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Design Your Future: A Teenager's Guide to Planning a Career

a high school studnt intern trying to find the right career door

In the midst of high school, with graduation looming on the horizon, it can feel like you're standing at the edge of a great unknown. What comes next? University, a gap year, straight into the workforce? The choices can be overwhelming, and it can be daunting to figure out what to do when you're still trying to understand who you are.

You're not alone in feeling this way, and help is available. A book called "Designing Your Life" by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans offers a roadmap to this very journey. It uses the principles of design thinking - a problem-solving method often used in fields like architecture, engineering, and graphic design - and applies it to life and career planning.

This blog post will break down the key principles from "Designing Your Life" into practical steps, specifically tailored for you, the high school student standing on the precipice of a vast array of life choices. By applying these design principles to your life, you can start building a future that aligns with your values, interests, and goals. Let's dive in and start designing your life.

Start Where You Are

Recognizing your unique starting point is the first step towards designing your life. As a high school student, you're positioned in a place teeming with potential. This is the threshold of your journey, and it's vital to truly grasp it. How can you 'Start Where You Are'?

Begin by discovering and acknowledging your interests and strengths. Rather than thinking about making final decisions or setting immutable goals, it's about unveiling your own unique abilities and passions. Reflect on your favorite subjects at school and why they appeal to you. Ponder the activities that you find most invigorating in your spare time. Where do your strengths lie?

Understanding where you are also encompasses acknowledging your circumstances, the resources you have at your disposal, such as access to education, personal networks, financial support, among others. Consider how these resources could shape your future choices. However, it's essential to avoid falling into the comparison trap or stressing about where you 'should' be. It's all about gaining a lucid understanding of your unique situation and utilizing it as a foundation to build upon.

To put this step into action, dedicate some time for reflection. Consider these prompts for a deeper self-exploration:

  1. Interests: What are your favorite subjects at school and why? What activities or topics do you find yourself engrossed in during your free time?

  2. Strengths: What are you genuinely good at? This could be academics, sports, arts, social interaction, or even day-to-day tasks. What have others appreciated about you?

  3. Resources: What resources are available to you? This could be supportive people in your life, educational opportunities, or personal characteristics.

  4. Influences: Who or what shapes your current perspective on career and life choices? These could be parents, friends, teachers, or even certain books or media.

You could jot down your thoughts in a journal, create a mind map, or have a discussion with a trusted person in your life. Use this process of reflection to understand yourself better and establish a solid foundation for your path ahead.

Build a Compass

The next step in designing your life is to build your compass. This metaphorical compass consists of two important components: your Lifeview and Workview.

Lifeview is your understanding and philosophy about life. What makes life meaningful for you? What are your values and what do you aspire to achieve in life? What's your definition of success and how do you measure it?

On the other hand, Workview is your beliefs and values regarding work. What does work mean to you? Why do you work? What role does money, passion, influence, or creativity play in your ideal work scenario?

By clearly defining your Lifeview and Workview, you create a compass that helps you navigate your decisions, ensuring they align with what is truly important to you.

For a teenager, these views might not be fully formed yet, and that's okay. The aim here isn't to define them rigidly, but to start thinking about them. As you gain more experiences, your views may change or evolve, and your compass can adjust along with them.

To build your compass, here are some prompts you can reflect upon:


  1. What gives life meaning to you?
  2. How do you define success?
  3. What values are most important to you?


  1. Why should people work?
  2. What does a fulfilling job look like to you?
  3. How does work integrate with the rest of your life?

Take some time to reflect on these questions and jot down your thoughts. It might be helpful to review and update your responses periodically, allowing your compass to grow and evolve with you. This process isn't about finding the 'right' answers, but about guiding your thought process and helping you gain clarity on your unique perspectives about life and work.

