This is what I tell them.
Advising people to “quit their job and travel the world” is easier said than done. Advising young 20-somethings to “quit their job and travel the world” is a different beast altogether.
As a 20-something we are still at the very early stage of our careers. We’ve recently graduated from college with ambitions and clear targets, yet it seems a significant portion of those recent graduates quickly struggle to find happiness and fulfillment in their current professions. It’s also only been a few years since we’ve studied abroad, made lifelong friendships with other 20-somethings from all over the world and traveled to places we never thought we would reach at such a young age.
A few of the messages I’ve received from friends include the following:
“I think I’m just having a hard time. Trying to figure out what makes me happy, trying to take more time for myself, trying to think about where I’m going and what I need to do to get me there.”
“I’m dying to do something dramatic and exciting.”
“I go to work every day and can’t stop this empty feeling I have in my stomach. I know something’s missing, I just don’t know what.”
A lot of us are still financially fragile and although the prospect of leaving everything behind and discovering new places, cultures and people seems very exciting, hanging on to our bi-weekly or monthly paycheck appears to be the safest and most logical option for the time being.
If this sounds like you, the following question might help you start off on the right foot:
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
1 — Start small, think big
Although telling yourself you’re going to quit your job and travel the world is in no way impossible, it can be a bit of a stretch especially if you’re not there yet financially.
Instead, look for things you truly value outside of work and feel passionate about, then start exploring those options. I know, it’s tough… So don’t spend too much time actively seeking them out — if you do and have a hard time figuring out what it is you’re passionate about, you’ll end up stressing over it and will find yourself in a worse state of mind.
Let them come to you. The following questions can help you get started:
Do you enjoy reading?
Look for books that can serve as a primary source of inspiration and start reading whenever and wherever you can. Travel? Cooking? Fiction?
When I was still in New York I would often read during my daily commutes to and from work, while waiting in line at Trader Joe’s, at the park or in the kitchen while cooking.
Have you studied abroad?
Write about it, but please for the love of god make it personal. I think we’ve all had our share of articles published on our Facebook feed about “11 reasons why you should study abroad”.
Who have you met while studying abroad? How did you meet? What recommendations do you have about the cities you’ve visited? What did you learn about yourself while spending that much time away from home? How has this affected your personal and/or professional life?
You haven’t studied abroad? That’s cool
There is no such thing as having a “boring life”. I truly believe there is at least one person out there who can relate to what it is you’re feeling 100%. Let them know they’re not alone.
Everyone has at least one great story to tell. It’s time you share it with the world. Medium is user-friendly and a good place to start.
Do you enjoy meeting people?
Look for networking events near you. Going alone is highly recommended as you’ll be forcing yourself to interact with others and stay longer rather than chit-chatting with your friend in a corner and end up leaving after your second cup of (hopefully) free beer.
It’s okay if you’re not good at networking. I’d bet 90% of those who attend networking events aren’t good at networking. You don’t just become good at it in one take. Give it time, but keep attending. You’ll soon feel the benefits.
2 — Wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual and make breakfast
I am often asked how I find the time to cook before heading to work, and the answer is really simple. All it really takes is 5 mins to cook something simple and healthy and give you the energy and motivation you need to get on with your day.
Waking up 30 minutes early isn’t going to kill you. Unless you’re working at a Management Consulting firm or as a Corporate Lawyer where you need to put up with 18-hour work days, chances are you do have time to cook. You just don’t want to admit it.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube channel is a really good place to start. He has a bunch of simple and delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that are easy to make and his videos are really well put together. His latest book “Everyday Superfood” is also a great read.
3 — Start daily, personal to-do lists to keep track of your achievements
Keeping track of what you’re up to outside of work will make you feel more productive and give you a sense of fulfillment. It also holds you accountable for what you write on that piece of paper (If I write a task down, I can’t strike it otherwise I’ll feel guilty and lazy about it and I end up completing it).
(Disclaimer: boxes that aren’t checked on these two pages were eventually checked on the next page… I may have purposely delayed a few…).
4 — Talk about it
Secretly stalking your friends on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat can give you a false idea of how they’re really feeling. Start up a chat with them and get into the heart of your struggles — you might be surprised by the number of friends who feel the same way you do.
5 — Reconnect with old friends, make new ones and learn more about what they’re up to
I wrote a piece a few months back about finding sources of inspiration off-screen by connecting with people any way you can and learning more about their lives. There’s nothing more refreshing than looking at a person’s face when they’re sharing stories about themselves and experiences that have positively impacted their lives.
Launching Creative Humans has allowed me to reconnect with friends I haven’t talked to in years and sourced even more inspiration than I could have hoped for. As it turns out, I share similar interests with many of those I hadn’t spoken with in several years and are now actively contributing to my blog.
Get off your phone, close your laptop and wander around. Strike up conversations with complete strangers. Attend networking events. Click yes to Facebook invites.
6 — Embrace everything you’re learning at work, from writing emails to sending calendar invites and preparing conference rooms before a client meeting
While many of the tasks we’re asked to do at work can seem pointless or soul-sucking, they serve as useful experiences which you will evidently need at some point in your life. Small details often make the biggest difference in everything you do.
7 — Start branding yourself
As Tim Ferriss eloquently puts it: “A good personal brand is about knowing how to manage your name”. Everything you do, talk about, think about and value define who you are both as a person and as a brand. Knowing how to identify what it is you are good at and how to leverage it can go a long way to reaching your life goals.
To get started, ask yourself the following question:
If someone were to ask my closest friends to describe me in 3 words, what would they be?
For instance, my being French has become a brand of its own without my trying to make it one. The story of how I started teaching myself American English at age 10 and quickly became a native speaker by the time I entered High School has gradually defined who I am both as a person and a brand. My statement became “The least French person you have met and will ever meet. Guaranteed”. My social accounts are all under “frenchornot”. I am French, but not really.
If you’re having a hard time answering the above question on your own, start asking around. Your friends’ answers might provide you with just the right amount of motivation you need to gain full control of your life and find the confidence to reach your goals.
8— Read Benjamin Hardy’s piece on Medium
In every single conversation I have had with friends who share their discomfort with work and their desire to find more meaning in their lives, I share Benjamin Hardy’s “50 Ways Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms”. Here are some of the things I took away from his article and implemented into my every day life:
The first thing I do when I wake up is make my bed
Making your bed as soon as you’re up gives you a sense of accomplishment. You feel more productive and ready to get on with your day.
I take cold showers
Full disclosure, cold showers really do make me feel happier. I feel my muscles contract and always think about what I have to do during the day while the water is running.
I make a bucket list
I have been doing this for a while and was glad to see it advised in his post.
I fast from the internet 24 hours once a week
LOL, right… What are we, 40?