A Meaningful Motto

YOLO is a popular term from a song by Drake that came out a couple of years ago called The Motto. YOLO stands for you only live once. Meaning, you should make the most of your life because you only have one life to live; it’s basically a new version of carpe diem. I happen to agree with this motto but I think the term has taken on a counterproductive connotation that needs to be debunked. In most cases young people use the term to justify wild and reckless behavior because “hey, you only live once”.  Even when we are doing productive things like working or going to school we still tend to engage in time wasters more than we spend time finding and fulfilling our purpose. What I wonder is, would you really be satisfied if all your life consisted of was a bunch of drunken nights, illegal escapades, ill-fated dalliances, and near death experiences? Personally, I believe that all of our lives are worth more than that.

Less Than Great Expectations

Many people would agree that youth is the time for personal development but not many are expecting young people to live their lives with purpose. Living with purpose basically means that you would be working towards more than a job or a degree. Your purpose is your calling and the way that you are meant to make a difference in the world, even if only in small ways. So often we are told things like “our twenties are our selfish years” but why do we need to be selfish at this point or at any other point in our lives? We can develop ourselves and lead holistically healthy lives while still working to help others and while also being an asset to our friends, family, and community.  Unfortunately the messages that we get about being young have become pretty egotistical and we embrace it with open arms. The notion of “our selfish years” has been taken to mean we can do whatever we want as long as it makes us feel good regardless of the consequences to others or the future consequences in our own lives. It seems that many people have this idea that our twenties are somehow a separate entity from the rest of our lives. In this day and age, the time of our youth is regarded as an alternate universe where laziness and procrastination is accepted, reckless risk taking is encouraged, and there are no expectations of greatness. This fallacy of our youth makes it seem as if once you do all of the wild and crazy things you want to do then there will be some sort of reset button once you hit thirty that will restore your life to where it was before you acted out in your teens and twenties. We have to remember that youth is NOT separate from the rest of our lifespan. It is very much a part of a long continuum of moments and the decisions we make now will DEFINITELY affect the rest of our lives. The effects of the decisions we make could be positive or negative. If you spend time cultivating good things in your character, if you generously give of your time and talents to others, and you start working towards your goals you can set yourself up to have a wonderful life full of purpose and meaning. On the other hand you could make one bad decision after another and it could make your life more difficult than it ever needed to be.

Start Living Your Purpose Now

What I have learned, in my limited time on this earth, is that we shouldn’t wait to start fulfilling our purpose; the time is now. I want to make a difference in people’s lives, help improve my community, and leave behind a legacy that will continue on for generations and I’m sure many of you have similar dreams for your lives. I truly believe that most people want their lives to have meaning. However, what gets in the way, all too often, is that people don't fully believe they can achieve their goals, they don’t know what their purpose is, or they are putting off working towards their dreams because life gets in the way. But when you think about it, if you only live once and if life is short, like they say, then it only makes sense that you would start working towards your goals as soon as possible.
Even though I always thought of myself as someone with a clear purpose and vision for my life  I still struggled with putting things off, indulging in selfish behaviors under the guise of the “20 something alternate universe”, and I did not always make the most of my time and effort. I have always had big dreams for myself and still, I would push them off while listening to the voice in my head that said “those dreams are meant for later, when I’m grown and when I have it all together.” Let’s be clear: you will never have it all together and there will never be a perfect time so you might as well start trying to achieve your goals now, and if it doesn’t work the first time the good thing is that you can try again. 

Stop Underestimating Yourself 

I used to think that my ideas for starting a nonprofit, writing books, and helping people heal would have to wait until I after I became a licensed clinical psychologist. When I thought like that, someone asked me why aren’t you doing those things now? I started to say because I need training, I need experience, I need a reputation in the field… etc.  and she said, who told you that? You can do all of those things now. You may not be called “doctor” but you can start doing all of the things that you plan to do in the future, it might look different than you thought but there are ways to start making those things happen now. When my flawed assumptions were confronted, I realized nothing was stopping me but my own belief that I had to wait to start working towards my purpose in life. I might not have the business knowledge or the connections to start a non-profit right now, but I can research what it would take, I can reach out to people for advice, and I can generate a proposal to get my non-profit off the ground. I may not be able to write a bestselling book just yet, but I can start writing about the topics that have been on my heart for years and I can work on putting it together so that maybe in a year or two I will have a book worthy of being published. Sometimes all it takes is the adjustment of your perception of what is possible. Don’t count yourself out before you even try. 

Youth Is Wasted On The Young

We should view youth as a precious gift. There is common saying that “youth is wasted on the young” and sometimes I have to agree. I look around and see my peers truly wasting the gift of their youth and it saddens me. When we make bad decisions in the midst of doing what we want and living our lives they say “oh it’s okay, you’re still young”. I’m here to say, don’t believe the hype! We need to change our perception of what we believe is “living our lives”. Why would we engage in things that only take us further away from our ultimate goals? These things that we find so fun are the same things that waste our time, cause us to make bad decisions, and could possibly derail the trajectory of our lives. It may be convenient to internalize that selfish message that the masses embrace. Of course we want to believe something that validates all of the things we are doing, even if those things are hindering our progression in life. More often than not, the most helpful messages are going to be the ones that push us past the point of comfort, past the point of ease, and past the point of convenience because that is the only way we will get to greatness. This is the time to start living with purpose. I’m not saying that you should have your whole life figured out but this is the time to start. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun but there are ways to enjoy your life while being a productive member of society and without making poor decisions. Our dreams do not have to be deferred. What would happen if we all started making quality decisions right now? What do you think it would be like if we made every day count by living purposeful lives?

Action Steps: I challenge you all to alter the connotation of YOLO in your lives. Instead of YOLO being an excuse for bad behavior why don't we have it be a reason for purposeful and productive behavior? You only live once so make the most of it! Do your best in everything that you do. Be an asset to your friends, family, and community. Start living your dreams now. Who says you have to be over 30 to make a difference? You already have the talent and the power within you. Time waits for no one. If you have an idea develop it, if you have a dream pursue it, if you have things you need to improve within yourself, change them. If you do these things while you are young, you will be positioning yourself to have a quality foundation on which to build a prosperous and fulfilling life.

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