by Feyi Fowowe
Many young people are confused about what they really want to become or what they want to achieve. As they grow older and have more experiences, their interests change and sometimes their dreams also change. Take Titi, an eighteen-year-old girl as an example:
- At age 5, she wanted to be a doctor,
- At age 9, she wanted to be an actress,
- At age 10, she wanted to be a banker,
- At age 13, she wanted to be a pilot,
- Now at age 18, she wants to be an engineer.
Titi’s dreams changed as she grew older and became more knowledgeable. This is quite normal. What is most important however is that you should decide on a particular career and remain focused. Changing your dreams because of obstacles such as challenging subject isn’t going to help in any way. However, if despite all efforts you find out that your interests keep changing, then it is time to sit down, take a critical look at all the options open to you and pick one.
However, some young people don’t even know what they want to be in future. If this sounds like you, don’t worry. It is normal and it doesn’t mean that you don’t have capabilities. It just means that you have not thought through or identified your dreams.
To help identify your dreams, you could start by looking around you. Think about the people in your community. Whom do you admire and greatly respect? This person might be the doctor who treats you, or a teacher in your school who inspires you, or your parents! However, don’t let your dreams be limited by what you see around you. Is there someone you’ve seen on TV or read about in the newspapers that did something that really inspired you? There are so many great people within and outside this country that could serve as role models. Find out how they became what they are.
It is very important that you don’t limit yourself by what you think you can or cannot do. Don’t rule out a dream because you feel you don’t have what it takes. You do! Who and what we eventually become is a mixture of our likes and dislikes, our abilities, our willingness to work hard and the opportunities we have. Just look deep within and believe in yourself and you’d realize what great potentials you have. You can be anything if you set your mind on it and work hard at it.
Let’s see how some young people overcame the hurdles in their way, while trying to achieve their dreams:
“I grew up never believing in myself. I was a very shy kid and felt inferior to others, especially my mates in school. In primary school, I kept mostly to myself and hardly ever talked or answered questions in class. However I used to dream a lot- I had so many dreams. I would see myself doing things I thought I could never do in real life. In such dreams for instance, I would see myself talking to a large crowd. My greatest dream was to sing in a concert. I knew I had a really good voice, but I was too timid to join the school choir. Of course, no one knew I could sing.
However, when I got to the secondary school, I met a teacher, Mr. Kalejaiye, whose inspiration and determination to see that I maximized my potentials changed my life forever. More and more, I started to realize that I had what it took, that if I set my mind on it, I could actually be what I wanted to be. Although, it was difficult at first, I started to ensure that all my thoughts were positive. In the past, all I had were negative thoughts. The more I thought positively, the more real my dreams became. I immediately joined the school choir and soon became the lead vocalist. When I was in Senior Secondary School (S.S. 2), there was a musical competition outside the country. Contestants were asked to write the lyrics of a song and compose its tune. I did and was nominated to be part of the competition. So it was that at the age of 16, I travelled abroad to participate in a worldwide competition, standing in front of thousands of people and singing my self-composed song. My dream had really come true, even earlier than I ever imagined. Although, I didn’t win in the competition, I felt like a winner all the same because I had finally seen my dream come true. Now, I believe more in myself and know that as long as I have dreams, I have what it takes to actualize them”.
‘’My report in primary four described me as the dullest boy in class! Unlike my other mates, I wasn’t good at any subject and couldn’t even write well. I felt so useless in school that I went to class each day with a sense of defeat.
After my National Common Entrance Examination, which I must admit I passed by a stroke of luck, my father gave me a book to read. It was the story of Abraham Lincoln. I was inspired by the story of this great man who had failed so many times in his life and yet eventually became one of the greatest presidents America ever had. I therefore decided that whatever it took, I would ensure that I improved on my school work. First term in secondary school was quite tough because I didn’t have a good foundation. However, I studied very hard and during break time, instead of going to play, I would go to the library to read.
As time went on, I found that I had improved so much that my classmates started coming to me to explain some things to them. I inspired some of them and we started going to the library together to read during break. By the time I got to my second term in Junior Secondary School (JSS 2), I was leading my class. I had the best result in the JSS Certificate Examinations. My self-esteem really improved and I believed more in myself. I was given a scholarship due to my performance in the school. I am also the president of the JETS club and I represent my school in many competitions. I am really glad that I chose to believe in myself’’.
