Planning for the future after getting exam results

Rae Tooth offers young people things to think about as they steer through the challenging days ahead
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In the aftermath of receiving A-level, BTEC and GCSE grades, particularly this year when there has been so much controversy and uproar, it is essential that you give yourself time to pause. Ask yourself: what do you really want? Giving yourself time to really consider this will mean that you have the best chance of making the right decision for you, that will keep you on the path you want to be on for your future. You may find yourself taking a different route to the one you expected, but keeping in clear focus where you ultimately want to get to will increase your chances of success.

Another important question to ask yourself is: What is it you really want to achieve? And what else? Think big, give yourself the space to really imagine all the possible futures you want and notice the common threads. Spend time thinking about how you want your life to be, not just in September but in three years’ time and five years’ time.

Sometimes we get stuck thinking about what we don’t want. If you catch yourself doing this, ask ‘What do I want instead?’ You can spend just 10 minutes doing this, or you might want to take longer. Some people find it helps to write it down, others like to make art or do something physical like going for a run while they think about it. The key here is to tune into your inner voice. You know yourself better than anyone else, you know what it is you really want to achieve in your life.

Building a big picture of how you want your future to feel helps you to listen out for opportunities in a new way. You can start building a pathway from where you are now towards your goals and identify many alternative routes to get you there.

How exactly will you move forwards to achieve your goal?

Now you know where you are heading, remember to look at where you are right now. If you have just completed your GCSEs, BTECs or A levels, you are well on your way already! Take time to consider everything you have already achieved- and not just academically. You might have great experience from looking after a family member, doing a part-time job or volunteering.

Think about what kind of person you are. We all have different preferences for how we are in the world ??" some of us are great at detail, others prefer to look at the big picture. You might be a champion and cheerleader, or you might be a problem solver…

There are probably still some more things you need to achieve before you get to where you want to be. Now that you really know what you want to achieve, and have identified your strengths and great personal attributes, you can create a plan of action. Gather lots of information ??" there is loads available to you, and your teachers and support network can help you here too. Make a plan.

Take decisive action

Any step in the right direction is a start, and it will almost certainly snowball from there. Once you know what you really want, and you can see that you already have the knowledge and attributes that mean you are on your way, you have a plan of action.

Work through your plan, and at each step check that it is working. If it isn’t, change it. Go back to the questions you asked yourself before. If you know what you really want to achieve, there are lots of ways to get there. By being tenacious, curious and creative, you will find your pathway and will almost certainly discover lots more about yourself on the way.

What is self-kindness for me?

Working through this process is transformational. It takes time and courage. Science and common sense tell us that we make our best decisions when we are mentally in a good place. Because of this, it is really important that we are kind to ourselves, not only as a reward at the end of a process, but to ready ourselves for one too. Attending to our own needs means we will perform better, feel better, and be able to keep going for longer. You will know what you need better than anyone, but you might want to consider a balance of eating well, exercise, sleep, discovery (some people call this work) and whatever brings you joy. If you can find an approach that works with you, you’re already moving in the right direction. Good luck!

Rae Tooth is CEO of Villiers Park Educational Trust and a coach

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