You’re probably here because you’re looking for the answer to the much-asked question, “What should I do with my life?” Well, I hate to break it to you, but there’s definitely no one-size-fits-all approach to it. Look at me for example, I was five years out of school with a job that I thought I would actually like.
False alarm. At that point, I realized that I wasn’t happy with where my life was headed.
So, what now? Do I suck it up and be grateful that I actually have a job? Join a pyramid scheme or a get-rich-quick scam? Or do I wait for a miracle and the answers to fall on my lap after googling, “What should I do with my life?” and reading other people’s life stories?
None of the above. I’ll admit, it wasn’t the greatest time in my life and I wasn’t convinced that I was on the right path, but I survived.
Lost as I was – I mean, who wouldn’t be – I stopped waiting for a savior or a mentor to map out the steps for me and to answer what should I do with my life on my behalf; instead, I started putting in the work myself. It takes small, consistent efforts on a daily basis to make those changes.
Being brutally honest about who you are, what makes you tick, and what you’re willing to put up with for a very long time (possibly even the rest of your life) is crucial.
Fast forward to today and I’m as happy as a clam. To be honest, not much changed, but life is better now because I adjusted my route and initially took a few steps in the right direction – which ultimately landed me here. So, what should you do with your life? You can start by having a look at the questions I asked myself to pave the way.
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9 questions to determine what I should do with my life
There’s no concrete answer to “What should I do with my life?” but there are guiding questions to help you reach the answer for yourself. Our journeys are different, but to guide my thinking, I divided the questions into three parts; looking back (questions 1 – 4), looking at myself now (questions 5 – 7) and looking forward (questions 8 – 9).
Apparently in order to know where you’re going, you need to know where you come from – or something like that. So, the questions to help you answer, “What should I do with my life?” coming right up!
1 – What did I want to do as a kid?
“You would play house, you would fake vacuum. Fake vacuum with your friends, that was awesome. It’s great because when I see my wife vacuum now I’m like, ‘She is living her childhood dream.’”– Nate Bargatze
As we get older, the big bad world changes our outlook on life. We’re not as optimistic and hopeful about the future as before, and we tend to forget about our dreams because we’re too busy “adulting.” Bleh!
Think about it, if you were one of those expressive and outspoken kids that had rainbow-colored hair and wore tie-dye clothing, chances are, you were destined to be an artist – not an actuary.
2 – What do I look forward to most when I get up?
“The things that excite you are not random. They are connected to your purpose. Follow them.”– Terrie Davoll Hudson
Nothing eats away at your soul like waking up every morning dreading anything and everything that’s to come because of your job. Trust me, I know. When you walk into the office and so much as a smile or wave from a colleague irritates you. Yup! That’s it, that’s how you know you’re in the wrong line of work.
When looking for the answer to what should you do with your life, consider the things that excite you and that you look forward to the most when you get up. Rule number 1 of taking yourself seriously according to – well, nobody – is jot it down. Write a list of these things so you can have something to refer to and act as a constant reminder at the same time.
3 – What’s the best part of my job now?
“As I have gotten older and wiser I discovered that there are six things that I really loved about my job. Payday, lunchtime, quitting time, vacation time, holidays, and of course retirement.”– Tom Goins
For me, the few things that actually made my job worthwhile were the people I got to work and interact with, and a few other technical stuff that I don’t want to bore you with. But that’s about it.
No matter how terrible your job might be, there’s probably at least one thing that you can highlight as the best part. If not, then you definitely need to find the answer to what should you do with your life ASAP!
4 – What do I like least about what I do now?
“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called everybody, and they meet at the bar.”– Drew Carey
When I walked through this (mentally of course), I realized that what I disliked the most was the quantity of work I had to do. Now, I’m by no means a lazy or whiny person, but the amount of work gave me anxiety! Notice that it wasn’t the job itself that I hated, on the contrary. I kept my job to some degree, but I cut my hours back SUPER aggressively!
That was a turning point to answering what should I do with my life.
Now, I show up once a week to catch up with my team and anybody else who needs me on a 1-on-1 basis. Also, people who need me must actually put in the work and be the ones who find me (hehehe). I’m in high tech, so there’s generally quite a lot going on, and because I’m not one to be the weakest link, I do show up TWICE a week when it gets busy.