‘’I dropped out of secondary school when I was twelve, the reason being that I lost my father, and my mother couldn’t afford to retain me in school. I was the first child and had to start hawking fruits to help my mother make ends meet.
I was disconcerted by the thought that I might never make it in life, given my circumstances. All my dreams had been tied up with going to school and getting a good job. I had planned to read Business Admin and travel around the world. However, I accepted all that had happened in good faith and continued selling. I sold different things, from oranges to bread. Later on, I became a “washer man” (itinerant laundry man) and washed clothes for different families. One day, a new idea hit me. It struck me that instead of doing people’s laundry; I could make clothes for them. Thus, at the end of the month, I took out my meagre savings and enrolled in a tailoring institute. There I learned how to design and make clothes. I made up my mind to succeed and my trainer was very pleased. I was there for four years and became the best tailor. Everyone wanted me to sew for them. I later opened a shop of my own and I’m doing quite well. I’m happy I didn’t allow my not being in school to mar my future. Now, I know that I have a very bright future ahead of me’’.
HOW IMPORTANT IS SCHOOL?
Many people automatically think of school when they are asked about what they want to become. We live in a society where the general idea is that without a formal education it is impossible to succeed. Whilst it is true that formal education is very important (and this cannot be overemphasized), it is also true that those without formal education (either as a result of financial limitations or inability to cope with academic work) can still make success stories out of their lives. Never ever be limited by the thought that you can’t make it because you don’t have a University education; history has proven otherwise. There are quite a few examples such as Bill Gates, the computer whizkid, who for many years now had been adjudged the richest man all over the world. There is also Walt Disney. Walt hardly had a formal education, yet millions of people from around the world watch his cartoons, and even though he is dead, he is well known around the world.
The story of late Gates W. McGarrah is another good example. He came from a poor family and had to leave school and go to work. One day, he walked into a bank in the village where he lived and asked for a job. He wanted to be a banker. The banker looked at him and said the only job available was for him to open the bank in the mornings and sweep and dust. He would also have to clean the toilets and empty wastebaskets. The bank opened at 9 o’clock but everybody reported to work by 8:30am. Gates showed up at six. He planned his cleaning campaign vowing, “I’m going to be the best cleaner in New York State”.
What bothered him the most was the brass spittoons. Merely wiping them left them smeared, so he went to his mother and told her about it and she recommended brass polish. Out of the ten dollars he got as salary, he bought some brass polish and the spittoons gleamed. The bank’s president said, ”good boy, Gates. We never had such beautiful spittoons”. That commendation was okay, but Gates wanted more. He hung around after work asking questions of the other employees about the banking business. And although he did his assigned work better than anybody had ever done before; he didn’t limit his thinking to his cleaning job. He thought and studied banking. He worked hard and intelligently, thinking and studying always. One day the president called him in “good boy, Gates can you train a boy to do your job as well as you? I’ve gotten a better position for you”. Gates W. McGarrah eventually occupied a top post in the Morgan bank in the Wall Street area. And at one time, he was head of the international bank with the headquarters in Switzerland.
This goes to show that although school is very important, enthusiasm and hard work are even more important. Therefore, don’t think that just because something is not school and not a paid job, then it’s not worth doing.
DOING WELL IN SCHOOL
For many young people, school is very important. Apart from it being a place to make friends and have fun, school is also a place to study and make good grades. It is also worthwhile because education is the key to success. Excelling in school takes a lot of determination and hard work. It takes the willingness to put in your best and persevere. Here are some basic tips you could take to help you make the most out of your education:
Be Organized: Ensure that all your notes are well written and that you have a notebook for each subject. Having a timetable also helps.
Prepare For Class: Many students are fond of going to school without the necessary stationery. Ensure that you have all the stationery you need such as pens and pencils. Also, make sure that all your assignments are completed before going to class.
