Know Your Strengths and Take Control

Your twenties are guaranteed to be tumultuous. There’s no avoiding this. Finding your footing in your budding, young career while simultaneously cultivating a clear sense of identity, self-worth, and purpose is no short order. Combine these certainties with friends and relationships constantly coming and going, and don’t be surprised if your life feels one big Taylor Swift song. On loop.

There are two ways of looking at this: you can either freak out, stress out, flip out, and every other phrasal verb ending with “out,” or you can seize the opportunity to take ownership of your future and create the foundation for a life you can really get excited about.

But how exactly does one “take ownership” of their future?

Easier said than done, right? With a little introspection, you might be surprised how easy it can actually be. Introspection is exactly what it sounds like: the act of looking inward. Colloquially and rather romantically, the process is often called “soul searching.” Now, hear me out, because there’s nothing New Age or pseudoscience-y about this very important, very mindful practice. Introspection allows us to better understand ourselves – the things that make us happy and matter most to us – and this understanding allows us to not only shape our goals, but motivate us to see them through.

There are lots of ways to be introspective. Some people meditate. Others benefit from talking out their ideas and feelings with trusted family and friends. There’s no one right way to go about it as everybody is different. One incredibly practical way to take a closer look at yourself and what makes you unique is the Clifton StrengthsFinder by Gallup. Through your responses to a series of carefully worded questions, Gallup can pinpoint your top five Strengths and how they affect your decision-making, what drives you, and, conversely, what frustrates you. Having this type of self-knowledge is an invaluable first step in looking ahead and making conscious decisions about where you want to take your career.

Sadly, only about 13% of Americans surveyed by Gallup in 2013 reported feeling “engaged” in the workplace (McGregor, Washington Post, 2013). Gallup defines engaged as “emotionally invested in their work and focused on helping their organizations improve.” As Americans, we generally spend 40+ hours a week at our jobs, and we do this for usually 40-45 years. That works out to more than 83,000 hours of your life. Something you realize very quickly after you start working full-time is exactly how much of your time you spend surrounded by your coworkers. In short: you had better enjoy what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, or else, well… you’re going to have a bad time.

Above all else, don’t let yourself get stuck. Realize that what you do in your twenties is laying the groundwork for what you will do with the rest of your life. This isn’t some “play it safe” lecture. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Your twenties is the time for dream-chasing, exploring your world, and setting your sights super-duper high. Take some time to better understand yourself, and take ownership over your decisions so that you wind up somewhere you truly want to be, doing something you truly want to do. Don’t listen to the haters. They’re going to hate, hate, hate, hate no matter what.

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