If you are part of the generation commonly called Gen Y, or millennials, you’re at an interesting juncture: Far enough along in your life to perhaps feel established on a path, but close enough to your teens and early 20s to remember youthful dreams you’ve held (and perhaps still do).
This is a risky time, in terms of those dreams. If you’re not actively pursuing them, you could be closer than you think to letting them go indefinitely. That’s a natural course of life, in the sense that some dreams are place holders — hopes that we hang onto while getting ready to step into our adult lives.
But what about those things you really do want to accomplish, or experience? For people in their 20s and 30s, it can be challenging to accommodate dreams without losing all momentum on reaching other milestones, such as earning a living or starting a family.
Like so much in life, the first step is the most important: You must name your dreams in order to make room for them. One way to do that is to think back to high school.
What goals did you have then? What kind of lifestyle did you envision having as an adult? Did you plan on traveling, owning a business, running marathons, writing books, making scientific discoveries?
Perhaps your dreams revolved around specific career ideas. Did you imagine becoming an entertainer or a sports star? Maybe you were more attracted to a trade or profession.
Whatever your dreams were, here’s the question to ask yourself: Do you still want to accomplish them? Because if the answer is yes, there’s no time like the present.
That’s more than a cliché; it’s the actual truth: There’s literally no time like the present. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that other life issues will draw you farther away from those dreams.
With that in mind, here are five common challenges that dream-chasing millennials need to watch for in their planning.
Seeking permission. By many accounts, people in your generation are closer to their parents than perhaps any generation in recent history. They’re also known to “crowd source” many of their ideas with peers. While both these trends can be positive, they can also be double-edged swords when it comes to making personal decisions. Requesting guidance or advice is generally a good idea, while letting others dictate your course is not.
Believing that your dream matters. If this is something that you want to achieve or do, that’s enough to qualify as “mattering.” How hard you’re willing to work or what you’ll sacrifice to reach your goal are separate decisions — but first you have believe that the dream is worth achieving.
Finding the time. Common wisdom says that we find time for the things that matter to us. That may be simplistic, but it does seem to be true. Start from the premise that your dream is important enough to warrant your time, and you’ll find ways to wedge it into your daily life. You may need to break it into stages or even baby steps, but that’s pretty much the way all big things start out, so you’ll be right on course.
Finding the money. Back to common wisdom — yep, we tend to spend our money on the things that matter to us. But when your budget is already stretched to cover student loans and housing, there may not be enough left for a “nonessential” such as your dream. This challenge may demand more creativity: You may need to work extra hours, borrow or rent or barter for something you can’t afford to buy, break a project into stages, etc. As long as you stay firm in your knowledge that this problem can be solved, you’ll be motivated to find the solution.
Facing the possibility of failure. Why are you even thinking about failure? What does it matter if you don’t succeed in reaching your dream — will that be worse than never trying? As long as you don’t risk more than you can afford to lose, failure has no meaning. It’s just an outcome that you learn from before deciding what to do next.
Just as Millennials commonly face these five challenges, they also have tremendous advantages in pursuing their goals, including perhaps these five: health, longevity, optimism, stamina and a fresh approach. If you can maximize some or all of your assets while minimizing or overcoming the challenges, there’s only one thing left to do: Set a course and get started on reaching your dreams.
Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.