Example Compasses

  1. Compass 1:

    • Lifeview: Believes life's purpose is to create positive change in the world and that success means having a significant impact on people's lives.
    • Workview: Work should be an avenue to create that positive change, not just a means for earning money.
  2. Compass 2:

    • Lifeview: Values personal freedom and autonomy highly and believes success means having the ability to make independent choices.
    • Workview: Sees work as a means to achieve financial independence and the ability to dictate one's own life.
  3. Compass 3:

    • Lifeview: Believes life is about continuous learning and growth and defines success as constant personal and professional development.
    • Workview: Work should provide opportunities for learning and evolving. Passion and interest in the field are more important than high financial rewards.
  4. Compass 4:

    • Lifeview: Thinks life is about building deep and meaningful relationships, and success is having a close circle of loved ones.
    • Workview: Work should be a place where one can connect with others and contribute to a supportive and collaborative environment.
  5. Compass 5:

    • Lifeview: Values experiences and adventure, and believes success means having a wealth of diverse experiences.
    • Workview: Work should enable such experiences, offering opportunities to travel or work in different cultural contexts.

Remember, these are just examples. Your compass can be unique to you, based on your personal beliefs and values about life and work. Your lifeview and workview don't have to be perfectly aligned, either. The key is to start reflecting and to understand your underlying beliefs. As you grow, these views will likely evolve and refine, and your compass will too.


Now that you've built your compass, the next step is wayfinding. Think of this as orienteering for your life. In the wilderness, you'd use your compass and map to navigate to your destination. Similarly, in life, you use your lifeview and workview compass to make decisions and steer you in the right direction.

Wayfinding is about exploration and curiosity. For a teenager, this could involve a variety of experiences like internships, volunteering, part-time jobs, or even new classes. It's about trying different things and seeing what aligns with your compass.

However, wayfinding doesn't mean you'll have a clear path or destination. Just like in orienteering, there might be obstacles or unexpected turns. You may even realize that the path you've chosen doesn't suit you. That's perfectly okay! It's all part of the process. You learn, adjust your course, and continue on your journey.

Here are some actionable steps for wayfinding:

  1. Identify opportunities that align with your workview and lifeview. It could be a volunteer opportunity related to a cause you care about or a part-time job in an industry you're interested in.

  2. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. The best learning experiences often come from challenges.

  3. Reflect on each experience. What did you like about it? What didn't you like? What have you learned about your interests and strengths?

  4. Continually check your experiences against your compass. Are you moving in a direction that aligns with your workview and lifeview?

  5. Adjust your path as necessary. Remember, it's okay to change direction if you realize something isn't right for you.

Remember, the goal of wayfinding is to learn and grow. It's about gaining experiences that provide insights into your interests and abilities, and gradually steering your life in a direction that aligns with your compass. It's a continuous, iterative process of learning and adjusting.

Get Good at Being Lucky

The concept of "Getting Good at Being Lucky" might seem a bit odd initially. How can anyone get good at something that's supposed to be a matter of chance? In the context of designing your life, it refers to increasing your odds of encountering beneficial opportunities.

It's about creating circumstances where good luck can find you. How do you do that as a teenager figuring out your career path? By building a diverse network, staying open to new experiences, and continually learning and adapting.

Building a diverse network doesn't just mean adding contacts on social media. It's about cultivating meaningful relationships with a variety of people. You never know where a helpful insight, advice, or opportunity might come from. Maybe a teacher could introduce you to a new subject, a family friend could offer a summer internship, or a community group could provide volunteer opportunities.

Staying open to new experiences means not limiting yourself to a set path or a specific idea of success. Maybe you've always seen yourself as a future engineer because you're good at physics, but an elective course in psychology piques your interest. Being open to this new experience could lead you down a path you hadn't considered.

Here are some steps to 'get good at being lucky':

  1. Cultivate relationships with a variety of people – teachers, family friends, community members, etc. Attend events, join clubs or communities, and participate in discussions.

  2. Be curious and open-minded. Try out different classes, hobbies, or jobs. Explore different subjects or industries.

  3. Reflect on and learn from every experience, even the seemingly insignificant ones. Each experience can offer valuable insights.

  4. Be proactive in seeking opportunities. They often don't just land on your lap; you need to look for them.

Remember, "getting good at being lucky" isn't about leaving everything to chance. It's about creating opportunities for luck to happen. It's about being open, curious, proactive, and connected, thereby increasing the likelihood of discovering a path that resonates with you.


