“If I got a dollar last year every time someone asked where I was going to college, I might not be having to take out any loans right now,” said every college freshman anywhere. During your senior year of high school, everything suddenly got real. Just six months before, adults still insisted you take your time, enjoy high school and not worry about the future.
But now, in your last few semesters before college/work/military/wherever, you magically need to figure out everything. You need to know where you want to go to college. You needed to know what potential career field fits you best. You need to know how to do your taxes (which, oddly enough, isn’t taught in most high schools). In short, you need a plan. But how could you be expected to come up with this life plan if many of the other adults in your life assured you there’s just no need to think about the future from the moment you first stepped foot on your high school’s campus?
Now, this isn’t to say the adults giving the advice aren’t well intentioned. The vast majority of the time the opposite is true; they just want students to enjoy their teenage years and not feel burdened with apprehension. Unfortunately, however, this well-intentioned advice more often than not has the reverse effect.
This leaves the high school seniors incredibly stressed every year over their next step in life, when much of this stress could’ve been minimized or even avoided altogether if they started thinking through their options earlier. This stress can’t all be blamed on parents and other mentors, however. Our entire generation of teenagers seems to be saturated with the false truth that, to be happy, you need to “live “n the moment.” Social media sites such as Twitter are peppered with this sentiment, with beautiful, successful, seemingly carefree people telling us that we need to not plan for our future to be truly happy.
But it’s just not true. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Those successful, people we idolize got that way because they care. They planned. They had a goal, and they went for it. They weren’t just thinking about “the moment” and suddenly became Twitter famous or fell into a successful modeling career. Sure, some people get lucky, but successful individuals almost universally have one thing in common: They knew what they want and work harder than the next guy (or girl) to get it.
Does all of this mean that, to be successful, you need to constantly worry about your future? Of course not. There’s a huge difference between stressing out over possible failure or unexpected circumstances and taking the time to figure out what you want in life. Let me emphasize something: The best part about plans is that they are adaptable. Got that? It’s simple, but it could not be truer.
My geometry teacher always said, “There are many roads that lead to the airport.” Even if you don’t get into that top graduate school or land that high-level internship you planned on, you can always find always another way to get to where you want to go. The world has deadlines. It has requirements. It takes hard work to achieve success. So don’t live in the moment; make plans, work hard and enjoy the results.