Increase your impact by being intentional now
Create a profile
Meet people focused on impact
Set weekly goals and see your progress
Save your answers to our step-by-step guides
How to take action now
1. Decide what you want to achieve with your life
Refine your goals
Clarify what you mean by ‘impact’
2. Find your best long-term options
Choose the right college & degree
3. Invest in yourself to become better
Build your worldview
Learn transferable skills
Improve your mental health
Do well (enough) at school
4. Solve important problems in the world
Research problems do you want to solve
Learn about effective altruism
Apply to these opportunities
Start your own project
Why take action now
Don’t regret not starting earlier
I spent 6 years preparing for and studying at medical school only to realise that:
- Helping people, and not being a doctor, was my ultimate goal;
- I could help people more effectively outside of medicine
After I dropped out of medical school, I advised hundreds of talented college grads on impactful careers at 80,000 Hours.
I realised it wasn’t just me – lots of people regret not working out how they could have a big impact earlier in their life.
The advice I was giving to help people have more impact could have been accomplished a lot earlier. In effect, people had needlessly set themselves back.
And it’s not just anecdotal. In a survey of 1000 professionals, not being intentional was people’s biggest career regret.
Prepare now to make better decisions for college
In the US, you can choose your major later. But if you’ve explored before you get to college, you can make much better use of your time at college.
Outside the US, you often have some lock in from what you study when you’re 16, which determines what you can study at university. Making the wrong decision can take years to correct if you try, and maybe worse than that – people often just keep continuing down the path they’re on.
Start investing in yourself early
Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. –
Albert EinsteinProbably some marketer
Just like with the compound interest from financial investments, investments in yourself now can generate more investments later.
If you learn a skill now, not only do you have more time in your life to capitalise on it, but you can also then learn skills that build on top of it. If you learn linear algebra, you can teach yourself machine learning, which you can use to learn more about running a self-structured complex project.
Because you have a finite amount of time in your life, this means you’re not just accelerating your career, you’re reaching a higher peak.
Returns to education are one of the most estimated coefficient in empirical microeconomics.
Early human capital investments and early accumulation of both cognitive and noncognitive skills seem to sort individuals into different paths of lifetime outcomes.
A given investment in human capital today not only affects future payoffs but also influences subsequent accumulation of human capital. The result is that human capital accumulation and skill formation should really be seen as a life-cycle, life-long process where returns on early investments are high while remediation later in life is difficult.
Source: [Flabbi et al. 2018]
Get into the habit of setting and achieving ambitious goals
Picture this: You’re not doing what someone else says, you’re thinking for yourself about what’s important, and getting it done.
People I’ve spoken to who connect what they’re doing to grander goals in life, find it to be incredibly motivating.
(lightly edited for clarity and brevity)
My life was pretty bland and I was just preparing for my life to be bland. I remember talking to my mom about not knowing what to do, because I had thought about being a chemical engineer for quite a while, but then thinking that I'd wake up every day and just be making some chemical didn't sound motivating at all. I would not be motivated to work every day for my entire life. I feel like I couldn't tell why I was as unmotivated but I think that was pretty much the reason. Delving deeper into the impact of different careers and reading 80,000 Hours was helpful. [My goal is now] doing good in a way that I like that’s also effective. I guess it's like seeing my life in the bigger picture, instead of just having a job for the job itself. So even if down the road I realised that AI isn't the most effective way to do good and I decided something else. So that goal is still unchanging. My days are more cohesive. I don’t just have this goal for this date, and this goal for this day, but my goals and everyday tie together. I'm motivated to study even without a teacher asking for deadlines and whatnot.
Find a mission, not a passion
Passions aren't fixed, they're cultivated. Don't expect a luscious garden without having spread the manure. If you're <25 years old, be wary of doubling down pre-existing passions. You can probably accelerate the process of cultivating passions by learning & exploring early on . Lots of passions make for terrible, soul-crushing careers.
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