  1. Broad Interests: Lucy loves reading and history, but she also signs up for a coding class on a whim. Even though it's out of her comfort zone, she discovers a love for problem-solving and decides to explore the field of digital humanities, merging her passion for history with new tech skills.

  2. Active Networking: Alex wants to pursue environmental science. He volunteers for a local nature conservation group and actively connects with fellow volunteers and coordinators. One of the group's members is impressed by Alex's enthusiasm and offers him an internship at an environmental research institute.

  3. Open-mindedness: Max, a high school athlete, is set on a career in sports. When an injury sidelines him, he starts helping out with the team's marketing. He finds that he enjoys this new role and decides to pursue a degree in sports marketing, opening up a new career path he hadn't considered before.

  4. Taking Opportunities: Sara is interested in journalism. She takes every opportunity to write - for her school newspaper, a local community blog, even entering writing competitions. Her diverse portfolio catches the attention of a local newspaper editor, who offers her a part-time job.

  5. Learning from Experiences: Jake lands a summer job at a retail store, thinking it would be a temporary gig. However, he finds that he enjoys the business aspect and gets an opportunity to assist the store manager. This experience encourages him to consider a degree in business.

Each of these examples involves teenagers stepping outside their comfort zones, being open to unexpected experiences, actively seeking opportunities, or leveraging their network. In doing so, they create situations where 'luck' can happen - leading to new insights, opportunities, or career paths.


As a teenager figuring out your future career, you are likely inundated with advice like "follow your passion" or "find your calling." While well-intentioned, this advice can often lead to more stress and confusion. How are you supposed to know what your passion is when you haven't had much experience in the real world?

The concept of Prototyping in the "Designing Your Life" approach offers a solution to this problem. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to figure everything out upfront, you create "prototypes" - small, manageable experiences or interactions to learn more about your interests and possibilities.

Prototyping can involve conducting informational interviews with professionals in fields you're interested in, job shadowing, internships, or even online courses. The goal is to gain firsthand insights and experiences that can help you make informed decisions about your future.

Here are some steps to start prototyping:

  1. Identify Areas of Interest: Make a list of careers or industries that intrigue you. Don't limit yourself at this stage. Include any and every area that catches your fancy.

  2. Informational Interviews: Reach out to professionals in these fields. Ask them about their work, their journey, the pros and cons of their job, and any advice they have for someone considering their field.

  3. Job Shadowing or Internships: If possible, spend a day or a week observing the work in your area of interest. This hands-on experience can provide a more realistic view of the field.

  4. Online Courses or Workshops: Explore courses related to your areas of interest. They don't have to be formal or long-term courses. Even a short online workshop can offer valuable insights.

  5. Reflect: After each prototyping experience, take the time to reflect on what you've learned. Did you enjoy the experience? What did you like or dislike about it? How does it align with your Lifeview and Workview?

Remember, prototyping is about exploration and learning, not about finding the 'perfect' career right away. It's okay to try out something and decide it's not for you. Each prototype brings you one step closer to understanding what you want in your career.

Let's consider the story of Sophia:

Sophia, a high school senior, has always been curious about the world of filmmaking. However, she isn't sure if this interest could translate into a career or what role she might want to play in the film industry.

Step 1: Identify Areas of Interest: Sophia loves storytelling, so she considers a wide range of roles within the filmmaking process. She is fascinated by screenwriting, directing, and cinematography, and decides to explore these areas.

Step 2: Informational Interviews: Sophia reaches out to her school's drama teacher, who has experience in local theater and connections to people working in film. She arranges an informational interview with a screenwriter and a director. Through her conversations, she gets a sense of what each role involves, the skills required, and the potential challenges she might face in these careers.

Step 3: Job Shadowing or Internships: To get a firsthand feel for these roles, Sophia secures a short internship with a local film crew. She spends time observing the director and the cinematographer at work. She also gets a chance to assist in the script editing process. This provides her with practical insights into these roles.

Step 4: Online Courses or Workshops: Encouraged by her internship experience, Sophia enrolls in an online screenwriting workshop and begins watching online tutorials about cinematography. This helps her build foundational skills and gain a deeper understanding of these roles.

