Having an idea of what you want to achieve in your life is important if you want to be happy in the long term. This is something that causes confusion for some people since it’s hard to find the balance between “having a plan” and enjoying yourself. It would be a mistake to fall into the trap of mapping out your life early on and doggedly pursuing that one specific achievement – acquiring a Master’s degree or a PhD, a specific career, being married by a certain age, or owning a property, etc. – regardless of whether that makes you happy.
That said, it would also be a mistake to drift through life with no goal at all. Simply getting up and going through the motions every day may be hassle-free, but it’s not a good recipe for enjoying a productive future. Challenging yourself just a little bit is useful for your long-term happiness.
What Should You Focus On?
Every age group has its own thing that it will naturally be focused on. In the teenage years that may be grades at school, or getting a driver’s license. As you get older you may be focused on college or university, or starting your career.
According to one recent study, major early adulthood milestones include 1:
– First kiss
– Passing your driving test
– Getting a full-time job
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– Moving out of home
– Having a child
– Having a job that pays enough to afford two holidays a year
– Buying a “Buy to Let” property
Another, more academic and peer-reviewed study showed that while people who are in their 20s value a large social circle, by your 30s you care more about having high-quality friends, even if your social circle shrinks 2.
As you grow and mature, a lot of your attitudes towards life change. Interestingly, according to a survey conducted by a major deodorant brand, people are happiest at the age of 37 3. That is the age at which most are financially secure, and that they feel they are well on their way to achieving their ambitions, whether that relates to money, love, or family.
Things haven’t always been that way. Millennials are changing a lot of things when it comes to attitudes towards life and our goals. In fact, thanks to changing attitudes, the divorce rate for millennials is 18% lower now than it was just a few years ago 4. Millennials are waiting longer to tie the knot, and because of this, their marriages are lasting longer. This is just one aspect of life where millennials have a very different attitude to the Baby Boomers and other generations. Millennials are focusing on their own happiness, and it is paying off.
A Job You Love
Just as millennials won’t commit to a relationship unless they’re sure it’s the right one, they are taking that stance with other parts of their life as well. They are changing jobs more often than other generations too. The statistics here are blurry. Baby boomers job-hopped a lot in their 20s 5, but millennials are job hopping for different reasons, and the stigma about changing jobs is gradually going away 6.
Today, we have access to more information and faster communication. We can see what others are doing, and see what other opportunities are out there. In some ways, this makes it harder to be happy, because we are always seeing what other people are putting on social media. This can make us question whether we have made the right choice. If you stay at University, you may wonder whether your student loans and certificate are worth it. It’s easy to forget that your friends who went straight into the corporate world are questioning whether the 9-5 grind and their recent promotion, are “good enough”. Are they a failure for choosing ‘the school of life’?
There is no blueprint for life. There is no checklist that everyone needs to tick off. Focusing on what makes you happy is the most important thing. Some of your goals may take time to achieve, but it is possible to get there. So, sit down and think about what you want to do and how you will get there, and understand that it may not be easy. You may have to make some sacrifices along the way, but your path is yours, and yours alone. Go to a university, spend a year working in Australia, buy a classic car. The choice is yours.
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