How to Decide What to Do With Your Life

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:08
Ever catch yourself wondering, "How do I decide what to do with my life?" It can be hard to stare out at a world of swirling possibilities and choose just one thing from the mix. But instead of looking at your life as an abstract thing...
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Ever catch yourself wondering, "How do I decide what to do with my life?" It can be hard to stare out at a world of swirling possibilities and choose just one thing from the mix. But instead of looking at your life as an abstract thing that happens in the future, look at it as something that's happening right now, at this moment. Don't know where to start? We've got you covered with a guide full of ideas and questions to help you figure out what you really want. All you have to do is read on.

Part 1
Part 1 of 2:

Understanding Your Options

  1. Step 1 Make a list.
    Write down 5-10 things that you can imagine doing with your life--anything that comes into your head. Pilot, firefighter, teacher, author, park ranger, carpenter, neuroscientist, anything. Read over your list and see which choices leap out at you. Separate the realistic options from the fantasies, and choose two or three ideas to explore further: say, firefighter and park ranger.
    • Move down your list and consider how realistic each option is. Be honest with yourself, and scratch off things that you know you'll never actually do.
    • If you like the sound of being a neuroscientist, but you know that you don't have the patience to work through a Ph.D program, then you probably aren't going to become a full-fledged neuroscientist. This does not mean, of course, that you can't read about neuroscience, volunteer for cognitive research studies, or think about neuroscience in your spare time.
    • If you like the sound of being a firefighter, and you can actually see yourself being a firefighter--you're strong and quick, you can stay calm under pressure, you're willing to brush with danger--then do some research and further investigate the job. Run a web search for "how to become a firefighter". Read online forums about what it's like to be a firefighter. Speak to firefighters in real life and ask them about their job.
  2. Step 2 Brainstorm your interests and dreams.
    Start by taking some time to think about your biggest hopes and dreams. Take a few days to consider where you want to be going. Step back from questions about one single area of life (like your career) and ask yourself what your ideal life would look like as a whole. Write down any answers you come up with. Some responses will be more realistic than others, but they can still help you figure out your life's calling.[1]
    • Remember that it's alright to not have everything figured out. Maybe you have a dream lifestyle but not a dream job. That's great! You're just brainstorming, so don't worry too much if you don't have everything planned.
    • Try using online tools to figure out your personality type and see what you're most suited for. [2]
  3. Step 3 Take a good look at your life.
    Consider the choices that you have in front of you. There are many paths through life, but not all of them are realistic or convenient--and not all of them are fulfilling. Think about what you can and can't do.
    • Consider your values. What is important to you?[3] What standards do you want to live your life by, no matter where you end up or what you find yourself doing?
    • Consider your skills, and what you're willing to learn. Are you great at talking to people? Do you have a mathematical mind? Are you good at putting things together, or good at figuring things out? Are you willing and able to go to school in order to get onto a certain career track?
    • Consider your financial standing. Do you have money saved up? Are your parents paying for everything? Can you afford to take classes, or live on your own, or travel? Many of the good things in life may be free, but money can be an invaluable tool for getting where you want to go.
    • Consider your mobility. Are you willing and able to move across the planet for a job or an adventure, or are you tied to one specific place? Do you have the money to uproot yourself? Do you have obligations--taking care of family or pets, or staying with a significant other--that you don't feel comfortable leaving behind?
  4. Step 4 Think about what's important to you.
    Do you want to live in a city, or in a small town? Do you want to have kids? Do you want to be famous? Do you want to dedicate your life to a cause, or do you just want to be happy? Figure out what's important to you, and let this purpose guide you--but be prepared for your priorities to change as you move through life, learn, and grow older.
    Oprah Winfrey
    Oprah Winfrey, Entertainment Mogul

    Design a meaningful life that you feel good about living. "The challenge of life, I have found, is to build a resume that doesn't simply tell a story about what you want to be, but that tells a story about who you want to be."

