One day, you wake up and there are 18 candles on your birthday cake. The world greets you as an adult. Yesterday, they called you a child. Today, an adult. People start asking you questions. “What are your plans? Do you have a major? What do you think you are going to do now?” Most of us look around and wonder how am I supposed to decide on what to do with my life?
I took the traditional route of finding a major that seemed to be congruent with who I was – Elementary Education (a music teacher first semester). I would have preferred to go to art school, but that didn’t seem to be responsible or acceptable. And my career counselor told me the job market would be opening up as a bunch of teachers were retiring. I guess a lot of career counselors told their students this as we flooded the industry after graduation.
I took on a long term substitution job and learned very quickly that the Whole Language methodology of teaching was a creative and beautiful philosophy. I also learned that the politics of standardized testing had tied the hands of educators like myself and it would be very difficult to implement in the classroom. I loved the students, but didn’t like the complexity of unsupportive parents and politics within the staff. I bowed out after bringing my first baby girl into the world. And I have stayed home ever since.
How am I supposed to decide what to do with my life? I can hardly decide what to watch on Netflix. ~Trevor C.
A friend of my daughter’s wrote this on his Facebook status as he leaves childhood behind and looks into adulthood. I think many of us can relate to this question. I was reminded of it again as friends of ours wonder what their next journey looks like as jobs shift, needs become known, and long term goals are analyzed. Hubby and I have discussions of which path to take with his own work. It is scary to leave the known behind for something new. And what if you can never go back?
Leaving all we knew to set off on this journey for a year was probably the scariest decision I have ever made in my life. My body thought it was going to die. Anxiety had a total grip – I walked around with a knife in my shoulder blade. And yet, I knew in order for me to truly live, I needed to leap.
Beyond that day there have been many times where we have wondered what to do. Wondering which path to take from finances to repairs, from marriage to parenting decisions. From our experiences Jon came up with a philosophy I adore.
Take the most loving path.
In other words, when you look at the choices you have before you, which choice feels the most loving to you? The path or paths that pull at your soul. The options that would bring happiness or serenity into your life? Be ruthless in choosing love for yourself. Be relentless.
This means leaving behind the shame. Discarding the guilt. And taking care of yourself.
Of course you will feel scared, you have never explored this territory before. And perhaps this is the first time that you are valuing what lies within you instead of comparing yourself to the world outside of you. You may need to be a warrior for your whisper. It is okay if the circle around you doesn’t agree, because it is not their life. And the greatest explorers, researchers, scientists, and leaders kept believing in themselves even when rules or belief systems and crowds told them they were wrong. No one else knows what is right for you except for you.
10 Steps on Finding What To Do in Your Life
- Identify your desires – ideas and dreams you talk about over and over. Are there people doing things out there that make you jealous or resentful? Odds are you want to do that too.
- Write down all of those passing thoughts, ideas, and dreams you think about doing some day and circle the ones that feel the most loving to you.
- Look at your list. Are any of those ideas circled because they would be more loving for someone else (your parents, your relatives, your children, your spouse/partner) and not the most loving for you? Cross them off. If your decisions are based on making another person happy, then you are not really taking care of yourself.
- If you had one year to live which one would you pick? Star that idea.
- Decide on a baby step you could take. It doesn’t have to be black and white, all or nothing. For example, instead of our RV friends settling down and buying a house they could just buy a piece of land, rent a house, or move to an area and renovate a house to sell. Be creative.
- Gather your cheerleaders. Talk to your friends about the idea and brainstorm together. Find people who value your feelings about your fears. Join online communities who understand your journey. Reach out to others who have done it and ask your questions. You don’t have to do this alone.
- Humor the idea. Choose your one idea and do some research on the things you wonder about. Find out the facts to dispel the fear. Stop imagining what is out there and be proactive by gathering the facts.
- Try it. Set up a small step so that success is more likely than failure. If you want to travel the world, why not start with a one night hotel stay in your state. Build up from there.
- Be gentle on yourself. Accept this change as a process. Feelings of fear are normal. There may be a point where you want to go back to your old status quo because it is more comfortable. That is the process of change.
- Re-evaluate. If it wasn’t what you thought it was, change your mind. The experience you gain is your life resume.
A couple of questions that have helped me along the way of finding what to do with my life.
- I am afraid of __________ because __________.
- The worst thing that could happen if I try this is _______________ . If that happens the options I have are _______ .
Articles to read:
- How to Decide What to Do With Your Life by Leo Babauta
- 6 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever by James McWhinney
After years of living on faith on the road, I can tell you that moving in a direction is living an enriching life. The one path leads to the next. I thought working with an agent for my art career would lead me to galleries, it actually led me to writing. My blog led me to publishing articles for books and magazines. I may have a possible contract with GoDaddy. (high five)
This is living. Choosing again to be uncomfortable so that we can grow. In taking this journey we encourage others to do this same and show our children by example how to take chances and shine light into the world.
I give you permission to choose a direction and try it. To change your mind if it doesn’t work out. I give you permission to be bad. Now get out there and do this!