As children, we develop all kinds of dreams, plans, and goals for our lives. Whether we know we want to be a doctor by age 12 or we chase becoming a professional athlete into adulthood, we often find ourselves in a pragmatic limbo in early adulthood. What if what I want to do won’t pay the bills? Am I chasing an unreachable dream? Is grad school worth the student debt? Am I being irresponsible?
Life shows up no matter what and while there are benefits to being practical and ensuring economic stability, I’ve learned that it’s still vital to chase your dreams to some degree and not let societal expectations dictate what your life, career, etc should look like.
Placing your dreams ahead of a stable 9-5 office job can be difficult financially and emotionally in the short term, but if you have what it takes to make it work – eating microwave ramen, saving up money – anyone can make it work. Life is too short to hold regret and resentment for the things we wish we pursued or wish we tried at least once.
As a practice, I try my best to avoid saying "I’ll try that next year," or "Maybe when I have more money/time" because in life, timing and circumstances will never be perfect. More often than not, waiting for the "right time" will mean you never actually get to your desired "time’ to live your dreams. Do it now, especially since most of us don’t have obligations like kids, marriage, mortgages!
Going after something you’ve always been interested in or think you might be good at is critical to keeping life interesting and making all of your hard work in other aspects worth the effort. Plus, doing what you love and trying new things has many added benefits:
Stress response/overcoming fear – Trying new activities and things you enjoy can increase your heart rate and stimulate a fear/unknown stress response. Continuing to try these activities not only helps you overcome your fears but allows your body to adapt to stress-inducing situations and learn to better regulate itself.
Stimulating creativity – Doing things you love and trying new activities allows your brain to look at situations in a new light and helps stimulate your creative juices in whatever you are doing. Before you know it, this will translate to other aspects of your life and you’ll begin to see the world through new perspectives.
Learning how to handle failure; unflappability mindset – In trying new things or even doing the things you are already good at, there will be times when you don’t succeed or progress as quickly as you would like. While these situations can be disheartening, if you stick at it and learn to accept the failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, you will gain a valuable skill many young adults miss out on. Life sends plenty of failures or “learning opportunities” your way; if you can work through them and come out on the other side, you’re ahead of most people who avoid failure by never trying new things their entire lives. In addition, you unlock what I call the “unflappability mindset." You will be able to handle whatever comes your way and know that you can work through it. “It is easy to be pleasant; when life flows like a sweet song. But the man worthwhile, is the one who can smile when things go dead wrong.” –Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Increased performance in other aspects of life – Setting aside time for yourself to do the things you enjoy improves your overall mood and confidence, and this often translates into other areas of your life. You may experience increased work ethic and happy demeanor in all of your affairs, as you now have something to work for and be passionate about.
Living your best life #liveitawesome – Life is short, so why not start your bucket list early?! Go out and try new things and find your passion. Doing so will help you live your best life, build confidence, persistence, and a sense of achievement. You will thank yourself for it and when friends and family see the new spark in your eyes, maybe they’ll try something new too. Living well is contagious, so go out and live your best life. LIVE. IT. AWESOME!
Want to try something new today? Check out the Outdoor Recreation Center at Georgia Tech, GT Team Clubs, and other student groups to help get you started on anything from skydiving to caving today!