This article was originally published in Teen Vogue.
4 Big Life Questions, Answered by People Who Have Been There
Let’s face it: there are some pretty big questions that can keep people up at night — questions about careers, college majors, networking, and other life goals. It’s totally normal to feel some stress about the future, especially when you’re not entirely sure about what your future might hold. The good news? A lot of people feel that way.
Teen Vogue took to social media to ask our readers what’s keeping them up at night. It turns out that the same responses kept popping up. We then asked people—whose job requires real-deal perspective — those same questions. Read on for some solid advice, and remember: You got this.
1. How can I become more decisive and know what I want?
“Making lists can certainly help you figure out what’s important to you. You might also want to do some personality quizzes like the Kolbe and the Myers–Briggs tests to understand your own priorities.” — Cary Carbonaro, personal-finance expert and author of The Money Queen’s Guide: For Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear.
“Knowing what you want is nearly impossible, and what you want today may not be what you want tomorrow. Ask yourself, ‘Which choice is going to allow me to learn about myself?’ Put less pressure on the decision and more attention on what you can do to be successful along the way.” — Howard Forman, MD, Psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Center
“Write it as if it’s already happened, in the present tense. Make sure it’s specific. What is your title? What accomplishments have you had? How does it feel? Share your career dream with at least three people who will not only clap for you but hold you to it.” — Lauren Handel Zander, life coach, author of Maybe It’s You: Cut the Crap, Face Your Fears, Love Your Life and co-founder and chairwoman, Handel Group
“Putting together a vision board of all the things you need, want, and desire in life can energetically start to bring the pieces together. To take it further, you can build an ‘intention altar’ around this. Then add crystals: Iron pyrite helps with manifestation.” — Colleen McCann, psychic medium, crystals expert, and owner of Style Rituals, an energy consultancy.
“If you think you’ve met someone who knows what they want, then you’ve just met a great liar. The key is to make a choice — any choice — before all the choices fly past you like a plastic bag in the wind. The bad news is some decisions are expensive to get out of, but the good news is hardly any decision is binding. Unless it’s a baby or a witch’s curse. Then I can’t help you.” — Gaby Dunn, comedian and co-author of the New York Times best-selling novel I Hate Everyone But You.
2. How do you know that it’s the thing you’re meant to do in life, and not just a hobby?
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Do you have passion for your hobby? Do you love it and lose track of time when you are doing it? If the answer is yes, then you can make it your life’s work.” — Cary Carbonaro
“Careers with steady income are rarely ones that guarantee the same inspiration as a hobby. Many people have pursued careers that began as hobbies, from the owner of a car dealership who loved restoring old cars to the shoe designer who owned 75 pairs of heels after she graduated college.” — Forman
“Start devoting all of your spare time to your hobby. For example, if cooking is your passion, do a weekly dinner party and charge at the door. See if it becomes a burden or the best thing. If it dies on the vine, you’ll know it’s not really your true love.” — Handel Zander
“Why waste your valuable time and energy by working a job just to pay the bills? Decide what really energizes you, and start dissecting how you could make that a viable business.” — McCann
“Get ready to hate your hobby! Once a hobby becomes a job, there’s no going back. You might stop enjoying that hobby when you start thinking of it as a 9-to-5 that needs constant attention and includes deadlines or obligations. Even if your hobby is pizza-eating and you somehow start getting paid to eat pizza, guess what you’re going to eventually hate? Pizza.” — Dunn
3. Is networking more important in today’s world than a degree?
“You need both. Expanding your circle is always important, but a degree opens doors, too.” — Cary Carbonaro
“Networking and skill are equally important. When networking leads to an opportunity, you want to really wow people with your proficiency.” — Forman
“No matter where you go — whether it’s college or the Caribbean — you are always building relationships. How good you are at building, maintaining, and nurturing relationships impacts every area of your life.” — Handel Zander
“Get the training you need and then start socializing. Attend seminars, workshops, gatherings where you can network. This exercise helps you speak your truth about what you do in a fluid way, see what sticks with others about what you say based on their immediate feedback, and helps you practice and fine-tune your elevator pitch.” — McCann
“Am I allowed to say college is a pyramid scheme? The idea that everyone with a college degree can get whatever job they want is a really intoxicating fantasy — like Oprah running in 2020 or an all-female reboot of The Sandlot. I think meeting people in your field and focusing your education on what you want to pursue is more important than accruing thousands of dollars in debt before you even have a job. Community college is a great resource, or if you want to be an actor, it may be worth it to just move out to L.A. and use your money to start taking acting classes.” — Dunn
4. How do I stop worrying about my future and start chasing my dreams?
“Worry is a wasted emotion. It keeps you paralyzed and prevents you from moving forward. It may help to talk to a therapist about your anxieties. Honest conversations with friends and mentors may also help. I find regular meditation and yoga keep me centered.” — Carbonaro
“Don’t sit around and say to yourself, ‘One day I will get the motivation to start chasing my dreams.’ Take a small step toward it, and learn that action leads to motivation. It is a positive cycle. But you need to take a first step to get the cycle going.” — Forman
“Hear your inner dialogue for what it is, the voice of fear/your ‘chicken’ trying to keep you safe, pre-defeated, and on the couch watching Netflix. Get into big, brave, and ballsy actions that push you and your dream forward. Do everything — and I mean everything — you wish you were doing. Nothing like a series of serious promises (i.e., three bold work-related actions a day) to make you seriously proud of yourself. And while you’re at it, why not find an accountability buddy who is as ambitious as you and make a game plan to both kick butt.” — Handel Zander
“Replace limiting beliefs with positive self-talk, thoughts, and daily mantras.” — McCann
“Most days, depending on the latest presidential tweet, the future is inevitable. Some worry is good! It means you care. But keep in mind: It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done. There’s no reason to dwell on what might happen if you’re not even taking any steps to get there.” — Dunn
This article was originally published in Teen Vogue.