What Should You Do With Your Life?

The fears started creeping in during my senior year of college. It’s actually time to decide now, what do you want to do?  It’s been 3 years and 6 jobs since I graduated (2 of which I currently have). I still don’t know exactly what I want to do career-wise, but I had a bit of an epiphany, and I’m not panicking anymore.

I quit my office job at the end of March, flew home to see my parents for the first time in about 2 years, and returned a week later, telling myself I was ready to find a job that would make me happy. At the end of April, I did get a job. And it was writing-related, which is what I always thought I wanted to do. But I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was more depressed and anxious than ever.

I tried a lot of things to get back on the right path. I took a skill/career/personality quiz from my college’s career center to see what careers it matched me with. I had zero results that were a true match. That upset me a little but I looked at the possible matches. They ranged from hilarious to depressing. (Broadcast news analyst, choreographer, DJ, foreign language interpreter, etc.)

Time passed and nothing changed. One evening, I was watching videos on minimalism and YouTube recommended I watch a video on the Japanese concept of ikigai. Your ikigai is basically your purpose in life. This diagram came from this site and it sums up how to find your ikigai really nicely. If you love it, you’re good at it, you can be paid for it, and the world needs it, that is your calling.

I loved the concept, but this still wasn’t all that helpful for me. Sure, I could say that writing fits in all these categories, but getting paid for it isn’t all that easy and I needed something more reliable to get my life back on track.

A couple weeks ago, I watched a Ted Talk called “To find work you love, don’t follow your passion.” In a nutshell, the speaker made the argument that passions fade and to feel fulfilled, you should have a career that helps others. The passion will come from seeing the difference you make in others’ lives.

This talk was pretty much the exact opposite of horrible advice I was given by a pyramid scheme recruiter. Pyramid scheme sleazeball said that instead of instead of focusing on nurturing your passion and making a career out of it, you should look at the people around you and see who has the lifestyle you want. Then, you should do what they do. He shared his story about running a pharmacy because he aspired to basically be able to set his own schedule. He wanted to own a business where he didn’t have to be there all the time, in other words. (He also said some really degrading things about anyone who earns an hourly wage.)

I definitely trusted advice from the Ted Talk much more than the sleazy pyramid scheme guy, but it still seemed really off to me.

Today, I took a step back. I feel like I’ve been angsting over the same question since I first began trying to decide what I should major in. To take the pressure off, instead of trying to answer questions like “what am I good at” and “what makes me happy,” I just thought about what I want out of my life. I came up with ten things.

What I discovered when I did this was that there is no specific job that is going to help me meet my goals (aside from funding). Let me say it a different way: what I want from life is not going to come from my job.

All that soul-searching I was doing trying to find a fulfilling career was misguided. I already know what I want. I just need to go after it.

I don’t need to get the perfect job to achieve my goals. There is no entry barrier, no hoop I have to jump through to make progress, and that’s pretty dang empowering.

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