Step 5: Reflect: At the end of these prototyping experiences, Sophia reflects on what she's learned. She realizes she enjoys the storytelling aspect of screenwriting but also loves the practical, hands-on nature of cinematography. She decides to explore film programs that offer a balance of theory and practice and consider dual-major or major-minor combinations.

Through this prototyping process, Sophia hasn't committed to a specific career path yet, but she has gained valuable insights and experiences that will inform her next steps. She also knows that this is just the beginning of her journey and that she can continue to prototype as she progresses through her career.

Let's consider the story of Josh:

Josh is a high school student with a deep fascination for technology and social impact. He sees how technology can improve lives but isn't sure how to merge these two interests into a viable career path.

Step 1: Identify Areas of Interest: Josh begins by jotting down his interests - coding, app development, social welfare, and sustainable living. He's curious about how technology can be leveraged for social impact, particularly in the field of sustainability.

Step 2: Informational Interviews: Josh reaches out to his computer science teacher and explains his interests. The teacher connects Josh with a former student who now works for a tech startup focused on sustainable solutions. In the interview, Josh learns about the intersection of technology and sustainability and the various roles that exist in the field.

Step 3: Job Shadowing or Internships: The former student invites Josh to shadow her for a day at the tech startup. Josh gets to see a day in the life of a tech social entrepreneur. He also learns about other roles within the organization, such as app development, project management, and user experience design.

Step 4: Online Courses or Workshops: Inspired by his job shadowing experience, Josh enrolls in an online course about using technology for social good. He also participates in a weekend hackathon for creating sustainable solutions. These experiences allow him to delve deeper into his interests and learn new skills.

Step 5: Reflect: After these experiences, Josh reflects on what he enjoyed and what he learned. He finds that he's passionate about using technology to create sustainable solutions. He also realizes that he enjoys the creative process of app development. This clarity guides his decisions about potential college courses and long-term career paths.

Through prototyping, Josh didn't just get closer to understanding his career interests; he also gained valuable experiences, connections, and skills along the way. He's more confident about his path and excited about the possibilities ahead.

Let's look at the story of Emily:

Emily, a high school senior, has a deep love for art and design but is unsure about how to transform this passion into a career that would also provide stability and financial security.

Step 1: Identify Areas of Interest: Emily has always enjoyed sketching and has recently taken an interest in digital design. She wonders if she could merge these interests into a career, perhaps in graphic design, animation, or web design.

Step 2: Informational Interviews: Emily reaches out to her art teacher, who connects her with a former student working as a graphic designer. Emily also finds a local animator and web designer for additional interviews. She prepares a list of questions to understand their daily routines, the joys and challenges of their work, and how they turned their passion into a profession.

Step 3: Job Shadowing or Internships: Emily secures a week-long shadowing opportunity with the graphic designer, getting firsthand exposure to the work. She observes client meetings, design processes, and even gets a small hands-on project.

Step 4: Online Courses or Workshops: Emily signs up for an online course in graphic design and digital animation to delve deeper into these areas. She learns to use design software and even develops a few pieces for her portfolio.

Step 5: Reflect: After her prototyping experiences, Emily takes time to reflect. She discovers she loves the problem-solving aspect of graphic design but also enjoys the creativity in animation. She decides to look for colleges that offer comprehensive design programs, allowing her to continue exploring her interests before specializing.

Through the prototyping process, Emily was able to validate her interests, learn new skills, and gain practical insights about possible career paths. While she hasn't made a final career decision, she feels confident and excited about her next steps toward a creative career.

Let's take a look at the story of Miguel:

Miguel, a high school student, has always had a knack for understanding complex scientific concepts and a curiosity about how things work. However, he is unsure of how to turn these interests into a clear career path.

Step 1: Identify Areas of Interest: Miguel knows he loves science, so he starts with broad areas like physics, chemistry, and biology. He's also intrigued by environmental science and the potential to make a positive impact on the planet.

Step 2: Informational Interviews: Miguel approaches his science teacher who helps him connect with a few professionals in various scientific fields. He sets up informational interviews with a physicist, a chemist, an environmental scientist, and a biologist. Through these conversations, he learns about the realities of each profession - the exciting breakthroughs, the everyday tasks, the challenges, and the skills needed.

