Asking for a Friend: Help! It's so stressful thinking about the future!

  • You don't need to have your entire life planned out right away; it's ok to just take things as they come
  • If you have difficult, embarrassing or awkward questions to ask about teen life, send them in anonymously, and ‘Friend of a Friend’ will do their best to help
Amalissa Hall |

Latest Articles

Move over Met Gala: Mutt Gala’s dog art auction to help UK rescue charity

Join us and revel in the fun ‘In The Common Room’ on RTHK Radio 3

US White House holiday decor features likeness to Biden family pets

Paediatric leukaemia cases rise in Brazil, linked to soy production

Hong Kong primary student numbers down dramatically after Britain emigration wave

Remember: there's more than one way to be successful and it's not the end of the world if life doesn't go as you planned.

Hi Friend, 
I feel an overwhelming amount of stress when it comes to my future. I feel like every decision I make now has to be the right one, otherwise I’m never going to get to where I want to be. 

I’m already anxious, and with exams coming up, it’s even worse. How can I learn to not compulsively plan every stage of my life and just trust that my path will turn out okay?
Plan A

I'm a perfectionist - can I also be happy?

Hi Plan A,
As someone who used to have the same mindset as you, I know where you’re coming from. I, too, thought that there was only one way to do things, and if I didn’t do that I would be a failure. 

I did pretty badly in my exams at school and didn’t get into my top choice university. But the alternative path led me to opportunities I wouldn’t have considered previously, and eventually led me to my dream career. There is always a way to achieve your goals if you really want to. 

It may feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders right now. The key thing to remember is that there are things you can control, and things you cannot. 

Do the best you can with things you can control. For example, work hard on exams and applications, but know that once you’ve done them and sent them off, there’s nothing more you can do. Coming to terms with that should help you relax and let those thoughts go. 

How can I be successful when I failed my mock IB exams?

Know, too, that when one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes we might frame doing something we didn’t plan as negative. Instead, look at it from the perspective that you’re trying something new, gaining experience, and learning to adapt. Life very rarely goes to plan; everyone we admire has experienced some kind of failure or rejection, or done an odd job before getting to where we see them. 

It’s good to have an idea about a general direction you want to take in life, but be open-minded about how to get there. Graduation might make you feel like these big decisions are final, but very little in life is. Plans can be changed! 

Speak to your parents or other adults about their journey. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. And trust yourself. You can and will find a way. 
Friend of a Friend

No decision is really final, and you can always change your mind and explore new interests and avenues.

Hi Friend, 
I have been learning piano since I was four. In two months’ time, I will be taking my Grade 8 piano exam, but I am not actually sure if I should take the exam. 

I’ve been playing the same pieces for the past year and a half and, honestly, I’ve lost the motivation to practise anymore. Any advice? 
Thanks, Piano Problem

Help! I'm totally burned out and it's so hard to study

Hi Piano Problem,
Many of us have lost motivation to engage in our hobbies since the pandemic began. As life slowly goes back to normal, finding that drive again can be difficult. 

What you’re experiencing is totally normal – but the fact you’re thinking about what you should do moving forward is a sign that you’re willing to do something about it. 

First, you need to reassess why you play the piano, and why you are taking this exam. Are you doing it for others – your parents, perhaps, or university applications – or for yourself? When you understand your intentions, you can understand how to motivate yourself. 

If you’re doing the exam because you feel other people expect it of you, or you think it will help you in the future, know that this period of preparation and pressure is temporary. 

If you've lost the motivation to do hobbies you used to love, you're definitely not alone.

You might have to force yourself to practise, which can be challenging, but treat it like you would your other studies. Head down, and get it done.

Decide to dedicate a set amount of practice time each day, but don’t feel guilty about not hitting time targets. Do what you can. Pushing yourself to work on the skills you feel need polish will definitely help you in the exam. What’s more, that discipline and routine might give you purpose and motivate you in other areas of your life. 

If you’re doing this for yourself, remind yourself why you signed up in the first place, and how music impacts your life. 

I didn't grow up speaking English, and now I'm worried about my DSE

Watch YouTube videos of pianists you enjoy or admire at their best – sometimes seeing someone else’s talent can inspire you to try harder yourself.

I take it you’ve been playing the same pieces over and over for the exam, but why not try learning a new piece just for fun? Learning something new might give you the motivation you need to keep going with your exam pieces.

At the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy playing the piano, that’s fine. But I’d recommend you grit your teeth and go ahead with the exam. Not only will you have the qualification, it will be a good experience. 

Grade 8 is truly impressive. If I were you, I’d work to achieve this milestone, and then decide if you want to continue, rather than wonder in 10 years’ time, “What if?”. 
Best of luck, Friend of a Friend

Sign up for the YP Teachers Newsletter
Get updates for teachers sent directly to your inbox
By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy