We all know what “WTF” usually stands for: it’s an exclamation of frustration and anger, and it’s an understandable reaction to the tough new economic realities that have hit young adults harder than any other group. WTF happened to promises of a bright future? What happened to the jobs? And what do we do now that the rules have changed?
Recent college grads were raised in a time of affluence and entitlement, lulled into thinking that a golden future would just happen. With few role models to teach values like thrift, perseverance, and self-control, young adults are ill-equipped to cope with sacrifice and failure, and their dismal employment prospects are merely the most visible symptom of greater challenges.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to change course. This optimistic, introspective, and technologically savvy generation already possesses many of the tools they need to thrive—if only they learn to harness the necessary skills for success.
In Generation WTF, Christine Whelan does just that. Dr. Whelan, one of the foremost authorities on the history of the self-help genre, worked with more than one hundred young people to test and tweak the very best old-school advice and personalize it for the modern twenty-something. After a decade of researching the industry—and years advising “WTFers” as they struggle to make their way in the “real world”—Dr. Whelan knows firsthand what advice works and what Generation WTF has to offer.
Rather than focusing on the frustration that “WTF” usually stands for, Dr. Whelan leads the charge to reclaim the acronym as a battle cry for a positive future: Generation WTF will be a wise, tenacious, and fearless generation, strengthened by purpose and hope. This practical new guide will show these WTFers the way to success and instill lasting habits that will serve them well in both good times and bad.
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About the Author
Christine B. Whelan, PhD, is a professor, author and journalist. She is a visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. She earned a doctorate from the University of Oxford for her research on the self-help industry. Dr. Whelan is the author of Marry Smart: The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to True Love and Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women. She has been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, among others. She writes a bi-weekly relationship advice column for BustedHalo, a young adult website. She has appeared live on television and radio programs across the nation.
Read an Excerpt
From "What the #%$&?" to a Wise, Tenacious, and Fearless You
By Christine B. Whelan
TEMPLETON PRESSCopyright © 2011 Christine B. Whelan
All rights reserved.
Who Are You?
Why Understanding Your Values Is the First Step to Success
How do I find my path and direction in life? How do I know what I want to become or what I'm destined to be?—Evan
For most of your life, you've been told what to do. But now, "real life" is beginning—and it's your turn to call the shots. What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? This chapter is about asking some deep questions about yourself and finding your purpose in the world. To achieve that, this chapter will challenge you to
* Figure out your values,
* Vocalize your purpose, and
* Create a personal mission statement to guide you on the path to a wise, tenacious, and fearless you.
Are you ready to jump right in?
It's 2021 and, tragically, you've died young. You're watching your own memorial service where your friends, family members, coworkers, and members of your groups or clubs are going to speak about who you were. What do you want them to say? What did you do with your life?
Brutal, right? But let it play out, because it's one of the best ways to figure out what you value in life ... while you've still got decades to make it happen. Take some time with this question. Daydream realistically about where you see yourself. Are you a parent? A community leader? Who is most central in your life? Do you want your friends to describe you as loyal? Hardworking? optimistic? And are you on track to make this happen?
This powerful exercise is used by several self-help books, including Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and David Bach's The Finish Rich Workbook. The point is to demonstrate that being busy and getting a lot done aren't the same as accomplishing your goals. This is a crucial message as you struggle with the purpose, direction, and meaning of your life.
"Imagining my own funeral in all its intricacies was a very intense experience that provided a very good mental image of who I want to grow to be," said Chris. "once I began thinking about how I wanted to be remembered by those that know me, I really started thinking about what type of person I am and what type of person I want to strive to be. Though at times I fall short of this ideal, this habit has increased my awareness of my own actions in relation to who I want to be."
Fellow tester Carly said she'd had a too-personal experience with this scenario recently when a close friend died in a car accident. That tragedy, and this exercise, reminded her of what was really important in life. "I think that people need to do what they want to be remembered by. Whether it's a first impression or a last, think about the end result of the behavior you are exhibiting. It also leads to goals in life. When I think about the end of my life, I have a picture of where I want to be. Having the end in mind keeps me focused on the goals I hope to achieve."
You might think this is a really morbid way to begin an optimistic book—but don't skip over this exercise. By thinking about who you want to be and what you want to accomplish now, in your twenties, you are much better prepared to achieve those goals in the coming years. In previous generations, self-help was mostly for people in their forties and fifties who were realizing, belatedly, that they wanted something different from their lives. Fortunately, you can start a lot sooner.
In 2021, I will be __________ years old. I will have accomplished the following things:
What are the phrases that you'd hope to hear as those closest to you describe your personality and your core values?
Take a moment to consider: Are you living your life now so that people would say this about you ... if you died tomorrow? If you are at all uncertain, it's time to focus on living your values.
What Are Values?
Your values guide your decisions, both big and small. Values are what's important to you, what you cherish about yourself and your relationships with others. Values are about who you want to be—and yet, for some reason, we spend very little time thinking about our values.
