that can sometimes be our day to day lives as young people. Having a five year plan keeps you in check, keeps you reflecting back on those fantasies that should be guiding your actions and gives you something to work towards instead of daydreaming your here-and-now away.
5. Be present
This one might seem a little counter-intuitive, but stick with me for a minute.
By having a well thought out plan, an idea that has turned into details, steps, and goals, it’s all there. You don’t have to spend your present frittering away time with worry and unrest about your current situation. You can take those steps that you’ve laid out for yourself and rest easy knowing that you are exactly where you need to be, doing what you need to be doing to get where you want to go.
6. A plan allows for adaptation – an abstract idea does not
Let’s say you’ve mapped the shit out of whatever idea you were crazy about, and the categories of your life you felt strongly about planning for five years into the future, and you’re ready to make change. But what if you get to year three and change your mind? That my friends is the beauty of it all.
By having thought out your values ahead of time, any major changes that can (and WILL) occur during this time period can be met with a calm mind and adaptable values to shape the next phase of your life.
Quarter-life crisis averted.
7. No Dress Rehearsal
I’m one of those weirdos who genuinely believes that a large part of life’s purpose is figuring out who you are as a human being and what you need to learn in this lifetime to be ridiculously, unapologetically happy. Time spent on self-reflection is never time wasted.
This process, if nothing else, is one of many opportunities you can create for yourself that allow you to discover or hone in on a specific piece of your identity. If you dream big enough, work hard enough, and take tangible steps to see your goals come to life, you have the chance to live the kind of life that requires no dress rehearsal.