Take control of your future: A step-by-step guide

    Posted: September 16, 2020

    The future can be an overwhelming prospect for young adults. Trying to figure out exactly what to do with your life can leave you feeling stressed, confused and uncertain. But, it’s also an exciting opportunity to be proactive and work on being the master of your own destiny. 

    While there are lots of options to help you make your dreams a reality, volunteering abroad is one of the best. Why?

    Well, it can help you gain a clearer vision of where you want to be, and give you the inspiration to move forward with certainty.

    Further reading: 17 excellent reasons to volunteer in 2020

    Start with your vision


    The first thing you need to do is create a picture of your dream future. 

    But, you’ll need a clear and concrete visual representation of your future plans. 

    Think about it: images are powerful things. In fact, a photo can spark action among people across the world. And putting together a picture of your future can help you believe it, and then achieve it. 

    So, why is having an image important? 

    Well, we understand things better when we have a visual aid. Seeing is believing, so translating your goals into something visual can help you map out how to get there, and encourage you to stick to your plan.

    Capture the future you want by drawing, painting or even making a collage of it. 

    Further reading: Top ten volunteer projects for 2020

    Still unsure of exactly how to get this done? Why not break it down into a few simple steps?

    Here are some steps you can take to plan for success from home, or while volunteering abroad. 

    1) Start where you are

    Create one image that represents where you are right now. Make sure it includes both the positives and negatives of your current situation.

    2) Picture where you want to be


    Create another image of where you want to be in a year’s time. Add as many details as possible and don’t let “being realistic” get in the way. 

    This is where you can let your imagination run wild, and you get to decide what you’ll include. 

    You could depict yourself graduating with top grades, starting your dream job, turning your passion project into a career, or living a life full of creativity.

    3) Flesh out your vision

    Connect emotionally with your vision. Fill it in with colour and passion. Add as many details as you can to make it feel more real to you.

    4) Remind yourself

    Put your image in a place where you’ll see it every day. 

    Stick it up in your locker, save it as the background on your phone, pin it up where you study, or on the inside of your wardrobe. 

    It will act as a constant reminder of your goals and give you a shot of motivation every time you see it.

    Further reading: Ten things you need to know for your first volunteering trip

    Now that you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready to start planning towards achieving your vision.

    Start planning


    Now that you have your vision in place, you’ll need a plan. 

    To get from where you are now to where you want to be, decide on the steps you need to take.

    We’ve put together some ideas based on where you might be at this stage of your life.

    Further reading: What can volunteering abroad teach me that school can’t?

    1) Are you still in school?

    This is the best time to get off on the right foot. You have plenty of time to examine study options and career-related activities that will help you reach your goals. 

    At this stage in your life, you have the freedom to explore a wide range of interests, so be open to new experiences! Here are some ideas:

    • Try out as many extracurricular activities as possible. Going on a volunteer trip abroad can help you experience many new things that you may never have thought of. It will introduce you to new cultures and outlooks on life. Why not take a look at some of our under-18 programs?
    • Attend university open days. This will give you an opportunity to find out what the institution is all about, and get a feel for the campus. Keep an eye out for GVI’s open days where you can learn more about our projects that take place all over the world.
    • Talk to people – career advisors, current university students, your parents’ friends, or anybody you think can give you some valuable advice. 

    Further reading: This is how volunteering will add to your university application


    2) Didn’t get into university?

    Don’t give up. Just remember where you want to end up and look at the next steps you can take. 

    There are still many options available to you, like:

    • signing up to volunteer abroad
    • applying for an internship to gain real-world experience
    • looking into learning a specific trade, such as auto mechanics.

    Further reading: How to choose the right internship to boost your career

    3) Are you in university and not sure where you’re heading?

    If this sounds like you, you’re in luck. That’s because many university students are in the same boat. 

    University is the perfect time to try out new things. Explore your interests and actively look for ways to boost your resume and land your dream job. You can try:

    • finding an internship to get a taste of working life and see if a particular career path is for you
    • going on a volunteer program during your spring break
    • joining on-campus groups that help you get out of your comfort zone – for example, join a foreign-language conversation class, take a few dance lessons, or connect with a debating team to open your mind to new ideas.

    Further reading: Five reasons all students should take an alternative spring break


    4) Do you have a degree, but are not sure what to do next?

    No stress. A degree opens up a world of possibilities. 

    You have limitless opportunities before you, so now’s the time to explore different options and take the time to figure out what you enjoy doing. 

    You can do this in any of the following ways:

    • Try out a job for several months, even if you aren’t sure you’ll like it. There’s nothing stopping you from dipping a toe in to find out what suits you.
    • Speak to people doing work you think you might enjoy.
    • Try a volunteer program. It will provide practical work experience that will look great when applying for jobs, and maybe even help you get clear on what you’d like to do in the future.

    5) Do you have an idea of what you want to do, but aren’t sure how to get there?

    Awesome. You’re halfway there. You’ve got your goal, now you just need to get started on planning your way to reaching it. These are some of your options:

    • Find someone doing what you want to do, then ask to sit down with them to find out how they got to where they are now.
    • Think about what the title of your dream role is. Type it into LinkedIn, find someone with that title, and read over their work and educational history to see what they did to get to where they are today.

