My Teen LAUNCH partner, Kristine, and I gave a presentation last night about the way in which the actions you take now can actually help prepare you for life after college graduation. 

Yep. For those of you still in high school, I'm talking about the year 2022 or later.

Let me be clear: I don't really expect you (or anyone, really) to be thinking with any regularity about the details of your life five or more years down the line. It's difficult enough to envision the end of the day tomorrow...let alone next next month...let alone years from now. 

Setting your guiding goals is an important step -- having some idea of what you'll want to have in place in the academic, professional, social, and personal realms of your life by the time you finish college. But on the day-to-day level, I've found that the most important tool for making my way in life and work is to have a solid framework for making decisions.

One place to start is by thinking about what principles or qualities you hold most dear in yourself and in others: your core values. Bearing in mind your top 3 - 5 values always helps to ground your decisions in your own inner truth -- which in turn will serve the bigger picture of your life.

Beyond that, however, it's important to remember that we're constantly exploring, and in the process of exploring, we're refining our understanding of our individual needs, preferences, and ideal circumstances. Especially in your teens and twenties, when you're that perspective can make any experience valuable for the sake of learning.

No matter what, keep up your involvement in your activities in and outside of the classroom. If there isn't one thing you love to do beyond everything else (which is the case for most of us), then keep adding your range and variety of experience.

Remember that it's just as valuable to know what elements of a team, activity, or work environment you DON'T enjoy as those that you do.

We'd suggest that, for the sake of clarity and momentum, each time you're making a choice about involving yourself in a new activity, you break the process down into four steps:

  1. Identify the interest that you want to pursue next: what's one thing that you have always wanted to try out (for example, learning how to compose music)? Or, in what field do you think your future professional path might lie (e.g., the medical field)? Try to articulate why these interests come to mind: what aspects of those interests specifically appeal to you?
  2. Assess the time & opportunities available: summer before senior year, for instance, is a prime opportunity to dive into a new interest. What other commitments are on your calendar? How many days of the week and hours of the day will you have to commit? Or perhaps you want to start now with a computer coding class at a local community college. What after-school or weekend time blocks can you spare?
  3. Take action: jump on the registration website, call the enrollment office for more information, put together your resume, fill out the application, etc. Be proactive and even if you're not 100% sure it's the perfect fit, the key is to try something that holds some excitement for you.
  4. Evaluate the experience: evaluation is all about finding the value in the experience—remember that learning what resonated for you as well as what you DIDN'T like are equally valuable.
         - What aspects of the experience did you enjoy?
         - What aspects would you like to avoid in the future?
         - How did the experience change your perspective on your original interest?
         - How might you explore your redefined interest in the future?