Most people think that the decade of our 20s is the one most packed with excitement, discovery, and the enjoyment of a world packed with possibilities. Whether you are looking forward to your 20s or looking back on them, you probably see this as the one time in your life when you can truly be free. The reality for those in their 20s, however, can be much different. With possibilities come choices. And with choices come regret.
As you’ve left high school, entered your early twenties and made decisions along the way, each decision you have made has reduced the number of options available to you in the future. This can feel empowering or it can feel overwhelming and create unnecessary pressure and anxiety about what comes next. Many are worried they will make decisions they will later regret.
I took a very unscientific poll of the women I know who have moved past their twenties. I asked them to look back on that decade and share with me the things they would have done differently if they had a second chance. Overwhelmingly, the response was they would have gone after what they wanted—whether that was a different career, travel, singlehood, coupledom, etc. They wouldn’t have listened as much to what others had said about their choices and followed their own dreams. My findings were consistent with a wide variety of studies, two of which were featured in Huffington Post and Business Insider.
When my clients come to me with worry about what they’re going to do with their lives and fear of regret, I find that one question is very helpful in clarifying their goals and dreams. It’s called the Death Bed Question, and though it may seem pretty grim, it really works. I have my clients ask themselves, “On my death bed, will I regret more having made decision A or decision B?” In most cases, decision A involves doing something while decision B involves not doing that same thing. Guess which one most people realize they will regret more?
This question has been very empowering for my therapy clients (and I admit I’ve used it myself from time to time). When asking yourself this question, visualize your future or journal as you contemplate the implications. Be open to all ideas that come to you and don’t let yourself be limited by thoughts of “But that won’t work” or “How will I accomplish that?”. When you begin asking yourself this question regularly and making note of your answers, you can begin looking for patterns that will helps you prioritize your goals. This will help you live with intention, which is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety.
When considering the many options that lay before you in your 20s, it is very helpful to look ahead to what decisions you wish you would have made when you are in your twilight years. Instead of focusing on regret, focus on possibility. As the poet Mary Oliver said in her poem The Summer Day: ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’
If you are struggling with indecision, fear of regret, feeling lost, or experiencing anxiety or depression, please contact me and we can arrange a therapy session.
So you’ve landed your first real job after college. Congratulations! This is a big step in anyone’s life and it can be an exciting and exhilarating time. However, it can also trigger some major anxiety, especially if you are already prone to worry and doubt. Fortunately, there are some ways you can prepare yourself mentally for your new position that will help you curb anxiety before it can even start. Here are five ways to beat that new job anxiety and shine in your brand new career!
Set an Intention
Who do you want to be in your new position? How do you want to show up? Knowing this before you even walk in the door is important. If you want to be confident yet coachable, you will know you need to walk in with good self-esteem and an openness to feedback. When you have a firm image in your mind of who you will be and how you want this to look to your co-workers and bosses, you’ll have a mind map to follow when worry and doubt rear their ugly heads.
Create an Affirmation
When you feel anxiety rising, it can be very helpful to have an affirmation you can fall back on. Make it short and simple so you can easily remember it. Something like “I am calm” or “I am capable” are great reminders to repeat over and over in your head when you start to feel panic.
Those prone to anxiety have a tendency to imagine worst-case scenarios and play them out repeatedly in their minds. Instead of imagining flubbing that big presentation or spilling coffee on your boss, visualize giving a great speech or impressing your co-workers with your contribution to a project.
Assume the Best
Why did the secretary not greet you when you walked in the front door? How come your cubicle space still has the last person’s junk in it? It’s easy to assume the worst when you walk into a new job. Automatically thinking that the secretary hates you on sight or that no one cared enough about you to provide you with a clean space sets you up for failure. Always assuming that those you work with have the best of intentions helps you keep a positive perspective.
Be Nice to Yourself
Starting a new job is going to have some pitfalls and you are going to make mistakes. Beating yourself up for every mis-step is bound to lead to anxiety and impact your job performance. Remember to take responsibility for your choices, acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake, then chalk it up to experience and move on with a positive attitude.
Your first big job is an important step on your road to success and helps create a framework for your life as an adult. If you are prone to anxiety, remember the five above tips to help curb thoughts before they can turn into troublesome feelings and actions. When you show up with confidence, assume the best, and give yourself a break when needed, you’ll set yourself up for early success.
If you question if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, please contact me and we can arrange for a therapy session.
Jessica is a mental health therapist who specializes in helping women free themselves from anxiety, depression, and other stress-related conditions. She is honored to witness the experiences of her clients and work with them toward meaningful lives.