Follow your dreams.
Everyone—yep, even the contestants on The Bachelor—says it’s the actual key to happiness. But what if your dream is a bit hazy? While women and millennials have so many more career options than the previous generations, all those possibilities can tend to feel vast to the point of being paralysing. “Many people often feel that their 20s don’t really
matter,” explains Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade. “But then they end up having no career established by their 30s or having one that doesn’t match what they want to do.” The key to navigating all of the angst, says Jay, is “identity capital”—all the things you’ve done so far that make you who you are. You’re already earning identity capital by just living your life, studying abroad, volunteering at the local animal shelter... The challenge is to become more involved in things that you know interest you and to leverage all that to help you achieve your dreams.
HERE’S JAY’S THREE-STEP PLAN
Realising your dreams and being the you you’ve always imagined is as easy as 1-2-3.
1. Find what's real
Go back to the beginning. Picture both your former and future selves and try to find a common thread between them. Think about how you spent free time as a kid and classes you happily aced at school or university. Survey your skills. Consider compliments you’ve received in the past from teachers and bosses. This will help you to zero in on your goals to which you have more of an emotional connection. What would you feel most exciting for you to talk about with your friends?
2. Line up your ducks
Set limits. Make a list of three to five different plans based on the clues from your kid self and the future you (too few will feel limiting and too many may be confusing). Take it for a test drive. So you’ve always loved kids and learning languages? Consider getting certified to teach French or German with a later goal of starting your own after-school programme. Or, if you’ve always loved jewellery, apply to be an intern or assistant at a fashion house to learn how the industry really works.
3. Make it happen
Connect. Reach out to the people you don’t know that well—Jay stresses weak ties like acquaintances and friends of friends. New opportunities are more likely to come from these than from your besties. Set a timeline. Give yourself six months to a year to take action. When your time’s up, assess if this path is working. “Deadlines and goals don’t sound sexy, but they’re our dreams in actionable steps,” says Jay. “And acting on your dreams is definitely sexy!”
This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan India.