“What should I do with my life?” – Three ways to answer that all important question
You've finished the day-to-day grind of taking your exams.
You relish your freedom for a little bit. Maybe you allow yourself a few extra minutes in bed. Maybe you spend more time with your friends. Maybe you read more for pleasure.
But soon your mind starts to turn to the future and that age-old question:
“What should I do with my life?”
You might be wondering what to study at university. You might be exploring the different career options that are open to you. You may be thinking more about the lifestyle you ultimately want to lead.
It's a tough question to answer. You can spend hours and hours thinking about it. You can talk to many different people to seek their help and advice. Both of these are valid things to help you on your way.
But, there three ways you can start to answer that all important question.
1) Engage with the world around you
The surest way to find your true direction, or the next place you want to go, in life is to get out there and engage with the world.
What do I mean by ‘engage with the world around you'?
Well, it's pretty simple really. You need to go out and get experiences. If you think you want to study Land Economy at Cambridge University and ultimately become a Chartered Surveyor (like one reader who got in touch with me last week) you need to go out and get real life experience of this. Go and get work experience in a local estate agent or land agent's office.
Another example: if you think you want to study archaeology at university, volunteer on an archaeological dig this summer. If you love scratching around in the mud for medieval rubbish, good for you! If you discover that you hate it, maybe history or a different subject entirely would be a better fit.
Getting relevant experience will soon tell you whether you love or hate this path. If you're bored to tears in the first week, then it might not be the right thing for you. However, you might want to try a different company to see if it was just that one place. Or, you might want to cross that off your list of life goals and try something else.
It's only by going out into the world and experiencing something for yourself that you'll truly know if it's the right path for you.
2) Learn about where you want to go
If you think you want to be a doctor, you might want to immerse yourself in learning the kind of thing you'll need to know to become a doctor. Similarly, if you want to be a lawyer or an entrepreneur read about your chosen field.
If you're fascinated by every word you read about your chosen subject, then it sounds like a good fit for you. However, if you're bored to tears or can't bring yourself to even pick the book up, that's telling you something.
Other ways of learning include:
- Talking to people who already do what you want to do
- Watching documentaries about it
- Reading books about people who've made a success of themselves in this field
- Keeping up to date with recent developments on the news or specialist websites
3) Reflect on what you already know about yourself
You can learn a lot about what you should do in the future from a) what you've enjoyed in the past and b) what you've already proven yourself to be good at.
So, think back to past experiences. Do you love being outside and being physically active? Do you love interacting with other people and bouncing ideas around? Do you love serving others?
Write a list of all the things you've enjoyed most in your life. Ask friends and relations to tell you what they think you're good at.
When I did these exercises recently it was really interesting. I learned a lot about myself. The most surprising thing that kept coming up from friends and family was that I was loyal. I had never used that word to describe myself, but when I thought about it I knew it was true. I also established that I was very good at, and also loved, learning. Finding a path that enabled me to learn on a regular basis was important to my overall fulfillment.
You only have to know what the next step is…
When you're deciding what to do with your life you don't have to have your whole life mapped out from today until retirement. You just need to know what the right next step for you will be. As you go through life you'll start to see the choices you make developing patterns, and your past will give you a clearer idea of what your future should be.
When I was about 22 and was about a year into my first graduate job I thought I had a plan for life. I was working in Tesco's head office at the time. My plan looked a bit like this:
- Become a Tesco Director
- Get elected as an MP
- Maybe serve in the cabinet
- Retire from parliament in my late 50s and train to be a teacher
- Teach until I didn't want to work anymore
My life hasn't turned out like that. And I'm pleased that it hasn't. Three years into my job with Tesco I was bored and depressed. I was comfort eating and getting fat. I cried a lot. It was very clear that this wasn't the life for me. I hated sitting at a computer in an open plan office all day. I missed thinking about Geography (what I studied at university) every day.
Eventually, I resigned. I felt like I was right on the edge of what I could bear on a day-to-day basis. I had no real plan about what I was going to do next. I just knew I had to get out.
I went travelling round the world. On my own. While I loved visiting all the amazing places I went to (that was the Geographer inside me), I discovered I hated being on my own, without my then boyfriend (now husband), friends and family. I came home half-way through the trip.
I then decided to bring the whole teaching plan forward in life and trained to be a teacher.
Then I got married and started a family. I moved back to the village where I grew up and had to give up my teaching job part-way through my maternity leave. Family came first.
My life was really not turning out how I had planned. But, I was happy.
Then I discovered blogging. I tinkered about with another blog about one of my other passions (sewing) while my babies were napping and my husband was at work. Then, one day, I had an amazing realization that I had gifts to give and knowledge to share. This blog was born.
I don't know where this blog is going to take me in a year's time, let alone five year's time. I just know that it allows me to share my talents with you whilst putting my young family first. For me, it's the next step in the evolution of my life. It's not a path that I planned years ago when I was in school.
So, when you're agonising over what to do with you life, remember this:
You only have to know what the next step is, and that you're sure it's right for you.You only have to know what the next step is, and that you're sure it's right for you. Click To Tweet
Your path from there will become apparent.
6 Ways to Build Your Future This Summer
On Thursday 18th June 2015 at 8pm London time I'm holding a free online live event where I'm sharing 6 way you can build your future this summer. I'd love you to ‘come along' (turn your computer on and watch). This event is all about helping you to use the summer holidays to
- Engage with the world around you
- Learn more about where you want to go
I want to help you sort out what you want to do with your life. I also want to give you loads of useful stuff you can write about in your university and job applications and talk about in interviews both at universities and with future employers.
It's going to be really useful for you. So, sign-up using the box below. You'll get all the useful sign-up details and a free hand-out for taking all-important notes that I made specially for you!
I really hope to see you there.
What do you want to do with your life?
I'd love to hear from you now. What do you want to do with your life? Have you known that you want to be a vet since you were 7? Do you know you have amazing talents to give to the world but don't yet know how to use them? Are you more fixed on creating a certain lifestyle for yourself and your family? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear about your hopes and dreams – it will help me to serve you better.
Oh, and don't forget to sign-up for my free, live event this Thursday!