Step 3: Job Shadowing or Internships: One of the professionals, an environmental scientist, offers Miguel an opportunity to shadow him at work for a day. Miguel observes fieldwork, lab experiments, and data analysis, getting a feel for the profession.

Step 4: Online Courses or Workshops: Inspired by his shadowing experience and the informational interviews, Miguel decides to explore further. He signs up for online courses covering the basics of each field. He also participates in a local science fair, which allows him to apply some of the theoretical knowledge he's gained.

Step 5: Reflect: After going through each prototype, Miguel takes time to reflect on his experiences. He realizes that he's most drawn to environmental science - he enjoyed the fieldwork, felt fulfilled by the idea of contributing to environmental solutions, and was excited by the complexity of the challenges in the field.

Through prototyping, Miguel was able to explore his interests, gain practical experience, and clarify his career direction. He's not only more assured about his decision to pursue environmental science but also understands that this is an ongoing process, and it's okay to pivot as he gains more experience and knowledge.

Let's look at the story of Ava:

Ava, a high school student, has always been captivated by languages and cultures. She speaks Spanish at home, enjoys learning French in school, and loves exploring different cuisines and traditions. However, she's uncertain about how to translate these passions into a career.

Step 1: Identify Areas of Interest: Ava begins by identifying her areas of interest, which include language translation, international relations, cultural studies, and culinary arts. She's curious about careers that could involve these elements.

Step 2: Informational Interviews: Ava contacts her French teacher and a family friend who is a diplomat. She sets up informational interviews to understand more about careers in translation and international relations. She also gets in touch with a chef specializing in international cuisine, to understand that career path.

Step 3: Job Shadowing or Internships: Ava arranges to shadow a translator for a day and secures a short internship at a local restaurant known for its international menu. These experiences give her a taste of what to expect in these careers.

Step 4: Online Courses or Workshops: After her job shadowing and internship experiences, Ava decides to further explore these fields. She enrolls in an online course about international relations and takes part in a cooking workshop focused on different cultural cuisines.

Step 5: Reflect: After experiencing these prototypes, Ava reflects on what she learned and enjoyed. She realizes that she loves the dynamic nature of international relations and the practical, creative aspects of cooking. She considers pursuing a degree in international relations with a minor in culinary arts, which could lead to a variety of career paths, including cultural diplomacy.

Through this prototyping process, Ava not only gained more clarity about her career interests but also developed valuable connections and skills. This experience reinforced that career exploration is a journey, and it's okay to take your time and experiment.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Q: What if I'm not sure about my interests? A: It's okay if you're unsure. Start with what you enjoy or feel curious about, no matter how broad or unrelated they may seem. The goal is to explore and learn more about yourself and potential career paths.

2. Q: How do I find professionals for informational interviews? A: Start with your immediate network: teachers, guidance counselors, family, or friends. They may know someone in the field of your interest. Also, consider using online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals.

3. Q: What if I can't find a job shadowing or internship opportunity? A: Don't worry! There are other ways to prototype. Volunteering, part-time jobs, or even virtual experiences and online courses can provide valuable insights.

4. Q: I'm overwhelmed with all the online courses available. How do I choose the right one? A: Look for courses related to your area of interest and check the course content, duration, reviews, and whether they provide a certificate. You can start with free courses and move to paid ones as your interest deepens.

5. Q: What if I still can't decide on a career path after going through the five steps? A: That's perfectly fine! The process of designing your life is ongoing. It's okay to not have a concrete plan right now. As you gain more experience and knowledge, your ideas about your career might evolve. Remember, the goal is not to pick the perfect career, but to get started on exploring possibilities.

Embrace Exploration

We often have a misconception that life should be a straight line -- that we should know exactly what we want and how to get there. But designing your life is not a linear process, it’s more like a scavenger hunt. You try things, see how they fit, learn from them and adjust your course based on what you discover.

Think of life design as being an explorer. You’re in new territory (your future), and your task is to discover your path. Exploration is about getting out in the world, trying new things, making mistakes, and learning about yourself and the world around you.