Call me an overachiever or whatever.
5 – What does my best friend think I should do?
“Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.”– Thomas J. Watson
Let’s be honest, people LOVE judging other people and thinking about what others should do. Which is why it makes sense to find your most valuable opinion friend and let them have their say in the “What should I do with my life?” saga. The emphasis here is on “valuable opinion friend,” someone who knows you really well.
6 – What do I do in my spare time?
“Writing used to be my hobby, but now that it’s my job, I have no hobby – except watching TV and laying around the pool reading U.S Weekly. I have tried many hobbies, such as knitting, Pilates, ballet, yoga, and guitar, but none of them have taken.”– Meg Cabot
Hands up if you’ve heard it being said that in order to be happy, you need to find a way to make money from your hobbies? Pretty much all of us, right? Basically, most people’s great escape plan from a job they don’t like is turning the things they enjoy into a job???!
That’s the fastest way to make them not fun! BUT, you could find something related to your hobbies and pursue that as a job.
If you’re into woodwork, don’t become a carpenter, go for being a furniture salesman instead. Enjoy cooking? Don’t become a chef, build your own café or restaurant from the ground up. In an ideal world, we’d probably all just quit the jobs we hate and live for our hobbies.
So why not find a way to strike a balance? Make sure that you have great finances and then make more time for your hobbies. Easier said than done, but not unachievable.
7 – Does my current career work with my goals?
“Right now, this is a job. If I advance any higher, this would be my career. And if this were my career, I’d have to throw myself in front of a train.”– Jim Halpert (The Office)
I am a huge fan of part-time work because it means that you can find time to do things that you enjoy while still earning an income, which is great! Also, I’m pretty sure you liked your job at some point so it can’t be all bad. Remember when you got the e-mail or phone call telling you that you got the job? Yeah, channel all those feelings and that excitement.
In fact, your job is the best retirement job. Sounds a bit contradictory, but hear me out. You’ve already dedicated so much time developing the necessary skills and gaining the experience, so put them to good use!
Chances are, you won’t make more money in another industry where you’re nothing but a newbie, so your job is your best bet at a half-decent part-time/early retirement setup.
8 – What kind of people do you want to be surrounded by every day?
“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground.”– Wilfred Peterson
That’s a very good question! On its own it may not necessarily give you the answer to what should you do with your life, but it may provide guidance. You need to think about the kind of people you want to be surrounded by every day, i.e. your co-workers. I know of a lot of people that actually just prefer working independently but in the long-term, that’s not realistic.
You may have the world’s greatest mind (hello, modern-day Einstein) or be the most multi-faceted person, but at some point, you’ll need to work with other people. You’re not an island, so you can’t operate in isolation forever. You can try, but it’s not sustainable.
So, be intentional about the people that will ultimately have an impact on your daily. And remember, your network is your net worth.
9 – How can I start marching towards the path right now?
“The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stars… One step at a time.”– Joe Girard
I’m not a huge fan of wild Hail Mary changes to life. The way I see it, they take a lot of planning, guts and stress. And they sure as hell won’t give you an immediate answer to what should you do with your life. Instead, I believe in instantly making a move to push you in that direction.
But hey, if you feel that a corporate Eat, Pray, Love approach would work for you, be my guest. Each to his own. After all, there is no universal answer to, “What should I do with my life?”
If you’re STILL asking yourself, “What should I do with my life?”, then listen up! You’ve heard what I have to say, but what does that mean for you? Well, now it’s time to get moving. Get up off your butt and actually answer all of these questions for yourself like I did.
Don’t put it off. Dedicate about 15 – 30 minutes to writing the answers to these questions down and painting a picture for yourself about how to get to where you want to be. At this point, don’t sweat the small stuff or worry about making it perfect and catching every nuance, that can come later.
How I ended up
So, what should you do with your life? Honestly, I’m in no position to give you a direct answer to that. I don’t even know you – go back to question 5. But what I can tell you is that after some deep self-introspection and going through all these questions, I realized that hey, I actually liked what I was doing. I just wanted to do less of it.
I didn’t need to go on a Eurotrip to get the answer to, “What should I do with my life?” (But I did figure it all out while on a very long and chilled surfing trip). So, I kept my job and went part-time, now I couldn’t be happier!