In his bestselling financial planning guide, The Finish Rich Workbook, David Bach tells readers that knowing their values—and getting clear about who they want to be—is the first step toward achieving financial goals. "When you understand what's important to you, it becomes much easier to focus on who you want to be, then on what you want to do, and, finally, on what 'stuff ' you really want to have," he writes. But knowing your values helps a lot more than just your financial life: Having a clear sense of who you want to be will guide every one of your life decisions—for the better.
Values are different than goals, he warns: Goals are what you want to do, while values are who you want to be. Having a million dollars is a goal, not a value. Becoming famous is a goal, not a value. But to accomplish either of those goals means understanding what's important to you as an individual.
In his Value Circle™ exercise, Bach asks readers to list the five core values by which they live (or want to live) their lives. Security, health, strong marriage, family, and fun might pop up on a Value Circle™. Or perhaps freedom, happiness, peace of mind, spirituality, and balance.
Knowing your values stops the vicious cycle of working hard at unsatisfying jobs only to go into credit card debt for things to dull the pain, explains Bach. "Trust me, the Value Circle™ exercise can change your life." And after watching dozens of WTF testers try this exercise, it seems Bach is right.
Try it for yourself: What are your values?
Having problems narrowing it down? Erin started with a list of twenty-eight and cut it down to ten but then she was stuck: Her top ten values were security, happiness, fun, family, marriage, making a difference, fulfillment, balance, education, and kindness. To narrow the list down to six, she focused on the life she wanted to live today—not in the future—and dropped security, family, marriage, and fulfillment.
"Those are values that I want to work toward being able to have in the future but are not at the top of my values list in my twenty-two-year-old college life." she combined the ideas of kindness and the desire to make a difference into one value, generosity, and had her five core values: happiness, balance, fun, education, and generosity.
How to Live Your Values
For many Generation WTFers, the Value Circle™ exercise was challenging because it exposed a disconnect between their cherished ideas of themselves and the way they were actually living their lives. If you feel the same way, these WTF tips will help you close the gap:
1. Think about Your Values—and Write Them Down
Kim said her core values included family, love, security, friendship, and independence, and found the charts and exercises in The Finish Rich Workbook "extremely helpful" because "writing my goals down did in fact make me feel more obligated and motivated to complete them."
We'll see this time and again with behavioral change advice: Actually writing things down really makes a difference. Because writing is a powerful way to tell your story, sort your thoughts, and commit yourself to change, you'll do a lot of writing in this book. Keep a pencil or pen, and a journal, handy.
2. It's OK to Write in Pencil, Not Pen
Jaye said the Value Circle™ helped her focus on the purpose of her education—not just having fun and learning—but working toward a fulfilling career. Still, she was sensitive to the fact that her chosen values might change over time. "As life changes, this circle will change and I could probably do the same exercise in a month and could potentially get very different answers, but I suppose that is why [Bach] recommends completing the exercises in pencil instead of pen," she concluded.
3. Put That List Front and Center
Just making the list wasn't going to do much to change their day-to-day behaviors, testers realized. One wrote out her values on the back of a business card and stuck it in the clear-plastic window of her wallet. every time she opened her wallet, she'd see her list of values.
Molly taped her Value Circle™—with independence topping the charts—on the mirror above her dresser, "so that I can see it every day. It reminds me that if I want to live independently I need to save an extra few dollars a day, so I can pay for the apartment to live in after college or be adventurous and go to a new country. Those values should always be on the top of my priority list, every single day." And while molly recognized she was young and just starting out, "I now know that I need to start prioritizing my life according to my values starting now and not when it is too late. Understanding and having written down the important aspects of my life has motivated me to start being independent now. I plan on finding a job at school my senior year so I can save up the money to have my own place after I graduate. It is something that has always been important to me. I now know that I need to start acting like it is important to me, not just thinking it."
Is Your Internal GPS Leading You in the Right Direction?
once you've listed your five core values, it's time to take a good, hard look at yourself and ask, "Am I following those values as best as I can in my everyday life?" or, put another way, would you expect your friends, family members, and colleagues to use those five phrases in their descriptions of you at your funeral? If not, it might be time to recalibrate your internal GPs and make sure you're headed on the right track.
In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck argues that our view of reality is like a map—and if that map is wrong, we'll get lost and make poor choices. To make sure you're on the right path, you've got to face the truth, find your real map, and live life accordingly. By avoiding challenge, we avoid the truth. By ignoring our values, we're headed in the wrong direction.
Josh said it was very useful to think about his decisions as directional choices on a map of life. "This exercise really helped show me that I can make subtle changes in my life that have a big impact. In order to be responsible for myself, I have to be true to myself. In order to be true to myself, I need to be patient and able to reflect on the situation, so all these areas tie in together."