For a teenager, the exploration phase might look like this:

  • Join clubs and extracurricular activities in different areas to see what sparks your interest.
  • Take a variety of classes. You never know what might inspire you.
  • Engage with people from diverse backgrounds and industries. Every interaction can teach you something new.
  • Get work experience. Part-time jobs, internships, and volunteer work can offer insights into different careers.
  • Travel, if possible. Experiencing new cultures and environments can broaden your perspective and ignite new interests.

Each experience, each interaction, brings you one step closer to understanding where you want to go. And remember, it's okay if you try something and it doesn't fit. That's not a failure. It's a valuable piece of information that brings you closer to finding what does fit.

Here are some journal prompts for you:

  1. What new things am I interested in trying?
  2. What did I learn from my recent experiences?
  3. What can I do differently next time based on what I've learned?
  4. Who can I speak with to learn more about my areas of interest?
  5. What are some part-time jobs, internships, or volunteering opportunities I can explore?

Embracing Exploration - Leah's Story

Leah, a high school senior, has a broad range of interests but no specific career in mind. Intrigued by biology, art, and literature, she decided to take an exploratory approach to her career planning.

Leah joined various clubs at her school, including the science club, the art society, and the literature circle. She also opted to take advanced classes in biology and English, while enrolling in an after-school painting class. These experiences allowed her to explore her interests in a structured setting, deepening her understanding of each field.

During a school break, Leah took up a part-time job at a local library, which gave her an insight into the administrative and customer service aspects of work. In addition, she volunteered at a nearby animal shelter, which combined her love for biology and social service.

In her senior year, her school organized a trip to a national art exhibition. This trip exposed her to professional artists and their works, making her appreciate the vast possibilities in the art world.

Through all these explorations, Leah learned that she enjoyed the practical aspects of biology and the creativity involved in art. Although she loved literature, she realized she preferred it as a hobby rather than a career. This exploration phase played a significant role in guiding Leah towards a potential career path that combined her love for art and biology: medical illustration.

Embracing Exploration - Jake's Story

Jake, a high school sophomore, loved sports and mathematics. Unsure of how to blend these interests into a career, he decided to embark on a journey of exploration.

Jake participated in various sports in school, such as basketball, track, and swimming. He also joined the math club and competed in several math contests. This gave him a taste of his interests in a competitive environment.

Jake's math teacher noticed his interest and suggested he try programming as it heavily involved mathematical logic. Jake took up an online coding course and found himself drawn to the problem-solving aspects of programming.

During the summer, Jake interned at a local sports company, working in the statistics department. This gave him firsthand experience in the application of math in sports.

Jake's exploration phase revealed that he loved the application of math in real-world scenarios and the strategic part of sports. He also discovered a new interest in programming. These insights directed Jake towards considering a career in sports analytics or sports programming.

Both Leah and Jake embraced the concept of exploration, enabling them to better understand their interests and potential careers. They discovered new paths by trying different things, making their career planning process a rich and enlightening journey.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Q: I have so many interests. How do I choose which ones to explore? A: Prioritize exploring the interests that give you the most energy and excitement. It's okay to explore multiple interests over time. The goal is not to limit your interests, but to learn more about them and how they might translate into a career.

2. Q: How can I gain work experience if I'm still in high school? A: Look for part-time jobs, internships, or volunteer opportunities. Many organizations offer positions for high school students. Also, consider non-traditional work experiences such as starting a small business, freelancing, or doing project-based work.

3. Q: I don't have the means to travel. How can I broaden my perspective? A: Travel is just one way to broaden your perspective. You can also do this by learning new languages, exploring diverse cultures through books and movies, attending local multicultural events, or making connections with people from different backgrounds online.

4. Q: I tried something new and I didn't enjoy it. Did I waste my time? A: No, every experience, whether positive or negative, is valuable. If you didn't enjoy something, you've learned that it might not be the right fit for you, which is useful information. Don't be afraid of trying new things and making mistakes, as they are part of the exploration process.

5. Q: What if my school doesn't offer the clubs or classes I'm interested in? A: Look for opportunities outside of school. Many communities offer clubs, classes, or workshops. Online platforms also offer courses on a wide range of topics. Remember, the goal is to explore, so be creative and resourceful.

