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Here’s the time –
And I had this question come up (and it continues to regularly come up) from people within my team.
And they’re here for an experience – they’re here to figure out what it is they want to do with their life.
What’s interesting though – is that it’s not JUST those who are fresh out of college that are joining the Pearl Lemon Placement programme – it’s also experienced folks who are looking for a career change.
This is notwithstanding myself. If you’ve got to know me through any of my other blogs you’ll know that it’s difficult to pin down exactly what it is that I do as well!
So with all of this in mind – I wanted to offer my insights, having had 23+ jobs, multiple careers and the like – what you should do when you don’t know what to do with your life:
Table of Contents
Know that it’s completely normal
Not knowing what you want to do with your life is pretty damn normal.
At some point, I think it’s a pretty impossible question.
So don’t think that by not knowing what you want to do with your life that suddenly you’re alone.
Maybe you look around at other people and they seem to ‘have it all together’ and know exactly what they want.
A couple of things to keep in mind:
- Knowing what you want and just DOING something with your life are very different things
- Many people DO things with their lives – knowing what you want is much more challenging.
Know that it doesn’t suddenly ‘come to you’ with age
I’m 34 years old at the time of writing and I couldn’t definitively tell you exactly what I ‘want’ with my life. And I’ve tried many many things over the years. So also don’t think it’ll just ‘come to you’ as you get older – but also don’t worry if you are ‘older’ but haven’t yet figured it out.
This is a big question and for the most part, it’s easier to NOT deal with it and just keep your head down and move forward with whatever you’re doing/not doing!
Some of the world’s top athlete’s/celebrites and all have openly said they don’t enjoy what they do – it just pays well and they’re good at it
This is really reassuring to me (and really going to surprise some of you) – when I dug into famous people who basically don’t enjoy what they do.
Here’s just a mini-list (google ‘athletes/celebrities/famous people who don’t like what they do):
Brock Lesnar, Andre Agassi, Kirsten Stewart, Ricky Gervais…the list goes on.
So even those who are incredibly successful in their chosen profession don’t necessarily enjoy the journey they’re on.
And this is JUST the people that have spoken publicly about it – it definitely means that there are hundreds/thousands more.
Be comfortable with the unknown
Part of figuring out what you want to do with your life – after getting comfortable with the idea that it’s ok to be in this position…
Is that in order to figure out what you should do with your life then – you need to be comfortable with the unknown – with experimentation…with just trying things out?
It’s the only way to figure out what you should do – by exploring that which you yet do not know!
Take opportunities are they are presented to you
And when you look around you – you’ll see there are opportunities around everywhere.
Opportunities to do things, opportunities to try things out. It’s important that you get into the habit of saying ‘yes’. Because there is typically no limit on the things you could try.
Try things out
This is why it’s important to start trying things. Whether it’s for an hour or a day, week, month or longer.
To begin to get closer to figuring out what you want to do with your time, you’re basically going to need to just try some stuff out.
Don’t procrastinate and ‘overthink things’
And that doesn’t come from procrastination. There is some value (arguably a lot of value) of reading blogs such as this – up to a certain point.
Beyond that, procrastination and thinking too much about actions, ongoing activities and the like will not ultimately serve you.
To move forward and figure out what you want to do – it’ll mostly come from action rather than anything else.
That runs in opposition to procrastination and just dwelling upon things – so just try!
Volunteer or ‘Shadow someone’
Knowing that you’re going to take action can translate into volunteering or shadowing.
Maybe you are busy (maybe you THINK you’re busy) or maybe you have all of the time in the world – but you can get started immediately by doing something voluntarily.
There’s no shortage of small businesses or organizations that are in need of help, or even if aren’t – that will accept the voluntary time of someone.
If it’s something that requires more learning/qualifications or otherwise – the other route to consider is seeing if you can shadow someone.
Why not watch what someone does day today. Especially if it’s a practical job that involves moving around.
You can then get a sense of ‘what really happens’ and figure out if it’s something you can see yourself doing.
Money is secondary to experience and education
I’ve seen this as a huge inhibitor to someone’s success. Ultimately expecting that ‘experience’ and ‘education’ is something that you need to be paid for.
Money is actually easy to acquire after you develop excellence. If you’re too focused on acquiring income – often time you won’t get the real experiences you’re after.
e.g maybe you want to shadow me if you’re thinking about becoming a digital marketing agency owner? Or least see what that involves
If you asked me to pay you to ‘help out’ – well I have my team already in place – and actually – none of them are directly ‘shadowing me’ – I’m leading from the front myself more or less.
So to get the experience you want if you were to ‘shadow me’ – the best way to do it – is to ask to do it for free.
And the irony is to start – I’d probably get on a call with anyone.
I admire ambition.