    Further reading: Which gap year program is best for my career?


    6) Is everything you want to do expensive?

    Don’t give up. If you’re committed and determined, you can make your dreams happen. 

    There are many options available to young people who’d like to pursue study or internship options but don’t have the funds yet. 

    Here are a few things you could try first:

    • Apply for scholarships.
    • Start working and saving. With a good savings plan you can stash away enough money for the future. Try setting up automatic bank transfers to a savings account, shopping in thrift stores and cooking meals at home instead of eating out. Small changes can make a big difference!
    • Start your own fundraising campaign. You can set up crowdfunding events, get sponsorship to run a marathon, sell cookies, or use your creativity to come up with other ways to raise funds.

    Further reading: 15 of the best fundraising ideas for volunteers

    7) Do you have too many options?


    This isn’t a problem at all! 

    This is your chance to pursue anything that takes your fancy. You just have to start somewhere. Here are some first steps you can consider:

    • Try anything for a little while. You don’t have to commit to it as a career, just see what it’s like. You can work, develop a creative project, or learn a new skill.
    • Take a gap year to travel abroad and volunteer. You’ll expand your horizons and have plenty of time to think about what you want to do next.

    Further reading: Know your skills: How to explain your experience abroad on a resume

    When you’ve decided on what you’d like to do, create an image and put it up between the pictures you’ve created of your present and your future. 

    These are your “stepping stones”. 

    But of course, you won’t always hop effortlessly from one step to the next. You may come across some obstacles on the way.

    Conquer your fears


    Sometimes the most difficult obstacles you’ll have to overcome are internal. 

    And this isn’t a reflection of your potential: as humans, we are simply programmed to resist change

    Our brains are hardwired to protect us from the danger that change presents, so we struggle against ourselves when we try to do new things. 

    Feeling overwhelmed, confused and afraid are all instinctive reactions to trying something new. You just have to recognise this and then work on overcoming these feelings.

    The best way to get past the fear is to create a solid support structure. 

    Having a close circle of people who understand and support your drive to reach your goal can keep you going when the going gets tough. 

    Surrounding yourself with positive thinkers will give you uplifting energy and inspiration when you need it most.

    Some of the resources you can call upon include:

    1) Parents, family and friends

    The people closest to you are the most likely to want you to be happy and successful, so they will cheer you on as you get closer to your dreams.


    2) Mentors

    You can also reach out to mentors. This can be anyone you admire, like a teacher, boss, or your sports coach. 

    Many of these people were once in the same position as you, so they will be able to offer words of wisdom on how to take steps in the right direction. 

    If you decide to join a volunteer program, GVI alumni make great mentors too. Find out more about how you can be supported even before you volunteer abroad, by reading up on our promise of 360-degree support.

    Further reading: Alumni showcase interview | Session One | Sami Dawes

    3) Educational institutions

    Educational institutions have departments that are specifically set up to provide future applicants with the information they need. 

    You can find out all you need to know by attending open days for universities and organisations like GVI.

    4) You

    You can also be your own cheerleader!

    Keep yourself motivated by thinking positively and having an experimental attitude. It’s okay to try something out. And don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out – that just means you can cross that option off your list!

    Celebrate even the smallest successes, or steps towards where you want to be. Just getting in touch with a person you admire, or sending an application to an educational institution can be counted as a big win. 

    Most importantly, go back and look at your visualisation. Don’t lose sight of what you want or how far you’ve come. You’ve got this!

    Further reading: Volunteering abroad: How to choose the best destinations

    Take the first step


    The final step can be the most difficult – but it’s also the most important, so don’t let yourself stumble. See this through!

    Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone isn’t easy. You’ll need to summon up the courage and motivation to act.

    Here’s how you can get this right:

    1) Use your resources

    You can encourage yourself to take action by making use of the resources mentioned above. Call upon your support network and nominate some accountability buddies. 

    They can help you move forward when you lose momentum. 

    Post your plans on social media to keep people up to date on your journey and draw inspiration from their encouragement.

    Further reading: How to take a gap year: Before, during and after

    2) Take action on your goals

    Set yourself clear objectives related to your action plan. 

    Give yourself a task, such as browsing GVI’s programs, signing up for one, or arranging a meetup with our alumni.

    Further reading: Nine inspirational travel-and-volunteering quotes 


    3) Track your progress

    Stay organised and make lists of things you need to do, as well as the things you’ve already done. 

    Keeping track of these things will help you to maintain an uncluttered and stress-free mind, so you don’t easily get bogged down with feelings of being overwhelmed.

    Further reading: How volunteering will help us achieve the global goals 

    4) Ask for help

    One of the easiest ways to take the next step is to contact an organisation like GVI. You can message us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, complete an enquiry form, or make your way to one of our open days

    Finally, you can always call us for more information about GVI, or to ask advice on which program is best for you. Just let us know what you’re interested in and we’ll help you find the perfect program.

    Your destiny is in your hands, ready to be shaped the way you want. Take it one step at a time and you’ll see yourself inching towards your dreams each day. 

    Find out more about GVI’s award-winning volunteer abroad programs and plan for a fantastic future today!