Our search for happiness often leads us to the question ‘What should I do with my life?’
It’s a heavy handed question. One that many people are too afraid to ask. The outcome could disrupt their way of life, their stability, their security. Change can be scary, but major life changes that can have ripple effects in all areas of life and those around them, can be downright terrifying.
The answer always requires taking a risk. A gamble. Your happy ending is not guaranteed. It will require a lot of time. Or money. Or both. It will push you into unknown territory, out of your comfort zone. It will demand discipline and an inner strength you don’t yet know you have.
Sometimes we get pushed to ask that question. Out of desperation for the way things currently are. Maybe you’re in a job you hate, you just came out of a relationship where your ‘joint life plan’ is no longer an option, you’ve just been fired from a job you’ve had forever or you’ve witnessed a life-changing event or tragedy that has awoken something inside you.
Maybe you’re just feeling bored and unchallenged by your current circumstances and need something more. We often only ask ourselves that question when we’re facing a crossroads in our lives.
There is no shortcut. There is no cookie-cutter yellow brick road to follow. Each one of us is different. We have different interests, backgrounds, upbringings, motivations, education and experiences. Just as there is not one pill or medicine that will treat or affect everyone the exact same way for the same symptoms or conditions, there is no one way to make money or be happy.
But maybe we should first be asking ourselves, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What do I want?’ before we decide what we should do with our lives.
Who am I?
How can we answer to the best of our ability, if we don’t know what our ability is? Who is [fill in your name here]? What are your dreams? What are your likes and dislikes? What are your talents and skills? What are your hobbies? What has called to you in the past? What are your drawn to? What makes your heart sing?
The more questions you ask yourself, the more soul-searching you will do. Don’t worry, if you’re only now realising that you don’t really know yourself much at all, you’re not alone.
We often do things out of reflex, reaction, tradition, emotion or habit. Most of the time, we don’t allow ourselves the luxury of questioning our decisions or motivations. That’s why many people end up as regular’s on the psychiatrist’s couch. All the doc is really doing is asking you about yourself, after all.
So be your own shrink. Get deep into your own recesses of your mind and ask the tough questions. We’re not here to bring up unresolved feelings of past hurt, buried anger, trauma or resentment, we’re here to help guide your future, so stay on task and ask the questions that will help guide you there.
What do I want?
Once you’ve got a better idea about who you are, you need to ask yourself ‘What do I want?’ This is another heavy question. One that can’t be answered lightly. It’s the kind of question we should have asked ourselves in highschool, so we could guide our way towards the education to get the qualifications to get the job, blah blah blah. I don’t know about you, but I never knew what I wanted back then. Who does?
You haven’t lived enough life, had enough experiences or made enough mistakes to know what you want or what you don’t want, when you’re a teen. There’s way too much pressure put on teens in making life decisions these days, if you ask me.
It wasn’t until my mid 20’s that I had a vague idea. Nothing I would carve in stone or anything. But by that stage, if you’re lucky, you’ve lived more life to make a better informed decision. By then, you can at least gauge what you like and don’t like.
By that stage, I had travelled the world independently, had a few good and bad relationships, worked a few different jobs and decided what I didn’t want to do.
While working in a rundown hotel in Dublin as a receptionist, I decided that I wasn’t built for customer service or hospitality, so I went back home and re-enrolled in uni to complete my Masters in e-Commerce. A degree that I actually wanted to do and hence rocked at, unlike the first degree that I kind of trudged through, when I was forced to do something, but I didn’t know what.
A lot can be said for ‘finding yourself’ before you have to make major life decisions.
When you’re a teen, you’ve not really worked out your decision-making muscles much. It’s probably more a podgy, dimpled, visceral fat-enveloped muscle at that point. At least it was for me. It was not until I was out there on my own, fending for myself, making my own judgements and mistakes and living my consequences, that I got to know more about me and what I wanted. Not until I lived, did my decision-making muscle get buff.
A lot of the time, we’re too sheltered from life. We have people to depend on, to make our decisions for us. We have people who validate us, to guide us or tell us what to do. Maybe it’s your Mum or Dad, a sibling, your partner or bestie. Maybe you’ve been around dominant people all your life and they’ve taken it upon themselves to guide you on a certain path. Then you wake up one day and realise that you’re not happy, this is not where you want to be or something’s missing, but you don’t know what.
When we don’t develop the ability to rely solely on ourselves and to trust in our own intuition, we become scared little girls and many of us go through life as adults that same way. Too afraid to make any real change. Not having any real confidence in ourselves.
Maybe it’s time to change that.
Maybe it’s not so much a question of what we want, but why we want it. Maybe that’s what we should be asking. Just like an inquisitive 2 year old in the back seat of your car, trying to find out the meaning of life, keep asking yourself ‘Why?’
Maybe you could work backwards. If you know what you want, or you have a list of ideas, keep asking yourself why you want it, until you come to an answer that you can’t break down or that you’re satisfied is at the root core of your being.
For example, if your goal is to start your own business, why do you want to start your own business? If your answer is to that question is to be rich, why do you want to be rich? If your answer to that question is to be free to do what you want, when you want, then maybe freedom is a root value of yours. Knowing what your core values are can help guide you towards what to do with your life in a very sustainable and fulfilling way.