Focus on the process – and the outcome can present itself
When you start acquiring experience – don’t worry so much about having an ‘exact’ step-by-step plan. Focus more instead on skill acquisition.
As you acquire more skills and try more things – an outcome usually does present itself. You can combine what you’re learning with what you already know and maybe discover an opportunity where your skills and enjoyment meet in a way you can build a living from.
And as you acquire more and more experience and focus on getting good at the process – I promise you that this outcome will materialise.
Figure out your values
This is something worth mulling over.
What do you care about?
E.g if you want to do something that will help humanity – that’s a value that can influence your choices.
If you are a vegan because you care about animal welfare – that’s a value that can influence your choices.
If you’re passionate about the need for people to stay healthy – that’s a value that can influence your choice.
If you’re against any addictive products such as smoking, drinking and gambling – that’s a value that can influence your choices.
So do take some time to think about what is important to you – and it’ll at the very least refine what you DON’T want to be involved in.
Take massive action
This is perhaps my favourite insight in all of this. Taking massive action is pretty much a mantra of mine. It explains half of the hair-brained stuff that I do.
And it’ll really help you in determining what it is that you want to do with your life.
There’s no ‘right’ answer to this question – but taking massive action (e.g implementing everything you’ve read up to this point) will get you a damn sight closer to your desired outcome..
Ask for advice
And whentaking massive action – this can also include asking someone around you whose advice you trust about what they would do?
What do they think about?
And remember – with a question like this – you don’t even necessarily need to ‘know’ that person.
Many folks will have answered this question (like I am now) in the form of a YouTube interview or blog or otherwise.
There are answers everywhere!
Talk to a careers expert
Amongst people you can ask – you’ll also find career experts. Whether choosing to volunteer, or shadow someone – or even trying to get a sense of possible careers…
Well – a careers coach will be an ideal person to speak to.
They’ll have most likely had to deal with this question in its many forms over the years and will be well placed to give you some solid suggestions about how to figure out what to do with your life
Trust your intuition
In and amongst all of this – your intuition is a big thing. This is akin to your gut effectively.
If you try something – and you feel like it really sucks and the value you’re getting from it is extremely limited…
That’s a solid indication that it’s probably not worth pursuing that role.
It’s taken me a damn long time to be able to trust my gut, and even now I still ignore it against my better judgement…
Don’t be the same – if you sense something isn’t for you – it most likely isn’t.
So stay long enough to confirm that feeling (and this doesn’t need to be terribly long either)….and then well – take action.
Don’t sleep on it forever
When deciding whether something is – or ISN’T for you – do take a moment to think to consider this – maybe a few days, but definitely don’t sleep on this forever. You then slip into the world of procrastination again.
Take action sooner rather than later.
Keep moving forward
It may be the case at several junctures along your journey that you may think ‘aha!’ I’ve found ‘it’.
And then you discover quite quickly that ‘well no’ – there are other problems that come with this job/activity that means it isn’t the ‘thing’ you wish to do with the rest of your life.
In such situations – just keep moving forward and the next opportunity will definitely present itself.
Accept the outcome
And this is important to understand and then keep moving forward. You may have an idea of something you want to do with your life. My partner Strawberry always thought that she wanted to get into the art world.
Upon further investigation, it became very clear the art world was not for her at all. And consequently whilst there was some turbulence with figuring out what she would do next – it was an outcome she accepted.
Know it’s ok to fail
This is a mindset that is critical to finding your life’s passion. Failure is perfectly fine when trying to find a fruitful endeavor. Finding your purpose, passion, or even interest will involve a lot of missteps along the way.
And that’s ok. It may even be the case that you discover the very thing you do want to do – but it becomes clear you’re not very good at it.
This is where having a powerful mindset comes into play – because we can all recover from failure. In fact, failure is our greatest teacher.
Make sure you can pay your bills
Whilst all of the above is important. I want to bring some pragmatism into the situation. Making sure your bills are getting paid on time is mission-critical.
In your search to find what you want to do with your life – make sure it doesn’t mean you end up broke/destitute.
So depending upon your financial situation – always have a buffer or cushion to or make sure your basic needs are met. Ultimately in the hierarchy of things – making sure your bills can be paid WHILST you have time to explore this decision is important.
Invest in education
For all of my comments about taking massive action – massive action can also mean massive learning as well.
Anytime I’ll try to enter a new industry I’ll do what I can to educate myself about what there is to know in that industry.
In fact, it’s just given me an idea!
I’m entering the SaaS industry, the property industry, the recruitment industry as well as the accounting industry.
It’s going to pay for me to learn about all of these industries – and the way to do this might be through writing blogs about each of them – as then I’ll be forced to learn more about each of them before I truly grow inside of them.
Everyone has their own path for how they educate themselves – but do make sure you’re doing what you can to continuously learn.
Take some time out
One of the common things you’ll see that people do before deciding upon their next steps is to take some time out.
My mum for example – will retire in August – and we’ve already spoken about her next steps.
Part of this will involve my mum actually taking some time out to enjoy…having time out – and then figuring out what her next steps in life will be.
Explore what you already enjoy doing?
It may be the case then when figuring out what you want to do with your life – you might already be doing it!
It could just be the case that that ‘thing’ is something that’s at the partitions or edges of your life. Perhaps a hobby, or something you do less frequently that you really enjoy.
Take stock of how you currently spend your time and see if something sticks out that you already enjoy!
Get a life coach
I’m a huge fan of coaches. I’ve got one myself in Valentina Kibedi and each week we discuss my continual challenges and some progress comes from it.
I can’t advocate getting a life coach enough to help you push your life in the direction that you want.
They’ll offer some unique insights you likely won’t come to yourself.
Can you make money from something you already love?
This is an important consideration – which we briefly touched upon when we said – is there something in your life that you already enjoy doing?
And if there is – is that something you can make money doing?
If you’re not sure – well talk to your life coach or do some research and see if someone in that space IS making money doing just that very thing!
Appreciate what you already have
Whilst we discuss the search for finding something to do with your life – it does pay to appreciate what you already have in your life.
You may well find that it causes you to reframe something you already do – and make you recognise that you aren’t – well – appreciating it enough.
This can be in the form of work you do, work you do with people you enjoy being around, or otherwise.
And then it may well be the case that with some minor tweaks you can proceed to do A LOT more of that very same thing
Watch an inspirational movie
For me – the inspirational movie will always be Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith. What an amazing movie.
(I actually paused writing this blog for 5 minutes to watch this:
God that pumped me up.
Inspired me to do more with my Sunday (today!)
What movie could you watch that’ll pump you up?
Unplug and take time out
A lot like taking time out – but this could well be an entire change of scenery and doing something different.
There’s a lot of value in changing the scenery and environment in a more meditative or relaxing way.
Maybe a spa bath or jacuzzi or massage – something along those lines.
Exercise to bring clarity
Exercise has always been a great clarifier for me.
Marathons and ultra’s.
And I don’t ever consciously think about whatever problem I’m trying to solve when I run.
But my subconscious works away at it and I come back with a much better ability to make a strong decision.
What don’t you like about your life right now?
Sometimes when you’re not sure what you want to do with your life and you’re struggling to figure that out…
Working out exactly what you DON’T want to with your life can really help you.
So there’s a lot of value (much like working out your values) in figuring out what things you have tried that you really didn’t enjoy.
Take some time to think about it – build up a list – and then you can begin narrowing your sphere of possibilities down a little by figuring out all of that which you DON’T want to do!
What habits do I need to change?
This I think is an important part of your journey. If you have destructive habits – whether it’s substance abuse, sleep-rise habits, junk food, avoiding responsibility…
There can be many versions of this – it’s worth giving consideration to what you can work upon to remove/resolve to give you a better chance of being able to make clear-sighted decisions.
How can I add value to the world?
Part of human nature –is at some level to give back. To feel like you’re making a valid contribution to the improvement of someone or some people’s lives.
I’d say that if there’s a way to align what you want to do with value creation for others – it’s going to make your drive to do it – that much greater
What’s the easiest next thing I can do?
So you may feel overwhelmed by everything that’s preceded this point so far.
A way to manage that is to focus on the smallest step.
What is extremely easy that I can do right now?
It doesn’t matter how simple it is. As long as it’s a tiny tiny step in the right direction – then that will serve you well as you move forward!
Embrace the power of now
This is taken from Eckhart Tolle – and is such an amazing message I think to communicate.
There is no past and no future – but rather there is NOW.
What action can you take RIGHT NOW that can help you figure out what you want to do with your life?
Right now – are you enjoying what you’re doing?
If you’re not – what can you do to change that.
Living in the ‘now’ is an extremely powerful tool that I’m glad to have discovered.
Always say yes
When it comes to progression, and doing things to help drive you forward – there’s power in yes.
There’s power in just deciding to do something to see what comes out on the other side.
So just – say ‘yes’! ‘Yes’ to opportunities. ‘Yes’ to adventure – it’ll lead to incredible change in your life.
Find someone who has walked the path you’re exploring
Once you’ve hit upon a path that you wish to explore – why not reach out to someone whose already on that same journey?
Find out what they make of it, what their experiences have been – and how that can potentially help you drive forward!
Figuring out what you want to do with your life is no small thing.
It’s a big decision that involves lots of options.
Hopefully, this guide provides you with something of a roadmap for how you can drive your life forward in a way that’ll help you find how you wish to spend your time!