“Never ask people. Not about your work. Don’t you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know?”
— Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
You’re 16-25 years old and you’re scared because you don’t know what you want to do with your life and you’re even more scared of finding out.
Or, maybe you do know what you want to do, but you’re afraid of what might happen if you actually set out to do it.
Here’s the thing though: in your lifetime, fear of the unknown will cost your more time, more money, and more happiness than anything else.
THAT’s, what you should be afraid of.
So what if we took a step back? What if the worst possible scenarios were not the horror stories we’ve created in our minds? What if they weren’t so bad after all?
The answer: they rarely are.
One of the things I’ve found valuable in my life whenever I find myself postponing action is to answer a series of questions that help me put that fear into context. It’s something we like to do with Praxis participants and it’s something you can do yourself.
Here are the questions. Spend time answering them. The goal is honesty and clarity.
1) Where am I now and where do I want to be in six months to a year?
You don’t need to have a firm grasp on the answer just yet, but uncertainty about the exact ends is NOT an excuse for inaction — quite the opposite. Ask a successful person how they learned what they wanted to do with their lives and the answer is almost universal: I started doing something and I figured it out as I went.
2) What is the status quo currently costing me, personally, emotionally and financially?
I asked myself this question when I was debating whether to leave college early to take a job and work on growing my business. The result? It became very clear to me that the cost of inaction was far worse than the potential downsides of action.
3) What is the worst possible thing that could happen if I did what I actually wanted to do and how could I recover from it?
We live in the best time in history to fail and fail again. 9/10 times you can go back to the life you led before if things don’t work out, but my bet is that even if you fail, you won’t want to.
4) What is the best possible outcome for me if I did what I actually wanted to do and how would my life be changed for the better because of it?
This is a fun one. Think big. Get excited.
5) What if I had no other option but to pursue the life I want? What would I do today to start?
Sometimes it helps to just limit your options. Like my colleague Zak Slayback wrote recently – kill your backup plan. It’s a crutch that you can’t afford.