Young people frequently tend to shy away from considering their future, telling themselves that they’ve ‘got plenty of time’ and ‘there’s no rush’.
What is often overlooked is that thinking about the future begins with thinking about the present. The sooner questions are asked and answered about our current lives, the sooner we can move in the right direction, towards our ideal life.
This is exactly what the first session of The Ivy House Award is all about.
Some of the questions asked in this first session are challenging, and our initial instinct might be to back away. Yet stepping back and looking at our lives in a different way than before will allow us a degree of perspective that will be invaluable when looking from the present, into the future. What if considering what you wanted out of life gave you that push to go to university, or to accept a job that would have intimidated you too much to accept before? These questions can wait, but they shouldn’t.
At 15 I was faced with what, at the time, I considered to be a very big decision about my life and my education. I had two options. Option 1 was to stay at a private school that almost exclusively valued academic achievement, in which I would almost certainly achieve high grades and get into a very good university, but one in which I was unhappy. My alternative, option 2, was to move to a state sixth-form college which would throw numerous challenges at me. It would test my self-motivation, my concentration and the ability to cope with change, to name but a few. In making this decision, I went back-and-forth for months. Ultimately, I felt like I was deciding between academic credentials and my happiness. I worried that my parents, having funded private-school education, wouldn’t want to risk their investment if I were to take option 2. I feel lucky to have a family that is supportive, but nevertheless I felt as though I had a duty to make the decision for them, not me. However, before I made my decision, I came to two realisations. First, this life is my own, no one else’s. I needed to make the right decision for me, not for my parents. My second realisation was that I didn’t need to choose between my happiness and my academics: I could have both because both of these things were and are within my control. I took option 2 and I proved myself right. Most importantly I was happy, but I also succeeded academically, far beyond what I initially thought possible.
This decision has stayed with me ever since, and at nearly 21, I consider myself to have set a strong precedent. The only reason I ended up making the right decision for me, was because I thought deeply about my life at the time and areas in which I could improve it. I didn’t want to just let life happen to me. I had the opportunity to make a decision that had the potential to improve my life and if I wasn’t going to take it, what would that say about me? I would have been complacent, passive and I’m not that person.
The first session of The Award inspires thinking about life in a way that will encourage us to be forward-thinking and introspective. Deeper thinking and curiosity will mean we make decisions that lead us in the direction we want to be going. For example, a few of the questions that guided my decision were:
- Where am I at right now?
- What do I want out of life?
- What is important to me?
- What makes me happy?
These are questions very few people ask themselves; fewer answer them and even fewer act upon those answers. What you give importance to has a significant effect on the direction your life takes. It impacts your motivation, goals and behaviours. So many people float through life allowing life to happen to them, without realising that they are in the driving seat. If you allow this to happen, your life is not your own! As Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist”.
The first session, ‘My Life’, provides the primary step to establishing what we really want out of life and how we can get there, through triggering the initial thinking about where we are now and what we could improve. Asking big questions can be daunting, but it provokes a level of critical thinking that enables us to dig deeper and understand our lives, what we ultimately want out of life, and with consideration of this, we can figure out how we can begin living our ideal lives.