If you ask me what I want to do in the future, I could weave together a pretty convincing narrative. I could tell you how I plan to work in digital strategy and that I’m interested in managing the “development of a product”. I would even throw in fun phrases like, growth hacking and search engine optimization. The story I could tell you would be very convincing, but the reality is that I have absolutely no idea.
And that’s okay — or at least that’s what I tell myself. As a graduating senior, my friends and peers are frantically applying to jobs hoping that admittance into a program will clarify their futures. Yet, all of us are seeking clarity in a muddled and frantic world.
We have to become comfortable operating within uncertainty.
We can make lists upon lists debating the pros and cons of xyz opportunity, but when it comes down to it we’ll never really know for certain if we’ve made the right choice. All we can do is pick the option that we can support and develop so that it becomes the right choice for us.
Our biggest lessons are learned once we embrace uncertainty. Once we accept that we’ll never really know what our futures hold, we can begin to move forward with less trepidation. Although we’re taught to take complete ownership over our lives, these are the moments when it’s okay to relinquish control and admit, “we don’t know.”
We’ve spent our entire lives learning and it’s time for us to apply this knowledge in ways that will shape our decisions. Although we may not be able to articulate our future plans, we cannot be paralyzed by our fears.
“Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but it must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales.” — Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy
Focus on the Now
Evaluate yourself based on who you are right here and right now. Worrying about your future self is futile if you don’t have a strong understanding of who you are and what you can offer.
When I was first accepted into the Venture for America program I was incredibly excited because I knew that I was going to be joining a startup surrounded by peers as equally motivated as myself. Yet, reality set in once I started questioning how I could make an impact at a startup. How would my skills and expertise contribute to a company? What are my skills and expertise? How does one develop these skills? Was this covered in one of those lectures I missed? Because I really don’t remember it being on the syllabus.
This questioning, filled with self-doubt and uncertainty, was toxic and unconstructive. All it did was create an existential crisis, which solved absolutely nothing. Rather than worrying about what skills I may (or may not) have, I instead needed to focus my energy on identifying areas of interest where I could see myself developing. This translated into an actionable plan of steps I can take right now.
Although laying things out this way may seem a bit excessive, it’s the best way for me to hold myself accountable and clearly track the progress that I’m making on my goals. Because it is up to us to lay the groundwork for a future that we can be proud of.
In the end, the only thing I know for certain is that my future is filled with uncertainty — but I’m pretty damn excited.
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