Put Aside Time For Studying: Being a young person can be very exciting. You want to be with your friends or sometimes you want to just lie down and watch TV. However, being with friends and watching the television would not help you to achieve your dreams. Therefore set time aside each day for studying. It might be just an hour; the most important thing is that you must be consistent. However, this should not rule out time for fun and relaxation. Remember “All work and no play…”
Many adolescents in Nigeria are pout of school for different reasons, such as limited funds or unwanted pregnancies. As a result of this, some might forfeit their education. Although these are difficult situations, it does not however mean that you cannot achieve whatever you want in life. If you are creative and resourceful, you can still do this by applying the following tips:
Look at other young people and ask for advice: There are young people around who have also been out-of-school for a while. What are they doing? How are they coping? By talking to them you could get quite a few ideas about work or positive things you could undertake.
Look at the opportunities and resources available to you: Even if you cannot continue school, there may be other ways for you to get good training. There are many opportunities that you could take advantage of. Perhaps, there is a community loan or fund available to help people start up a small business – generating activities, or maybe there are institutes where you could acquire certain vocational skills at a subsidized rate. Find out.
Rethink Your Goals and Your strategy for Reaching Them: It might no longer be possible for you to be a doctor or lawyer but there are plenty of other things you can still do. For instance, you may discover that you are good at photography, find out all you can do about it or whatever else that you are good at. You may need to set new goals for yourself. You could also talk to successful business people for advice about how to get started.
Be creative: Think about new ideas on what you could do. You do not have to do what everyone else is doing. You could even come up with something no one has ever done before in your community.
Goal setting is something we should often do. It is quite important because setting goals helps us to stay focused. A goal is something you want to work toward. It is something you want to achieve. Determine your long-term goals i.e. things you hope to achieve in the distant future. Short-term goals are more immediate and are goals you hope to achieve within a short period of time.
Goals are quite important. Apart from helping you to stay focused, setting goals also gives you a sense of responsibility and makes you feel good about yourself. When you achieve your goals, it serves as a proof that when you set your mind on something, you can make a success of it.
However, there are certain guidelines you need to follow when setting goals:
Your goals must be SPECIFIC. It isn’t strange to hear a young person say, “I want to be successful”. While it is good for a young person to say he/she wants to be successful, it isn’t good enough. This is because he/she isn’t being specific. Therefore, in setting a goal, it is important that you decide and state specifically what you want to do. Thus, instead of saying, “I want to be successful”, you could say, “I want to be a successful banker”.
Assessing how far you have gone in achieving your goals is also very important. It is therefore important that your goals are also MEASURABLE. Take Chinedu’s goal setting for instance:
- Finish secondary school at age 16
- Finish University education at age 22
- Travel abroad for MBA at age 24.
Chinedu has set his goals in a way in which he can easily monitor his progress. When Chinedu is 21, he should be able to assess how far he has gone in achieving the goal he has set for himself.
The reason why a goal is set at the first place is because you want to achieve them. Thus, you must set goals that are ACHIEVABLE. What are your goals? Do you have the capability to achieve them? Are you in a science class while you are more proficient in the social sciences? It is quite common to see young people (in this part of the world) applying for courses in the University which they have no ability whatsoever in achieving. In setting goals, you have to consider your strengths and set those goals that you know you can achieve. Never set your goals based on that of another person, rather, set your goals based on your capabilities.
Goals must be REALISTIC. So many young people love to build castles in the air and by so doing, they set goals which are not realistic. If for instance, a student decides that he/she wants to be good at biology and does not even like the subject but is very good in mathematics and accounts, such a person has set for him/herself an unrealistic goal. A more realistic goal would be for him/her to study to become an accountant. Another scenario is that of a secondary school boy who wants to become a medical doctor in three years while it takes seven years to study to become one. While it is important that your environment or weaknesses shouldn’t limit you when setting goals. It is also important that you discover what your strengths and weaknesses are, and set goals that are in line with them.
At one time or another you would need to come to the point where you know you have finally achieved what goals you set for yourself. Therefore, your goals must be TIME BOUND. This means that you must achieve your goals within a set time. How long this time is, depends on what goal you have set for yourself. Short-term goals take days or weeks, and sometimes months, while long term goals might take years.
DRAW UP A PLAN WORKSHEET ON GOAL SETTING
- Know your goal:
- Write the goal (be very specific):
- A target date (when do I want to accomplish this goal)?