If your internal GPs is on the fritz, you'll feel like you are working hard, but not accomplishing your goals. It's as if you're lost in some suburban subdivision from hell, making turns blindly, going in circles endlessly. Without the right map—without the right values and a clear sense of purpose—you're not going to get where you want to go.
An ongoing study of young adults finds that only two out of every five members of Generation WTF reported that they have a clear sense of purpose. Yes, you've got some ideas, but perhaps you've never been taught how to formulate goals and make specific plans to achieve your dreams. You've got a general sense of where you want to go, but maybe you've got no clear map. If so it's time to recalibrate your GPs and find your life pupose.
Finding Your Purpose
I grew up with very supportive, enabling parents who provide for me in every manner to be expected. However, I am acutely lacking any serious desire to excel in anything. That's not to say I'm depressed or pathetic, just that I lack a central motivation or ambition. —Aaron
A purpose is that final answer to the question of why? Why are you doing what you're doing? Why does it matter? Why is it important? Finding your purpose, argues William Damon, author of The Path to Purpose, means figuring out what drives you on a daily basis, what motivates you to achieve those immediate goals, and what inspires you to keep going when the going gets tough.
Myriad psychological and behavioral research has found that finding purpose and meaning play significant roles in wellbeing. It turns out that one of the prime predictors of being happy and healthy in old age is whether you had a sense of purpose going through your life.
Purpose can be big or small. studies show that most people find purpose in their jobs—even if those jobs aren't exactly glamorous. If you wait tables at a restaurant, perhaps you realize that your purpose is to have people leave happier than when they arrived. If you input data, perhaps you realize that the data you are carefully entering affects decisions on a much broader level. As Damon writes, "noble purpose can be found in the day-to-day fabric of ordinary existence."
Purpose is intentional. Purpose means doing something like you mean it, not just because you're going with the flow. And when you do that, studies find, different parts of your brain are activated, and you start to learn and grow in faster and more efficient ways.
Purpose is the reason for your goals. While goals and motives come and go, your sense of purpose—your answer to the question "why?"—is the end goal that drives them. You might want to do well on a test, or save enough money for a summer in Ghana, but what's the reason for that? To get good grades to go to medical school to help save lives? To save money to travel to learn more about world culture so you can affect global change?
Purpose can change over time—and can evolve. Purpose doesn't need to be something huge like curing cancer or feeding the world's starving. Those are great goals—and do give many people purpose—but anything that you find challenging, absorbing, or compelling, anything that takes you out of your own head and allows you to make a contribution to the greater world around you—that's purpose.
Again, purpose is the "why" behind what you do—and it's probably the most fundamental statement about who you want to be. It's thinking bigger than short-term things like self-promotion, status, and things. But if you're like most of Generation WTF, you're getting a bit panicky now. What's your purpose?
Three Steps to Digging Up Your Purpose
Step 1: What am I good at?
The first step to figuring out how you can contribute to society is to figure out what you're good at. You might be a great listener, or a great talker. Maybe you can convince a mouse to give up its cheese, or perhaps you are a whiz with numbers. Think of your particular talents and list them here. Be honest, not modest. Be realistic, too. No one else has to see this list unless you want to share it.
My most valuable gifts and talents are
Step 2: What can I do with these gifts?
look at the list above. And I mean really look at that list. How can those skills be useful to others? If you're stuck, don't worry about finding one particular career or calling that uses all of your gifts, but instead look at each individually: If you're a good listener, what could you do with that? How could you help others? How could that skill change a person—or a community—for the better?
1. My talent for ____________________________________________________ could be used to ____________________________________________________.
2. My talent for ____________________________________________________ could be used to ____________________________________________________.
3. My talent for ____________________________________________________ could be used to ____________________________________________________.
4. My talent for ____________________________________________________ could be used to ____________________________________________________.
5. My talent for ____________________________________________________ could be used to ____________________________________________________.
Step 3: What types of careers or activities would I enjoy that would best use some or all of these talents?
Excerpted from GENERATION WTF by Christine B. Whelan. Copyright © 2011 Christine B. Whelan. Excerpted by permission of TEMPLETON PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I: Get Wise....................
Chapter 1: Who Are You? Why Understanding Your Values Is the First step to
Chapter 2: Get Honest with Yourself: The WTF Guide to Journaling........... 35
Part II: Get Tenacious....................
Chapter 3: Got Goal? The smArTer Way to Achieve.................... 55
Chapter 4: self-Control: Your Key to self-Improvement.................... 77
Chapter 5: Procrastination and stress: The Dysfunctional relationship
That's Holding You Back.................... 109
Part III: Get Fearless....................
Chapter 6: Thrift: old Word, new secret to success.................... 135
Chapter 7: Become a Fearless You: The Five life skills You need to Know.... 183
Chapter 8: Make Meaning: Thinking outside the "You" Box.................... 207
Conclusion: Generation WTF: 5 Things to Do Before You Put This Book Away... 245
Appendix: A WTF Advanced Calendar strategy to Keep You on Track............ 257