It’s important that when we ask the question, ‘What should I do with my life?’ that we really take the time to find the answer. The search itself is never easy. You’re going to need to dig deep into your heart, your past, to very core of what makes you, you. You’re going to need to rediscover yourself fully. Know what drives you, what creates sparks of exhilaration and excitement, know what decisions you’ve made in the past that has gotten you here now, know why you are where you are and where you’d prefer to be.
Most of your life may have been on auto-pilot. Maybe you got a job in your 20s, because that was what was advertised at the time, and just focused on your day-to-day since then. ‘What should I do with my life?’ should never be answered by ‘what’s available’, ‘competition permitting’, ‘whatever I can get’ or ‘whatever is the closest to me’. Don’t let your life’s happiness rely on a reactionary response to your environment. Spread your wings.
You need to discover what makes your heart sing. You decide and go after that job you’ve always wanted even if there’s no position being advertised or go get the qualifications you need to land that dream career.
If what you want to do doesn’t exist, create it. There has never been as much opportunity for creating your own business as there is today. Dissolve those restrictions and boundaries you’ve put on yourself. Be willing to move location to get a better life. To go back to school. To invest in your future. To learn as much as you can. To keep trying after facing a rejection or setback. To do what it takes.
This, my friend, is the hustle.
But the hustle isn’t worth it if you’re not doing something you’re passionate about. Don’t put off your happiness for that “one day, when…” scenario. Do something you love to do everyday. Hustle for it. You don’t have to give up your job and sleep on someone else’s couch to get there. You don’t have to move back home into your parent’s basement, with your tail between your legs, in order to save some money. Do something on the side.
Don’t be driven by money or by the get-rich-quick scheme. The hustle takes time and it takes effort. You have to work at it everyday. If you’re just in it for the money, you won’t be motivated enough to get that far. You’ll lose interest and give up before you get anywhere.
There is no enduring gain for the quick score. And if you do go down this route, you’ll just be back where you started after wasted time, money and effort.
As difficult as it may be for some of you, you need to put the idea of getting rich or even making money out of your mind. You can’t be led by the allure of making money. You’ll never find happiness that way.
Instead, work on finding out what you love to do. Then build on that and work out what you’d love to do every day for the rest of your life! Realistically, you probably won’t be doing it for the rest of your life, but it should be something that you’ll love so much that you would want to do it forever. That’s the gauge.
The Side Effects of Living your Passion
When you do something that you love and have passion for, success is sure to follow. Whether that’s working for yourself, a boss or company. If you love what you do, you consciously and unconsciously put in more effort. You put in more positive energy and give more of yourself to something that you enjoy doing. Do what you love and the money will follow.
It won’t be rainbows and roses every day. There will be tough times and new challenges to be faced but if you love what you do, then all that will be worth it. If you compare it to the alternative, I know which path I’d rather take.
What’s the point in spending every day of our lives, sad, depressed, struggling or miserable? It’s not about being selfish. The accumulation of these feelings over a few years will make us bitter, resentful, angry people. The kind of people that others would not want to be around. The kind of people prone to illness.
We may even unconsciously take out our unhappiness on those around us, not realising we’re doing it. The long-term effects can have disastrous repercussions on our friends, families and relationships. We therefore owe it to ourselves and our loved ones, to live our happiness.
What we do as a job or for work will ultimately take up around 30% of our lives. More, if you work for yourself. Isn’t that time worth spending on doing something you enjoy. Ask yourself the tough questions. Get to the heart of who you are, what you want and why you want it.
Then tackle the big one… ‘What should I do with my life?’ Make sure the answer is inline with your values and passions, then hustle your little heart out to get it. If you’re doing it right, it’s not about the destination. The journey will be just as rewarding.
Sure it’s a risk. Isn’t everything in life? But if there’s a chance that it could lead to a greater happiness with more fulfilment, more rewards, a better life and better time spent with your friends, family and loved ones, then isn’t it worth the risk? Isn’t that what life should be about? So, what are you waiting for? Get discovering. Your happiness depends on it.
You got this… The End to a Means
Here’s an exercise that touches on who you are, what you want and what you should do with your life. It may be a little ominous but when you get over the overhanging gloom and really think deeply about it, it may just help clear things up for you.
It always helps to look at different perspectives of our lives from time to time and none does that more potently than imagining your own funeral and planning your own eulogy. Remember this encompasses your future life that hasn’t happened yet, so be as bold, creative an ambitious as you like.
Imagine you’re at the end of your life and you’re writing the eulogy about you, for someone else to read. What would it say? Here are some questions you might want to think about…
What would you want people to say about you? What would you want people to remember you for? What kind of person did you become? What were your talents, your skills, your dreams? What drove you, motivated you, excited you about life? What were you good at? How did you touch others’ lives? What values did you have or live by? What legacy did you leave?
Now looking at your written eulogy, think about how you can change your current life, circumstances, goals, etc. into becoming that person you want to be known for. This should give you some focus on what you should do with your life.