- Expected benefits (what are the ways in which reaching these goals will help me)?
- Plans (what are the steps that I need to take to reach my goals)?
- Difficulties and obstacles (what are the things that can hinder my achieving these goals)?
- Solutions (what actions can I take to overcome these difficulties)?
If you have no idea of your purpose or goals you can take a timeout and think of the following:
- What matters to me?
- What gets me excited about each new day?
- What are my talents, interests, passions?
- What dreams do I have for the future?
- If I could do only one thing with my life, what would it be?
DEALING WITH SETBACKS
Every successful person at one time or the other has encountered setbacks. Setbacks are obstacles, which seem to stop you from reaching your goals. For young people, such setbacks may include financial incapability, teenage pregnancy and failure to do well in a subject.
Setbacks can be very hard and disappointing, but one thing you should know is that everyone has faced it at one time or the other. Every great person has had a time in his/her life when all hope seemed lost. Take the story of Marie Curie, the famous scientist who discovered radium and twice Nobel Prize winner. As a student Marie was so eager for scientific knowledge that she endured poverty while studying for a degree in Paris. She was often cold and hungry but she had set her goals, she wanted to become a scientist even if it meant sacrificing her personal comfort or health to do so.
Her determination attracted the attention of a young physics teacher, Pierre Curie. They were both married in 1895 and both dedicated themselves to performing scientific experiments in a small room. There was very little heat and no comforts. The obstacles under which they worked seemed insurmountable. They put aside fatigue and financial difficulties to reach their goal. It was due to their determination in reaching their goal that the magic element, radium, was discovered. 487 experiments were tried and all failed before the eventual success by Marie Curie. The discovery gave birth to a new science.
In 1906, Pierre Curie was run over by a truck and killed and Marie was left to carry on by herself. In spite of illness and distress, Marie did continue with her work. She brilliantly developed the science she and her husband had started together. Through the later years, she gave advice, words of wisdom and hours of her time to her pupils. Future scientists came to learn from her from all parts of the world.
The story of Marie Curie is one of courage and determination. Her life shows that you can accomplish whatever goals you have set for yourself despite the obstacles that you might face. Therefore, whatever setback that you encounter, don’t lose heart and don’t ever give up. You’ve probably heard the expression: “where there is a will there is a way”, it is true! There’s always a way as long as you don’t give up.
However, setbacks can be caused by your own weaknesses. If for instance you have your mind set on becoming a musician and you cannot sing or even write a song, these may be a setback. You may therefore need to take a good look at yourself and think about your strengths. Goals set in line with your strengths are likely to be achieved.
The most dangerous cause of setbacks is your own attitude. One day you just don’t feel like trying anymore. You feel that there are too many obstacles in your way and that you don’t have what it takes to achieve your dreams. When this happens, there is only one thing to do- shake off the negative feeling and remind yourself that you are capable of achieving anything. Be your own mentor!
Your attitude can be a trap. Listed below are some of these traps:
v The “NEGATIVE THOUGHTS” trap: Your thoughts are very important because your actions would ultimately be controlled by your thoughts. Iot is therefore important that you think positively at ALL TIMES. Never tell yourself that you are incapable or stupid because you are not.
v The “FEAR OF MAKING A MISTAKE” trap: When undertaking challenges, it is quite common to feel that you are not going to make it. This type of attitude often makes you feel helpless and the irony of it is that if you expect to make a mistake, you probably will. People that have this attitude worry so much about making a mistake that they don’t even try to do something.
v The “FEAR OF SUCCESS” trap: Some young people are afraid of drawing attention to themselves. They are scared that if they do well or if they excel in a particular subject they would become popular. This is quite an irony as everyone wants to be successful, however it is a trap some young people fall into.
YOU CAN MAKE IT!
It is no doubt that dreams come true because without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them. Whatever dreams you have, whatever goals you can set for yourself, you can achieve. Never doubt your ability to succeed at anything because you have the power to become what you want to be and turn your dreams into reality.
- You, your Dreams – Catherine Watson and Ellen Brazier – 2000
- Smile, You’re Worth It? – Margo Kluth and Dorothy McCarthy – 1983
- Know Who You Are, Be What You Want – David Fontana– 1992