With all the talk about student debt, the national debt, healthcare, and unemployment it’s easy to feel hopeless about the future for our generation. In the political discourse, the solutions to these problems can feel so out of reach that they leave us feeling powerless over our own lives.

As nice as it would be if policymakers would deal with the issues that create barriers for our generation, we should realize by now that we can’t rely on them to do the right thing. We can solve these problems, not by voting for the right person or advocating for a certain policy, but through individual decisions in our own lives. As unfair as it may be that we are put in this position, we will have to get creative and make some tough decisions to make things work in our own lives and our friend’s lives. These are the solutions that can help us deal with the challenges and move in a positive direction.

1.      Don’t fall for the sunk cost fallacy.  Despite graduating with an Economics degree and being very familiar with the concept of sunk costs, even I fell for this fallacy. For a long time, I had an irrational obsession with “using” my degree which caused me to eliminate some fantastic possibilities. The temptation to consider your past costs in time, effort, and money, in your present decisions is always seductive, but it won’t serve you in the long run so let it go.

2.      Find creative solutions to cut your expenses. Although the instinct can be to increase your income because after all, you aren’t exactly living a life of luxury, that strategy is often not the best one. You can end up more trapped by taking a job you don’t like or just by working too much. Don’t just accept the way things are supposed to be done. Take a hard look at where your money is going, and research potential opportunities for savings. You might find alternatives  to reduce costs you thought were pretty much fixed, such as rent. My friend actually bought a bus and turned it into a portable home to avoid the high cost of rent. I have other friends who house-sit or work as a nannies in exchange for free or reduced rent. Talk to friends and brainstorm ideas!

3.      Don’t Put So Much Pressure On Yourself. You may feel pressure to reach a certain level of “success,” because of the expectations of friends and family. True friends will support you unfailingly in whatever makes you happy. So don’t worry about external standards of success and find what success means to you.

It’s true that those in power have dealt us a terrible hand, but if we accept that we are powerless and wallow in bitterness and anger about the situation, they will win. We don’t have to go on feeling trapped by this situation. We are more powerful than them, we just have to recognize that and take action even when it’s tough.