Reframe Failure as a Learning Opportunity

Life is full of twists and turns, and everyone experiences failure at some point. It's a part of the human experience, especially when you're trying new things and stepping out of your comfort zone. But what if you could shift your perspective and see failure not as a dead end, but as a stepping stone to success?

When we talk about designing your life, this is a crucial aspect. Mistakes and failures are not setbacks; they are data points that provide valuable information. They tell you what doesn't work, which brings you closer to finding what does work.

As a teenager, the fear of failure might feel overwhelming, but it's important to remember that everyone fails. Even the most successful people have faced failure at some point in their lives.

Here are some ways you can reframe failure:

  • Understand that failure is a part of the process: Remember that every 'no' brings you closer to a 'yes'. Every time something doesn't work out, you're one step closer to finding something that does.

  • Learn from your mistakes: When something doesn't go as planned, take a step back and analyze what happened. What can you learn from the experience? How can you use this information to improve in the future?

  • Develop a growth mindset: Instead of seeing failure as a reflection of your abilities, see it as an opportunity to grow and improve. Believe in your ability to learn and develop new skills.

Here are some journal prompts to help you reflect:

  1. Recall a time when you faced failure or made a mistake. What did you learn from it? How did it help you grow?
  2. How can you reframe a recent failure as a learning opportunity?
  3. How can you foster a growth mindset in your daily life?
  4. What fears do you have about failure? How can you confront these fears?
  5. How would you approach life differently if you weren't afraid of failing?

Reframing Failure - Maya's Story

Maya always had a deep passion for theater. She participated in every school play, dreaming of one day starring in the leading role. During her senior year, she auditioned for the lead in the school's annual musical. Despite her best efforts, the role went to another student.

Initially, Maya felt crushed. She questioned her talent and even thought of quitting theater. But after some reflection, she decided to view this not as a failure, but as an opportunity to learn and grow.

She sought feedback from the director, who told her she needed to work on projecting her voice. Instead of feeling discouraged, Maya took this advice to heart and started attending voice lessons. She also continued to participate in the school play, accepting a smaller role and observing the lead actor's techniques.

Maya's reframing of her failure ultimately made her a better actress. She learned to improve her voice projection and gained valuable experience on stage. When she auditioned for a community theater play after graduation, she was offered a leading role.

Reframing Failure - Alex's Story

Alex, an avid reader and writer, entered a national essay contest. He spent weeks perfecting his essay, pouring his heart and soul into his words. However, when the results came out, Alex's essay was not among the winners.

At first, Alex was disheartened. He wondered if his writing was good enough and whether he should continue to pursue it. However, instead of giving up, Alex chose to see this setback as a learning opportunity.

He reached out to the contest organizers and requested feedback on his essay. The feedback pointed out areas where Alex's argument lacked clarity, and where his writing could be more concise. Armed with this feedback, Alex started focusing on these areas in his writing practice.

Over time, Alex's writing improved significantly. He started a blog where he shared his thoughts on various topics, which gained a steady following. A few years later, he even won a college scholarship based on his essay writing.

In both cases, Maya and Alex experienced initial disappointment but chose to reframe their failure as an opportunity for growth. By seeking feedback and focusing on improvement, they turned their setbacks into stepping stones towards their future success.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Q: I fear failure, and it prevents me from trying new things. How can I overcome this fear? A: First, understand that everyone experiences failure and it's a natural part of life. Try to reframe failure as a learning opportunity rather than a sign of incompetence. When you do fail, analyze what went wrong and how you can improve. Remember, every failure brings you closer to success.

2. Q: I failed at something I really cared about. How can I stay motivated? A: It's natural to feel disappointed when you fail at something important to you. However, remember that this single failure does not define you or your abilities. Use it as a learning experience: what can you do differently next time? Persistence and resilience are key factors to success.

3. Q: I made a mistake and now I feel stuck. What should I do? A: Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is not to dwell on them, but to learn from them. Take a step back and analyze what went wrong. Use this knowledge to make a better plan for the future.

