At 22 years old, I still asked myself what should I do with my life. Everyone around me seemed so determined and focused on their specific purpose yet I couldn’t find my own. I spent countless hours on career aptitude tests such as this and this. I even stumbled upon wtfshouldidowithmylife.com. Nothing seemed to help me. I even googled the phrase what should I do with my life and got about 204,000,000 results. Not much of a solution but it was my glimmer of hope. I was in the same boat with millions of other people who just hadn’t discovered their passion/purpose/dream job or whatever buzzword is used for doing something with your life these days. I got out of that rut by asking myself this
Where do I even start?
As a person who lives in a digital age, I decided to use digital means. So, naturally, I asked Google and read the top articles on “finding your life’s purpose”. There were some good ideas inside so I gave them a shot. Number one was “What are your hobbies? What do you do to relax? Take a detailed look at how you use your free time.” That advice seemed helpful, so I checked my hobbies: reading, occasional gardening, and lets not forget going to concerts.
However, that gold mine of information did not help me much. Was there such a thing as a professional reader, maybe a proofreader – well that sounds boring. How about gardening then – should I become a farmer? Well, trimming my apartment flowers is one thing, plowing soil and taking care of crops is totally different. Concert going then, that should be good, right? Well, I guess I could become some type of musical blogger but again, the idea seemed too unappealing. As I delved deeper and deeper into this use your hobbies to find your life’s purpose mantra I decided that even if I had a good enough hobby to use as a profession I would no longer have a hobby and my old hobby would just be a regular job. No, I didn’t want that. I wanted what I had read about and seen in movies – I wanted to feel my life’s purpose. What should I do with my life I asked myself once again, this time I decided a different strategy.
Ask the people around you how they figured it all out
I decided that the best course of action to achieve my goal was to conduct my own research of people who had found their purpose in life. I started with the obvious group of people – my family and friends. For some reason, when asked how they found their life’s purpose, the majority of the people I interviewed simply said something along the lines of “Well, I don’t know.” Not much help there so I prodded a little more and got this answer “I guess things just fell into place and I ended up enjoying what I do so I still do it.” Sounds like another vague clue but it actually gave me food for thought. Things fell into place simply meant that things happened to people, that is, they experienced events, emotions, mishaps and successes. In a word, they lived their lives.
Thanks but I live my life everyday and still have no clue
Just as I thought I had a good thing going I once again felt like I had hit a brick wall. Live my life? I live it everyday. Things happen to me – I am an active reader, communicator, I hang out with my friends every chance I get. I visit my family regularly I try to be diligent in my job, I also like traveling but still none of that seems to help? When are things going to fall into place for me?
Since my research wasn’t helping me so much I decided to ask more questions. Instead of venting my frustration to my friends and family I questioned them even more. “Ok then”, I said, “What were the factors that helped to push you in this direction, besides things randomly happening”? This time I had more luck because the majority of people shared a similar answer: “Oh, I had this one teacher at school who got me interested in physics/history/English etc.”, or “Well, you see, my mom has always inspired me with her cooking skills so I decided to follow in her footsteps” and my personal favorite “My mentor showed me the tricks of the marketing trade and that just grabbed me instantly.” After those three examples a plan was already forming in my head. I was one step closer to discovering what should I do with my life. What did those stories have in common? The answer was
Find a mentor or a role model to follow
The reason is simple. Someone, who is already experienced with a given occupation and loves doing it, could present you their craft in the best way possible. Hearing them talk with passion and absolute dedication to what they do is absolutely inspiring. Such people usually are contagious and all the positive energy they use while talking about their occupation can rub on to you. Furthermore, whatever you decide to do there are bound to be nuts and bolts type of things that only a true master could show you.
I remember one particular interview with a good friend of mine who said “If it weren’t for my boss guiding me along the way, while showing me patience and kindness, I wouldn’t be in the company I am now.” The friend in question has been working for the same company for the past 10 years and shows no signs of job dissatisfaction. He is happy with what he does and so he continues to grow professionally in the company. My friend helped me understand what should I do with my life. His advice has stuck to me to this day but there two more pieces of the puzzle that I needed to put in place before my question was finally answered. The first piece came again from my friend in the form of another advice.
