Mirror | Goals, efficacy, and ‘failure to launch’ syndrome

There’s a thing called ‘failure to launch’ syndrome that is a pop psychology term landing across my desk, yesterday.

Completely get that this is a thing, as I have personally seen it over and over again. The thing I see is this. People, mostly people under the age of thirty, are so, so stuck. Thinking. Overthinking.


self-efficacy (the genuine belief that you are capable of dealing with difficulties and accomplishing goals).



And end up not doing anything because they can’t decide about starting to decide, and love to keep their options open, until, of course, those options fade with time because the opportunities on the other sides of those open doors go to other people. People who are not afraid of taking chances, starting, committing, and finding out where those doors go.

If you just stay in the hallway with doors open, you’re not going anywhere.

According to Choosing Therapy, here are 7 ways to cope with failure to launch syndrome. (I’ll change the writing a bit to make it simpler. Most of my friends that I want to send this to do not speak English as a first language. And that is why. These sentences. Are shorter.)


1. Your Interests

Young adulthood—even more so than adolescence—is a time of exploring your identity and figuring out who you are. It’s when you can replace problems, by adding in new interests and finding out what you love. Try this. Explore your character strengths, take an inventory, and see how you can use them in different ways and at different times. Interests, purpose, and passion don’t just show up, in a single burst of insight. You find out over tie what they are, as you actively try new things.


2. Your Goals: what are they?

Goal-setting is an important process. It means you make sure your goals are realistic, and that they are really what you want. ‘Reflect to determine whether you have true goals complete with actionable steps. Allowing yourself to be curious and explore new interests gradually removes the pressure to choose a path in life that might feel permanent. Remember, your first job doesn’t have to be your life-long career. Think of it as one flexible step that helps move you toward full adulthood.’


3. Seek and Create Meaning

A sense of purpose or meaning is a key element in a mentally healthy adult life.If you’re feeling stuck on your parents’ couch and pressured to go to work or school, the issue might be that you aren’t going for something that is personally meaningful to you. See what makes you feel purposeful, and take small steps toward that.


4. Start Taking Action, Any Action

Action moves us toward our goals; in fact, many people are surprised to hear that action inspires motivation, not the other way around.

It beats back boredom proneness, overthinking, and a tendency to ruminate over problems.

Rather than remaining stuck in thoughts about what isn’t happening or what you should be doing, determine small steps you can take every day to work toward independence.

5. Build a Support System

Everyone needs support, especially during times of transition like emerging adulthood.For example, the time after high school graduation means big life changes, which can be hard.  Look to people in your life to help you, as you set goals, and take action.

Parents can continue to be a great resource, but resist the temptation to use them as a crutch. This will help you build confidence and a sense of self-efficacy (the genuine belief that you are capable of dealing with difficulties and accomplishing goals).


6. Develop a Balanced Perspective

Rigid all-or-nothing thinking is often at work in failure to launch syndrome. Part of the problem lies in the term itself: “failure to launch.”

It implies that the launch is a single event, the outcome of which is success or failure. In reality, emerging adulthood is a stage of development that spans years.Tune into a broad perspective of life and notice what is going well.Seeing this phase as gradual vs. a single event can reduce stress and shame.

7. Live Mindfully

Regardless of what is happening, mindfulness allows us to live in the moment rather than be stuck in thoughts of the past and future, or clinging to how we think the present “should” be.

When you live fully in the present moment, you learn to let go of judgments and expectations, which can reduce stress and anxiety and allow you to take positive action.


Make time, space for goal-setting and reflective practice

More about the upcoming eWorkshop Mirror is here.


Update: August 2023