You’re 18 years old now, and you have some big decisions to make.
I don’t worry about you making those big decisions, though. You’ve had lots of practice over the years making decisions that matter all on your own.
It’s not going to be such a big, scary world out there because you’ve already been living in it.
You’ve dealt with the shock of what taxes do to your paycheck. You’ve traveled to different parts of the country on your own for your various extra-curricular activities. You’ve traveled and stayed overnight on your own for work. You’ve learned how to lead and manage other people. You know how to do laundry, run a vacuum, and cook a terrific roast.
No, I don’t worry about you.
I have noticed that you seem to be dragging your feet a little on getting those big decisions made, though. Sometimes I really miss the little boy you were, and I wouldn’t mind having him stick around. I love, respect, and admire the young man you’ve grown up to be, though, and I know soon it will be time for you to go. The world is at your feet right now. You have so many options. These are exciting times for you.
Maybe having so many options is making things harder for you. When I was your age, I didn’t have as many big decisions to make.
Going to college was just what you did as a middle-class teenager after high school graduation.
It was the next box on the checklist of steps to take for a successful life. I only had to decide whether to venture far from home and attend the University of Hawaii or stick closer to home and attend the University of Washington.
But you…you have other options available. Each one has its own set of pros and cons. Each one will alter the trajectory of your life.
I have opinions about what I’d probably do in your shoes. I have opinions as your mother about what I wish you’d do, for entirely selfish reasons. But, you’re a grown man. Fully capable of making his own decisions.
I’m not going to tell you what to do. Instead, I’d like to give you five things to think about as you’re coming up against deadlines and graduation looms closer.
Be courageous and decisive.
Don’t make your choice by default. Recognize that not making a decision is, in fact, making a decision. But it’s cowardly. You’re drifting instead of charting. Too many people whine about not knowing what to do when they really mean they don’t want to accept either the responsibility for or the consequences of making a firm decision.
You missed the registration deadline for the ACT because you didn’t feel like making a decision about it. The registration deadline for the SAT and for applying to Hillsdale are both coming up quickly. Either commit to staying on top of them, or make a conscious choice to eliminate them as options.
Life and other people will push you around if you let them. You’ll find yourself at the mercy of what other people think is important for you to do rather than what you think is important for you to do.
Think about “future you” and what “future you” will want.
Do you want a wife? Do you want children of your own someday? Do you want a wife who wants to stay home with your kids? How much freedom and flexibility do you want to be able to have to spend with your family? Do you want to be able to get home easily for the big events in the lives of your sisters? Do you want a career that rewards honor, commitment, courage, and integrity or one that challenges your ability to remain faithful to those values?
That’s not an exhaustive list of questions to consider, but it’s a good place to start. If a strong marriage is important to you, you need to be aware that certain careers have higher divorce rates than others. If being able to do more than just provide financially for a family is important to you, you need to be aware that certain careers are more family-friendly than others. If remaining a godly man is important to you, you need to remember that certain careers will do a better job of supporting you in that than others.
Basically, don’t begin designing a life now that isn’t actually in alignment with what you know is going to be important to you at the end of your life.
Employ the KonMari Method.
The KonMari Method is most commonly associated with decluttering a home, but it can be equally applicable decluttering a mind. You gather items by category, rather than going drawer by drawer or room by room, and you hold each thing. As you’re holding it, you ask yourself if this item gives you joy.
So, take all of the options you’re considering for your immediate future and “hold” them. Breathe them in, feel them. Create mental masterpieces of the life that each option may bring you, as vivid as your sister’s paintings.
Put them on and take notice. Where do things pinch? What doesn’t seem to suit you so well? What fits like it was tailor-made just for you? Do you feel peace and joy? Do you love this?
Become an Essentialist.
Living an authentic life means that you must deliberately and consciously eliminate things that are not essential to you. In the process, you’ll cut out the obvious drains, but you’ll also have to confront and make courageous decisions about “good” opportunities as well.
Greg McKeown defines essentialism in his book of the same name as “…a discipline you apply each and every time you are faced with a decision about whether to say yes or to politely decline. It’s a method for making the tough trade-off between lots of good things and a few really great things…We can’t have it all or do it all…Once we accept the reality of trade-offs we stop asking, ‘How can I make it all work?’ and start asking the more honest question, ‘Which problem do I want to solve?’”
You’ve heard me say you can’t have it all, all at the same time, and do it all well a few times over the years. You simply cannot make all of the options available to you right now work all at the same time.
By focusing your attention on which problem you want to solve, you shift your focus away from what is great or appealing about of the available options. Instead, you can evaluate all of those great and appealing options against how well they solve the problem you want to solve. The beauty of that shift is that it will work effectively to filter out some of the options you’ve been clinging to because they sound great and appealing.
What could be your biggest point of contribution?
Which people’s plights move you? What causes seem to compel you to action?
I know that you have a huge soft spot for veterans, for example, but it could be anything to stirs you. What kinds of problems are plaguing American veterans? Where and how are their needs already being met, versus where are the cracks people are falling through? What you’d need to do is find a way to solve those problems or meet those needs.
Consider your strengths and weaknesses. Which of your strengths can be leveraged to meet the needs or solve the problems of American veterans? How can you mitigate, accommodate, or delegate your weaknesses so that they don’t get in the way of solving those problems?
If you can effectively solve problems for other people, you will never be without a job. You’ll never have to worry about being financially secure. When you can effectively solve problems for a cause or other people that inspire you in ways that energize you, you’ll find lasting purpose and fulfillment. You can build a legacy that will keep blessing the people you care about long after you’re not around anymore to do it yourself.
I’ve thought since you were a very small boy that there was something special about you – an intangible quality that is remarkable. I’ve been convinced all of those years that you were destined for great things. Now, my little boy isn’t so little anymore…and he’s poised to go out and do those things.
No matter what you choose to do with these big decisions you’re facing, know that I am proud of you, and in the immortal words of one of our favorite children’s books, “I’ll love you forever, like you for always…” Go get ‘em!
This advice wouldn’t have been possible without extensive cost-benefit research into the value of the high-school-to-college track that many teenagers get funneled onto simply because that’s what’s always been done. I’ve compiled a resource list of the 30 blog posts and articles I found most informative in the process. If you’re wondering whether or not college is the best choice for your child, this resource list will give you a different perspective.
I’m a married, homeschooling mama of three who is passionate about self-directed learning.
Rethinking Higher Education: How Isaac Morehouse and Praxis Are Expanding the Options Our Young People Have
Teach Your Children These 7 Fearless Ways Successful People Think
You Don’t Have to Fear the Teen Years…and Here’s Why
KonMari and Toys: Teaching Your Children a Valuable Lesson