Being proficient at what you do increases your job satisfaction
It’s not so much about what you do but how good you are at it. My friend is currently a Project Manager for an international logistics company. He started as a warehouse worker 10 years ago and worked hard to get to his position. He said that in the beginning he didn’t really know he wanted to be a Project Manager but as he did his thing at work, he realized he was good at it. The satisfaction of doing his job well pushed him to improve his skills and advance in his career. He said that all the obstacles he encountered didn’t matter to him. Once he was finished with his tasks he felt content with himself. Knowing he did a good job brought him an inner feeling of happiness and and a sense of purpose.
Whatever you do, be good at it and you will be happy
I was intrigued by his comments so I researched the topic of job satisfaction. It turned out there was a scientific basis of that statement. People who are happy with their job simply have it better. This infographic from SnackNation shows it best:
Things were falling into place. I almost knew what should I do with my life. I had talked to people who had a purpose in their lives and I wanted to feel like them – to get up in the morning and feel excited about my job. In a word, to feel useful. I felt determined because I was on the right track. Already a plan was forming in my head:
How to discover what should I do with my life:
- Try doing a variety of things.
- Focus on something that you feel is right for you.
- Find a mentor to guide and assist you.
- Improve your skills and advance in your career
- Feel happy you have a purpose in your life
However, as I mentioned above 1 little piece was still missing – my starting point. I was aware that I had to experience a lot of things in order to find something that was suitable for me or just seemed plain interesting. I tried finding an activity by looking at my hobbies too but to no avail. Picking at random things to do seemed unproductive and too much time consuming. I wanted to limit my criteria of things to do so I could get started ASAP. This is when my parents helped me. The best source to find inspiration for future activities is your past. More precisely:
Use your childhood as a source of inspiration
When I sat down with my parents and asked them what should I do with my life they were most kind in trying to help me. However, they did not really know. They told me I was my own person and I should decide for myself. My mom threw in a couple of suggestions while my dad suggested I tried new things so that I could gather some ideas. Somehow, in that conversation, the topic of childhood came up and my mom started reminiscing about what I used to do when I was a kid and how well I did it. I couldn’t grasp how important that was at first but now as I think about it, that was the missing piece of my plan.
My mom went on to explain how meticulous and strict I was about writing my school essays. She also said I always asked questions and was a very enthusiastic learner. Most of the time my curiosity made me ask my parents hundreds, if not thousands of questions. My dad chimed in the reminiscing and said that he was surprised he had to buy so many books for me because usually other kids my age wanted toys. And somehow it all clicked – my curiosity about the world, combined with my never ending thirst for knowledge as well as my meticulousness on writing my papers made me want to try all these things professionally. They were not all hobbies per se, rather activities I loved doing all the time, not only when I tried to relax.
Putting all the pieces together
So, how can you combine all that information in one occupation? The answer is you can’t. I discovered that what I wanted to do, what I loved doing was not just one thing with a short description such as a writer or a teacher. My interests and my passions mixed into the realization that I loved doing many things such as learning, writing and teaching, hence this blog. I also loved languages and meeting new people so I also got a job as an interpreter. It doesn’t stop there but these things alone make me feel full of determination and happiness. “What should I do with my life” you may ask, my answer do the things you want to do and find a place where your talents and skills are needed.
What if it doesn’t work?
Just because the plan didn’t work the first time doesn’t mean it was a bad plan. Maybe the activities you picked were not suitable for you. If you find yourself in such a pickle do this:
- Keep meeting new people and talk to them about what they do and why they love it.
- Try to experience new things so you may gain new ideas.
- Talk to your friends and family and even your high school teachers and college professors. Ask them how they perceive you and what do they think about your skills and talents. It is much easier to ask another person to describe your aptitude because other people perceive you differently than you perceive yourself. People usually see things about your character that you can’t.
- If you find something you are good at, excel at it.
- Keep trying till you find your passions and interests. The thing you wish to do may not even be invented yet!
- Don’t hesitate to change your mind if things don’t seem to be working out. You will find your purpose eventually.
Hopefully the question of what should I do with my life is not that scary anymore. Once you’ve developed a plan of action all you have to do is follow it. There is no secret way to discover your life’s purpose. All you have to do is take action. Sitting on your desk, pondering upon this topic will not give you much insight. You need to get out there, get some experience under your belt, so to speak and things will click for you. We wish you good luck on your journey! In the meantime, what do you think is the best course of action to find your life’s purpose? What have you decided to do with your life. We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments. Help us guide other people in finding their way!