Being a new college graduate is as exciting as it is scary. For the first time you are face to face with the real world and charged with making something of yourself. School is out and it is up to you to take what you have learned and find your way in the world. It is easy to lose sight of the things that really matter along the way, so as you try to find your way through the tangled jungle of the “real world,” take these eight lessons along with you to make the most of your life.
1. Focus on Happiness
It is easy to confuse money and happiness. Money can buy you comfort and remove a lot of the stress that goes along with struggling to pay the bills. The thing people often forget, however, is that once you have enough money to pay for a nice life and put a little savings away each month, every dollar you earn brings you less and less happiness. Instead of driving yourself towards your next promotion or next big career move, spend time with friends and family enjoying the simple things and relaxing. Happiness is worth a lot more than money.
2. Prioritize People
Whenever scientists go off in search of what makes people happy they always find the same thing: family and friends. In the words of Harvard psychologist and happiness researcher Daniel Gilbert, “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” Put people ahead of money. They are the only thing in your life that really matters.
3. Think Critically, Always
Don’t do something or believe something just because a lot of people have done it or believed it for a long time. Question everything and have reasons to back up the way you act. The moment you give up examining the world is the moment you will fall into the crowd and lose your individuality.
4. Time is Valuable
Nothing is as valuable as your time. You can’t save it or expand it. Time will always pass at the same rate no matter how much money you have or how successful you are. Make sure you use it in ways that will maximize your enjoyment of life. Every moment you spend doing something you hate is a moment you will never get back. Value every second.
5. Beware Bureaucracy
When you are starting out in your career it might be tempting to go work for a large organization that can offer you a lot of perks and opportunity for advancement. The problem with companies like that is the only way to hold them together is to have lots of systems and rules in place with very little flexibility. The bigger the company, the less room there generally is for creative, outside-the-box thinking, which is exactly what young people are good at.
6. Networking Is Important
Everyone says it, but they say it for a reason. As you move through your career the best opportunities will present themselves through people you have met. Odds are you won’t find a life-changing path to follow on a job board, it will pop up in a conversation.
7. Pursue Health
Don’t undervalue your personal health. The only way you will have the energy to pursue the relationships and experiences that will make you happy is to be in reasonably good shape. Adding a few years to your life will also give you more time to enjoy things, which as we have learned is your most valuable resource.
8. Roll the Dice
In the immortal words of George Carlin: “Take a chance.” You only get one shot at living the life you want, so don’t waste it always following the safe path. If you really want to start your own business but are worried about the risks, use your fear to fuel you passion. Learn as much as you can about what you want to pursue and go after it. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Featured photo credit: Andrew Schwegler via flickr.com