There are two things a young person can do to be happy. You can either improve your reality or lower your expectations.

This youth month, I’m going to focus on the financial issues that affect the development of young people. An example is the 27-year-old woman I met last week at a recruitment agency. She matriculated seven years go, and has limited working experience.

She has worked in marketing and promotions, distributing pamphlets on the roadside, and had a stint at a filling station as a cashier. She currently works at a supermarket. She has an eight-year-old child and is single, by choice, she said. She was looking for a new job at a call centre. I asked about her academic achievements. She did all her six subjects in standard grade and she got an “F” symbol for five subjects, and one “E” symbol.

I asked her about her dreams and aspirations. She told me she would like to get a new job which can pay her more money than she earns now. She said she wants to be able to support her parents, own a house, buy a car and send her child to a private school. She emphasised that all of these dreams and aspirations have to be fulfilled in the next three years. She said all her friends have these things and she is the only one left far behind, that’s why she needs to fast-track her success. On hearing this I asked if she had time to talk after her interview because I felt she needed to get real with her life.

She will need to be earning R35 000 to R40 000 a month at least to fund this dream and this could take 10 to 15 years to achieve unless she wins the Lotto. You see, her expectations are way above her current skills, abilities and the education she possesses. She is not realistic. We all have great expectations in our lives. The secret to success lies in our ability to manage our expectations. So, to safeguard her from disappointment, I recommended that she set short-term goals, which will allow her to take baby steps towards her bigger goals. Short-term goals are great for motivation.

One small goal, for example, could be to get a driver ’s licence. I also asked her: “Are you computer literate?” and “do you know the industry you are planning to work in?” I advised her that when she finally gets the job, she should focus on her job for six months, then spend at least another six months researching the valuable skills needed for growth and development. I told her to also find out how and where she can learn them. This will increase her chances of being promoted to better paying jobs. There are two ways to be happy; you can improve your reality or you lower your expectations.