Overwhelmed with too many things you want to achieve? Take a step back and approach your big ideas with a practical mindset – and you just might be able to do it all.
Today’s millennials are driven by such a frenzy of high-intensity mantras like “work hard, play hard” and “YOLO!” that our most common career dilemma should come as no surprise: many have so much opportunity and ideas that they become completely overwhelmed. How many times have you heard yourself say, “I just want to do so many things!” or “Everything I want to do conflicts with everything else I want to do”?
Millennials facing this “crisis” should first realize just how fortunate they are to have the freedom, education, and internal drive to arrive at such a dilemma in the first place. Take a minute to think of those born with mental or physical handicaps, those stricken by disease or poverty, those born into societies with no political freedom, those who are denied education or opportunity because of the color of their skin, their gender, or their social class.
Now that you’ve taken a step back to evaluate your overwhelming situation with a sense of gratitude, we can then address this “crisis of opportunity” with proper level-headedness.
Here are five practical keys to take your life from pressing the panic button to achieving ALL of your wildest dreams. (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Write it all down
Simply putting your seemingly conflicting goals down on paper can provide a tremendous amount of clarity. By doing so, your dreams turn into tangible to-do items and your mental clutter becomes far more organized. You also have a documented reference point, so when you feel like you’re getting lost, you can pull out your “dream map” and make sure your day-to-day life is setting you up for achieving of one or more of those items.
If it’s not, change your life… or change your list.
2. Look at the “why” – and let your values be your compass
Now that you have it all down on paper, take each and every one of your dream items and ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this?” Then write down your answer next to each item. Without being able to clearly understand and articulate your core motivations for doing everything you say you want to do, life will continue to be confusing as more opportunities pop up that all seem like good ideas.
During your process of self-reflection, you might even decide to add or remove items from your initial list. You will also see natural priorities emerge, which helps inform which goals to focus on first.
3. Identify conflicts and synergies
With everything written down and reflected upon, look for relationships between items on your list. Some things will wind up complementing one another, allowing you to work towards more than one dream at a time. Focus on those synergies because they keep you calm, productive, and thinking positively.
But other things may be irreconcilable conflicts. Use the “why” exercise to determine which item gets put on the back-burner in favor of the one with deeper meaning and greater synergy.
4. Focus on making time
Ninety percent of our panic about achieving everything is self-inflicted; we tell ourselves there is not enough time. Time is limited, this is true, but the best thing we can do in the face of the finite nature of our lives is to purposefully change our attitudes towards time. Start thinking of time as being a plentiful resource, and declare it something within your control. Stop saying “have time” and replace it with “make time.”
For example, “I don’t have time to become a doctor” would become the more accurate and self-aware: “I am not making time to become a doctor.” Use the “why” exercise to prioritize what you are currently choosing to make time for and make sure that is in line with at least one – or more (synergies!) – of the items on your list.
5. Don’t over-plan
Don’t try to make a timeline of all your dreams. Don’t make brackets with “two years” or “10 months” next to each item on your list, trying to calculate how much time you think you need to achieve it — you will drive yourself crazy! Undoubtedly, life will run its course, and being open to its serendipity, instead of micromanaging it, will make you much happier in the long-run.
Above all, the most important thing is the inner dialogue you use when you find yourself wanting so many different things and having so many compelling dreams. It may sound crazy, but every time you begin to panic about not being able to do everything you want to do, pull out the list you made and reaffirm yourself and reaffirm those dreams. Tell yourself these are all still very important to you and you will achieve them in due time. As long as you do not stop checking up on your dreams, you stay in control.
Dreams slip away when we let them, when we stop having a clear picture of what they look like. They slip away when we stop understanding why they are important to us, and they die entirely when we tell ourselves it’s not all possible. It is all possible. We simply have to take a deep breath, exercise the right mindset, and employ these few practical strategies.
Elaina is a former NYC management consultant turned legal nomad who writes about the intersection of career, life, and travel for today’s 20-somethings. Check her out at Life Before 30 and Beyond Borders Travel Photography.