4. Q: Everyone seems to be succeeding except me. How can I deal with this feeling? A: It's important to remember that success is not always as it appears. Everyone has their own struggles and failures, even if they don't share them. Instead of comparing your journey to others, focus on your own growth and improvement.

5. Q: How can I develop a growth mindset? A: Developing a growth mindset involves believing in your ability to learn and grow. Start by setting achievable goals, embracing challenges as opportunities to learn, and understanding that effort is a crucial part of mastery. Most importantly, view failure as a stepping stone to success, not as a setback.

How to Design Your Career 

As a teenager, making decisions about your future can seem daunting. However, as we've learned from the 'Designing Your Life' approach, the process of figuring out what you want to do after high school doesn't have to be stressful. It can actually be an exciting journey of self-discovery, growth, and opportunity.

Remember, there's no single "correct" path for everyone. Each of us is unique, and so are our interests, values, and goals. The key is to approach this phase with curiosity, openness, and resilience. Embrace the journey and consider these strategies we've discussed:

  1. Start with Self-Understanding: Dive into self-reflection and introspection to understand your strengths, passions, and values. This will be the compass guiding your career exploration.

  2. Generate Alternatives: Broaden your horizons and generate multiple career options. Each option represents a potential life that you can explore further.

  3. Try Small Experiments: Test out your alternatives through real-world experiences. These could be internships, part-time jobs, volunteer work, or informational interviews.

  4. Make Informed Choices: Use the insights gained from your small experiments to make informed career decisions. Remember, it's about choosing what fits best for you, not what others think you should do.

  5. Embrace Exploration: Life is not a straight line. It's a winding path filled with exploration and discovery. Be open to trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone.

  6. Reframe Failure as a Learning Opportunity: Remember, failure is not a setback. It's an opportunity to learn and grow. Each mistake or failure brings you one step closer to understanding what works best for you.

By implementing these strategies, you can transform the daunting question of "What do I want to do after high school?" into an exciting opportunity for growth and self-discovery. You're not just choosing a career; you're designing a life that aligns with your unique skills, passions, and values.

As you embark on this journey, remember that this is your life. You have the power to design it in a way that brings you happiness and fulfillment. Embrace the process, remain curious, and above all, believe in yourself and your potential.

1. Q: I'm still not sure what my strengths are. How do I figure this out? A: This is a common concern. Start by keeping a journal where you note down activities you enjoy, things you excel at, and situations where you feel most 'alive'. Over time, patterns might emerge that hint at your values and strengths. You could also try taking some online aptitude or strengths finder tests. Or you can enrol in the Careers That Matter program, where we take a comprehensive approach to identifying your strengths and values. 

2. Q: I have too many interests. How do I choose just one career? A: It's great that you have many interests, and you don't necessarily have to choose just one. Today, many people have varied careers over their lifetime, or even concurrently. You can look at how your interests might intersect, or consider a main career that allows time for other pursuits.

3. Q: I've chosen a path, but what if I change my mind later? A: That's completely okay! The 'Designing Your Life' approach encourages flexibility and adaptability. Remember, your career path isn't fixed; it can and will change over time as you grow and your interests potentially shift.

4. Q: I'm afraid of failing. How do I overcome this fear? A: Failure is a part of life, and it's often through failures that we learn the most. Try reframing failure as an opportunity for growth and learning, rather than something negative. Remember, every step, even the missteps, are bringing you closer to understanding what is the right fit for you.

5. Q: I feel pressured to follow a conventional career path. What should I do? A: It's your life, and ultimately, you're the one who will be living it. While it's important to consider practical aspects, it's equally important to choose a path that aligns with your interests and values. The 'Designing Your Life' approach encourages you to explore multiple possibilities and make informed choices based on real-world experiences.

More Resources

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Careers That Matter provides online programs to teenagers across the globe. The organisation is based in Melbourne Australia. We have students from across Australia including Sydney, NSW 2000, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Brisbane, QLD 4000, Perth, WA 6000, Adelaide, SA 5000, Hobart, TAS 7000, Canberra, ACT 2600, Darwin, NT 0800. We also take students from The United Kingdom including London, Europe, and the United States including New York , Canada, New Zealand including Auckkland and Wellington, and Asia including Singapore and Malaysia.