I’ll let you in on a little secret… my junior year of high school, I had my entire future figured out.
I’d pursue fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in California, thanks to a little inspiration from Lauren Conrad and MTV’s hit show “Laguna Beach.”
I wasn’t going to let anyone wake me from the carefully crafted dream I’d fallen asleep to every night for many years.
But snapping me back into reality, life veered me in another direction, and l listened to my parents’ advice to go to college closer to home.
Instead of picking out swimsuits, I gathered my winter gear and packed up a U-Haul to move to Wisconsin for apparel design. Learning how to sew a zipper in pants, draw my own patterns and sketch a children’s clothing line, just a year and a half later, something changed.
Professors recognized my talent for writing and piqued my curiosity for what it would look like if I combined my passion for fashion with this newfound talent. Soon enough, I switched majors to pursue communications and journalism.
After college, I worked as a journalist, writing for The Forum newspaper in Fargo for three years.
Not only did I cover fashion and beauty, I shared heart-wrenching stories and interviewed respected leaders in my community.
Then, a year ago, I detoured again when a friend sent a job posting. I wasn’t looking to leave journalism but the job was at Bell Bank – a company whose values of paying it forward, prioritizing family and treating both employees and customers with compassion aligned with mine.
What’s my point?
Sometimes the unexpected detours in life lead us to the path we were meant to take. Throughout this 20-something journey, I’ve learned many lessons – and five I’d like to share.
1. Be Okay with Not Knowing What’s Next
Life will always throw you curveballs. Just when you think you have it all figured out, your course in life will change. The key is being okay with not knowing what’s next.
Our lives are fluid and your future just might surprise you… in the best of ways.
2. Believe Someone Else’s Success is Not Your Failure
Your best friend finally got engaged, someone else cinched the job you applied for or your buddy just got into med school.
So many times in life, we convince ourselves everyone else’s victories are our losses. We beat ourselves up for being the last one to walk down the aisle, not spending more time on our résumé or putting too much emphasis on socializing.
But in cheering on our friends – instead of feeling sorry for ourselves – we can live happier, more fulfilled lives, focusing on the magic of the moment instead of worrying over how we measure up.
Sometimes recognizing those small victories – like nailing our presentation or scheduling time for ourselves – requires us to slow down and acknowledge all we’ve accomplished so far.
3. Lean on Your Values
For some, family, friends and faith might stand at the forefront. For others, honesty, integrity and work ethic might take the cake. And still, for others, kindness, compassion and love might be the very values that drive our actions each day.
My values – however diverse – have guided me in my journey. Without them, I may not have discovered the difference between telling life-altering stories about addiction and survival and simply covering the latest beauty trend.
Use the values that have lead you here, and let them propel you forward.
4. Discover Your Strengths – and Own Them
If you’re anything like me, you’ve grown up constantly trying to improve your weaknesses.
If we could just be more patient, less self-conscience or a tad strategic in our decision making life would be just... right.
What if we focused on what we were good at instead of always picking at where we could improve? What if we owned the strengths we were born with – the ones that come naturally – and mastered those?
If I had pushed ahead as a fashion designer and ignored the writing talent I was born with, I might have missed out on many of the opportunities I never imagined for myself.
Think for a moment, what are your top strengths?
The sooner you dig deep and admit those strengths to yourself and own them, the sooner life’s opportunities will unfold before you.
5. Thank Those Who Gave You Feathers to Fly
Take a moment to write down at least one name of someone who’s inspired you, cheered you on or encouraged you to keep going when you thought you couldn’t.
No matter who we are or where we’re at in our journey, nobody gets there alone. It’s these people in our lives who help us achieve our dreams – over and over again. Let them know it.
As you journey toward the extraordinary life that awaits you, take these lessons with you. Take time to count the smallest moments as victories and hold them close to your heart.