  5. Step 5 Don't choose just one thing.
    You can be a doctor and a poet; a mechanic and a dancer; a teacher and a writer. Try to imagine a combination that sounds exciting. If you're going to live in human society (i.e., if you aren't going to travel the country as a penniless vagabond, or get yourself interred in a prison or mental institution, or live off the land in a national forest) you will need to support yourself with money. However, this doesn't mean that money must be your sole purpose--just that you will need it to support yourself while you do other things.
  6. Step 6 Talk to people.
    Draw inspiration from people who are living lives that seem interesting--people who seem happy and present.[4] Talk to friends, family, teachers, strangers; people you meet on the bus or in the street; people that you meet on the internet. If you hear about a job or lifestyle that sounds interesting and worthwhile, consider trying it out.[5]
    • Ask your friends and family what they can see you doing. They may not be able to give you all the answers, but they may have suggestions that point you in the right direction. You may be surprised at what they tell you.
    • Imagine yourself in someone else's shoes. If you think you might want to be, say, a teacher, think about what it means to be a teacher: you'll spend much of your time around kids and other teachers; you might not be a millionaire, but you'll get summers off; you'll need to spend evenings and weekends grading assignments and preparing lessons; you'll have a powerful hand in shaping the minds of tomorrow. Consider whether these are realities that you're willing to live with.
  7. Step 7 Test the waters.
    If something seems interesting, take a closer look. Research any jobs and lifestyles that strike you as legitimate possibilities. Remember: you don't have to commit to doing anything forever.[6]
    • Think of choosing a vocation as a process of asking questions and answering them. If you want to know more about something, explore it further. If you discover that you don't like it, then you can use that knowledge to move forward and try something different.
    • Visit workplaces and ask to shadow people. If you think you might be interested in working as a police officer, visit or email your local police department and ask to ride along with an officer for a day. If you think you might want to be an elementary school teacher, contact your local school board and ask to shadow a teacher--and consider registering as a substitute teacher to get classroom experience.
    • If you can afford it, consider taking unpaid internships or asking companies if you can work for them for free. Immerse yourself in a company culture and a way of thinking, and see how you like it.
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Part 2
Part 2 of 2:

Exploring Your Options

  1. Step 1 Jump into something.
    You can spend all day staring out at the horizon, but you won't get anywhere until you start swimming. Find a new job, set out on an adventure, start taking classes, or try out a new lifestyle.[7] Throw all of your energy into something, and work at it until you find something else that's more appealing. Remember: you can always, at any moment, change directions and try something new.
    • It can be paralyzing to stare at a huge list of possibilities. Until you try things out, for better or worse, and make them real, everything will only ever be an abstract possibility. It may feel safe to live in a world where everything is theoretically possible, but eventually you will need to choose something--or choose nothing.
    • You don't have to stick with this job, journey, or lifestyle for the rest of your life. The point of getting started is to figure out what you can and can't do with your life. Choose something that you enjoy; something that feels real; something that leads somewhere else, and makes you grow as a person.
    • You may find that the very act of working toward something--even if it isn't your be-all-end-all "life goal"--gives you perspective on what you want to do with your life. At worst, you'll know what you don't want to do with your life, and you can scratch something else off the list.
  2. Step 2 Focus on the next few years, not the rest of your life.
    Forget about when you're 80: where do you see yourself in a year? In five years? The rest of your life will happen, whether you like it or not, but you can only ever act in the here-and-now. It can be paralyzing to try to plan everything out 30, 40, 60 years down the line--so try to stay grounded in the present. Your life will unfold as you live it.[8]
  3. Step 3 Try volunteering or...
    Try volunteering or joining a service organization. Consider Americorps, the Peace Corps, WWOOFing, volunteering at a nonprofit, or getting certified to teach English as a second language. These are great programs if you don't know what you want to do for the rest of your life, but you want to work and grow and feel productive in the present. Your experience might run anywhere from one week to two years, it will look great on a resume, and it will help you learn about your place in the world.[9]
    • Apply for AmeriCorps. You can sign up to work for anywhere from two months to a year; you must be 18-24 years old. Projects range from trail-building in state parks to working with disadvantaged inner-city children in urban elementary schools. Volunteers receive a small living stipend, usually several hundred dollars, each month, and alumni can receive scholarships for higher education.[10]
    • Join the Peace Corps. You will spend two years helping to stabilize an at-risk or underdeveloped community. Openings range all over the globe; you could serve in Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam, or Ukraine. You can work to teach English as a second language, or help small businesses grow in an underdeveloped economy, or help boost food security in a rural village. You will work with a community, use your time to make the world a better place, and maybe figure out how you want to spend the rest of your life.[11]
    • Volunteer on an organic farm with WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. You work on an organic farm for anywhere from a week to forever; in return, the farmers feed you, give you a place to sleep, and teach you about farming. For a small registration fee, you can access a network of thousands of organic farmers who are looking for help--some are looking for seasonal workers to come and go, and some are looking for long-term commitments. You can contact a farm that sounds interesting and be volunteering there within a week.[12]
  4. Step 4 Remember that you can always change course.
    The choices that you make now will lead directly to the choices that you make in a month, a year, a decade--but that doesn't mean that you have to settle for a job or lifestyle that you hate. "Stuck" is a mindset. At any point, in any situation, you can either stay the course or break the course. The important thing is that you start swimming.[13]
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The Takeaway: Making a Life Plan

Ask yourself what makes you happy and brainstorm some possible options that align with your values, skills, and needs. Focus on the next few years instead of your whole life and don’t limit yourself to just one thing—you can accomplish multiple goals or change course at any time.

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