Ann Shoket
Elena Sheppard
April 22, 2016 1:52 pm

How do you get what you want? And how do you create a life that’s not just meaningful and impactful for you, but for those around you as well? Now, how do you do all that as a 20-something woman, also juggling a personal life, stress, and ambition? These are the questions that former Seventeen magazine editor-in-chief Ann Shoket is dedicated to answering, and she’s going about answering them in a handful of ways. She’s answering them via social media: 

Via her newsletter Badass Babes, via her forthcoming book The Big Life: Find Your Confidence, Live Your Dreams and Get Everything You Ever Wanted — On Your Own Terms, and (most recently) via a fascinating conversation with HelloGiggles.

This generation of young women, millennial women, are laser-focused on ambition and success, in a way that I’ve never seen before in my 15 years of covering young women for magazines,” Shoket told HelloGiggles in an interview. “You do not meet a young woman these days who doesn’t have huge ambitions at her job, a side hustle that she’s hoping will turn into the next big thing, a passion project with a couple of friends, multiple networking groups that she is a part of, charities that she supports. So the question that I’m asking is when ambition, and career, and making your mark are at the center of your life, how do you put the rest of the pieces of your life together around that?” The answer she’s found is to embrace life’s mess, and leave the necessity for perfection in the rearview mirror. 

Through conversation, Shoket also gave insight into some of her other tips for creating the best life for yourself. Don’t worry, we took notes.

1. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. 

“It’s not about following some well-worn path, that’s been laid out ahead of you,” Shoket said. “It’s about forging new territory and seizing new opportunities. It’s about creating actual businesses in spaces that didn’t exist before. If you think about digital influencers, for example, for the most part these digital influencers are young women. That’s not a job that existed five years ago, yet now it’s a way in which you can begin to build a career. That’s a phenomenon, and that’s a way in which young women are crafting lives on their own terms.”

2. Life is work and work is life and life is work…

“The magic trick is that there is no point when work and life begin,” Shoket advised. “Those days of work-life balance are over, it’s not even part of the conversation. Young women want their work to feel like life, and they’re happy to have their life filled with work that gives them meaning. You are always on in both places all the time. It’s not like you go into some secret chamber of work and grind it out for eight hours, and you’re set free on the other side where your life begins. It’s just not how it goes. It is all work all the time, all life all the time.”

3. To figure out your passion, quiet the noise. 

“There’s a lot of noise, especially when you’re dynamic and engaged and curious,” Shoket said. “It’s hard to know which way to turn— your mom has an opinion about what you’re doing, your boss has an opinion about how things should go, your friends not only have an opinion about your work and your work life, but they want you to kind of validate their choices. There’s a lot of noise and there’s too much emphasis on landing on that one thing that makes you feel passionate right away. I don’t think you can. You have to try everything that interests you, and see if it works for you.” 

4. Explore all of your interests.

“You have to have a bunch of different jobs and that’s what having a side hustle is about — it’s about exploring something new. That’s what charity projects are about — they’re about exploring something new and about putting yourself into new situations. You owe it to yourself to take every twist and turn, and every windy path at the beginning of your career, so you know that you’re ultimately going to find the one that’s right for you.”

5. When it comes to dating, sometimes you have to detox. 

“The one thing that I’ve heard from a lot of young women who are dating voraciously, dating with an aim, is that you have to take a dating detox. There’s so much opportunity, there are so many unsatisfying interactions, that [sometimes] you just have to turn it off and vow not to put your energy there for a while. That goes for a lot of things; if you’re finding yourself single-mindedly obsessed with one thing, you need to turn it off and take a sabbatical.

6. Say yes, but also sometimes say no. 

“I’m a big fan of saying yes,” Shoket said. “Volunteer for extra assignments at work, ask for projects, lead a task force. I think you should say yes to every opportunity that comes your way: yes to cocktails, yes to events. The times you should say no are when the ask is not going to benefit you. I think you can tell when it’s a loser, and maybe not right away, maybe you’ll have to go to the thing once or twice to realize that it’s a waste of your time. But you can tell if there’s just not going to be a reward on the other side. Look out for those total duds.”

7. Life should be messy, not perfect. 

“I’m very aware of that feeling that there’s so much to do and not enough time to do it. [The feeling that] opportunities are slipping through your fingers, and every mistake you make is going to make it worse. There’s a real danger there in sabotaging yourself and creating anxiety that magnifies problems rather than creates opportunities,” Shoket said. “The whole idea of embracing the mess is to feel like messy is okay, and is not going to create anxiety. If laundry is piling up, or there are dishes in your sink, you’re constantly running late, all of that is a little okay, as long as you’re having fun, and feel like you’re growing and capitalizing on opportunities. So that’s the caveat: Embrace the mess if it feels like you’re moving closer to a vision of who you want to be, and how you want to live your life. Just know, that process is messy.”

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