Sophie Conijn is part of the Young Happy Minds team in The Netherlands. She is working on our proposition for Young Professionals over there. She has coached 100s of millennials over the past few years and here she writes them an honest letter.
Today, I was thinking of you. About how difficult it must be to be you sometimes. There are times when you come across as quite certain. Like you know exactly what your future is going to look like. But most often I see another side of you and the question arises: Who are you really? And who do you want to be? What do your dreams look like and what limits you to realise these dreams? What makes you so insecure at times and why do you find it hard to make choices? I think I understand. Life can seem overwhelming. The world is your oyster. You can do anything you want. That is a huge amount of freedom. A wealth. But is that what it really is, a wealth? Your parents brought you up telling you that it doesn’t matter what you become, as long as you are happy. OK, happy… What does that mean? Good question.
When I am asked what happiness means for me, I think of things like ‘spending time with my family’, ‘riding my bike through Amsterdam on a sunny day’, ‘good wine’, ‘the feeling I have after exercising’, ‘a nice dinner with friends’, and I can continue like this for a while. Hmmmm, so maybe it is not as complicated as I thought. Or is it? Happiness is more than just doing fun stuff. Happiness is also about meaning, legacy and impact. It is about creating something you feel proud of, that is meaningful – not only for yourself, but also for others, and maybe even something that makes you feel valued. And all of the sudden, the infinite choice feels overwhelming again. Because where do you start when you've always been told that you can achieve anything you want. In other words, when structures and frameworks are lacking. How do you decide which path to take? How do you discover your own story? In a world that confronts you every day with the so called fantastic lives of all the people around you – friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, etc. There is too much choice, it paralyses you. Nothing seems good enough to meet the expectations of ‘being happy’, because someone seemingly happier will always come along, right?
If I could have one wish for you, it would be for you to find your inner voice amid all this ‘noise’. To know who you really are. And what you really want. But I also want to warn you that knowing yourself is only the beginning, because you don’t just become instantly happy overnight. You are responsible for your own happiness. I know that sounds very logical, but read the sentence again: you are responsible for your own happiness. Responsible to find happiness in the little things in life. As well as to figure out what will make you happy in the long term. What is important to you? How will you make a difference? Try to answer these questions honestly for yourself, without the voices telling you that it is not possible or good enough. And realise that it will not always be easy. You will not only have to be patient, you will also meet people who do not think you are great, good looking, smart and nice (sorry to burst your bubble). Difficult moments will occur. Moments that will make you want to quit and walk away. And that’s OK, it’s part of the journey. So keep on going. Do not be afraid to fail, rather learn to fail or fail to learn. The most successful people failed a lot before they achieved success. It only comes naturally when you work hard. This sounds contradictory, but it’s true. We are used to getting what we want immediately – hungry? Deliveroo will bring you dinner. Looking for a date? Go to Tinder and swipe right. BAM, instant gratification! But in the real grown-up world dreams are realised by working hard and being patient. And by failing. More than once. When this happens, get up and try again. Just like when you were learning how to walk. You made that happen eventually, right?
And before you think you need to do this all alone, no worries. I will be there, and with me many others, as loyal fans. To encourage you and catch you when you fall. To answer your questions and be strict with you whenever you need it. To lead you along the way and celebrate victories. Why? Because I am confident that you have everything you need within you to become who you want to be. But who are you? Who are you really? What does your voice say? What do you hear when you shut down all noise from the outside world? Follow your heart, work hard, fail, find a fan club and celebrate success. You will get there. Really! Believe me.