Whether travel, grad school, or work experience isÂ in your future, make sure you dive into this new phase of your life with your eyes wide open and your self well examined.
Are you ready for life after university? Pause and reflect upon these 7 points before buying that plane ticket or accepting that amazing job.
“Out of the frying pan, into the fire” is an American colloquialism that aptly describes the transition from university to the (arguably) “real world” after. Some of us handle this transition by blurring our eyes a bit and zoning out – not acknowledging (or respecting) that a transition is even happening. Others go into “hunt mode”, actively and aggressively attacking any and all opportunities (often burning out or chipping a tooth in the process). Still, others over-emphasize the importance of this transition when in reality it is just one of many in this endless parade of transitions we call life.
Quick side note. . .
In preparation for this post, I asked the team at TEFL Express the following question: “What book would you recommend to a recent university graduate to help them in the ‘real world’?” The answers I got back were inspiring and exciting. I’ve put them together in a “Life Check Reading List.” You can click the button, enter your email address, and we’ll send the list straight to your inbox. It should perk you up and give you plenty of reading ideas for the rest of the summer! We’d love to hear what book you’d recommend. You can comment at the bottom of this blog post.
Back to the post. . .
These are the seven life checks I recommend you do before you dive into your next adventure – from taking a hard look at your secret dreams to getting real about your finances and what you need to grow (money? freedom? stability?) – it’s different for everyone.
A wise man once said: “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Well okay, but what if you don’t like chocolates? Maybe he should have just said: “Life is like a box… “ and kept us guessing. Point is, chocolates or no chocolates, it’s important to take the time and reflect upon the things that pique your interest or bring you joy.
You might try a simple list. Take a piece of paper, a napkin, or open your note-taking app of choice, and make two columns: Things I Like/Things I Don’t Like. If you don’t know what you like, well, that’s a start too. What experiences can you explore or what practices can you develop to help you know yourself better? Yoga and meditation are two clear choices, but for you, it might be something as simple as changing your hairstyle or cooking a new recipe. Then again, what you need might be something physically demanding and intense like running a marathon or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Whatever it is, do it!
Some people define their goals in terms of material achievement. Others set goals in terms of personal growth. Some people are able to construct multi-tiered 5-10-Lifetime plans with dynamic goal matrixes that speak to each other in code. Other people have difficulty coming up with a goal at all.
Goals look different for different people but developing a goal-setting process for yourself is important. The two basic rules of goal setting are:
- Make sure the goal you’ve set is your own (not your friends’ or your parents’). You need to understand your goal completely.
- Never be too proud to adapt your goals. Your goals, just like you, should be allowed to morph and grow.
It takes time to understand how much cash flow you need to be satisfied. Check out some of the more practical books on the “Life Check Reading List” for budgeting and saving “how to”.
It’s usually possible to find a workaround for funds shortages. If you want to travel but don’t have the cash, you can travel and teach. If you want to continue on with your studies but the price tag gives you a panic attack, you can take a year or two to get some work experience in your field of interest while at the same time building a financial cushion for yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Just because you ask, doesn’t mean you have to take it. Career counselors, neighbours, parents, older siblings, and friends (to name a few) are all likely to have ideas about what you should do.
You’ll also want to look, really look, at how much money you have (and how much you spend). It’s worth waiting a couple of months and saving rather than finding yourself 3-months into your law degree or Thai organic farm internship with a negative balance, a rumbling stomach, and threatening messages from your financial institution.
One last note on finances, it’s never too early to start saving. You don’t know where life will take you, but you can be pretty sure that it will throw you at least one or two curve-balls. It’s at these moments when a little extra cash is extremely useful. Online investment sites like betterment.com (a colleague introduced me to this a couple of weeks ago, he’s very impressed) and others make it easier than ever to create a long or short term savings plan for yourself. Start saving now. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself that you did.
How easily influenced are you by your friends? Are you making certain choices because all of your friends are making those choices? For example, maybe all of your friends want to go off and travel but you want to spend time working in your hometown (or maybe it’s the opposite). Friends can sometimes help move us outside of our comfort zones, but they can also superimpose their ideas on us to reinforce their own worldviews. Know your boundaries and communicate them. If your friends can’t respect where you draw the line . . . then finding new friends should feature high on your “to do” list.
Your Secret Dreams
Listen to them. . .
From “Babe” (1995): “Farmer Hogget knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be ignored, for in them lie the seeds of destiny.”
Reflecting upon your weaknesses is not meant to depress you. It’s simply an exercise in troubleshooting. Can you predict when you’re going to sabotage yourself? When your demons show their evil little heads how well can you navigate the demonic halitosis? When you do give way to your weaknesses, as all of us do from time to time, do you learn from the experience or do you curl up into a little broken ball of guilt?
See your weaknesses: know them. Open the door for them and kindly ask them to leave. Apparently, they will, if you ask long enough, calm enough, and true enough. This is not an overnight thing.
The Big Picture
In times of stress, we tend to simplify and pare things down. This can be good or it can be not so good. Paring down might mean giving away most of your closet to charity and moving about the world with one black duffel bag. Paring down could also mean cutting out late night beer binges so you can wake up hangover free and train for that marathon you’re going to run.
On the flip side, paring down can also mean shrinking your perspective so that you feel trapped and hopeless. It’s very important not to do this.
Let’s say, for example, that you feel the need to follow your parents’ wishes and go to medical school even though you want to travel. Why worry? There are so many international opportunities to use the skills you’re developing in med school. Take a French class and apply to volunteer in Haiti.
You could also be on the other side of the equation above having followed your friends or significant other travelling when you really want to continue with your studies. Don’t weep! Get out there and find a non-profit to work with. If there aren’t any that interest you in your area, make a plan to travel to a place where you can volunteer with an organization that you find interesting.
Whining and regretting is just you being lazy.
I guess, all told, if our wise Mr. Gump wanted to be as accurate and inclusive as possible he would have said, “Life is. . .” and left it at that.
Enjoy your adventure!