Congratulations! No matter what level of education or training you’ve just completed (or are about to complete), I hope you feel a sense of accomplishment! For many, graduation signals the end of a very long educational road…..Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st-12th grade and beyond. If you’re graduating with your Bachelor’s Degree we’re talking about 16-18 years of school! It might feel as though you’ve been on this path FOREVER! If it hasn’t happened yet, it will likely happen soon that someone (or many someones) will ask you a seemingly harmless question… “what’s next for you?” Sure, it’s a question that makes sequential sense and maybe you’re one of those people that already knows the answer to that question, but I urge you to take pause.
I have the privilege of working with some very talented people in my various roles throughout the community. Fellow therapists, graduate students, therapists in training, and of course my therapy clients. And wouldn’t you know it, we have a lot in common! Even that sometimes pesky “What’s next for you?” question can impact us similarly. Let’s look at the journey to become a therapist as an example.
Therapists must obtain at least a Master’s Degree which means we’re now talking about 19-21 years of school instead of the 16-18 noted above. After graduation they must obtain clinical supervision and experience in order to become independently licensed clinicians as well as pass a national exam or two depending on what type of therapy credential they are pursuing. This process typically takes 2-4 additional years, bringing our grand total to somewhere between 21-25 years of formal education/training (don’t forget we’re including at least K-12th grade in this number). Imagine running a marathon and after the glory of crossing the finish line, the “what’s next for you” question slaps you in the face (and don’t get me wrong, often times WE’RE the ones asking OURSELVES this question!)! I constantly encounter people that struggle to feel satisfied in the here and now. I get it. It’s hard to be going and going and suddenly reach “the end” of a path and instead of basking in the glory of your success, you frantically try to figure out which path is next…because suddenly you’re not so sure you’re happy enough. I can assure you though that continuing to chase new goals so you can eventually “be happy” will only lead to more chasing. Don’t get me wrong, I love goals. I jokingly refer to myself as a “Goal Digger” (Thanks Kanye)! So what can you do when faced with the “what’s next” question?
Take in this very moment. Breathe! Notice your surroundings. Appreciate the small things and just be still. There is opportunity for happiness in THIS place at THIS time.
Surround yourself with supportive people.
Create a team of people that value YOU over your accomplishments. Sure, they can provide you with praise for your hard work but embrace individuals that see YOU as a success each and every day regardless of what you have achieved.
Be your own cheerleader.
Yes, a supportive team is important but at the end of the day, you are the captain of that team. Appreciate yourself–not for the things you crossed of your short-term and long-term to do lists, but for the person you are daily. You are uniquely you. You have value. YOU are the accomplishment!