“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
You’ve probably been asked that question since you were a little kid.
When you’re young, any answer you give can is acceptable.
Astronaut, ballerina, unicorn… all of them are given the same gracious smile and nod because it’s not expected that a young child knows what they really want to do with their life.
However, as you get older, people start expecting more realistic answers and reasoning.
- Not only are you being asked what you plan to do with your life, but you might ask yourself the same question.
With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to pick just one thing.
Deciding what you want to do with your life can be a slow process.
It can take years to come to a conclusion. You might have multiple ambitions that don’t line up.
Whether you’re in the middle of your senior year of high school, considering switching majors in college, or contemplating switching careers, it’s never too late to reflect.
There are a variety of ways to help you find and create a path. These steps are meant to help you dig deeper and identify what you should do with your life.
How do I know if I’m stuck?
If you’re reading this, you might be wondering if you’re stuck in life.
How does someone know if they’re stuck? This question can be difficult to answer and requires some personal reflection to move forward.
Here are some signs you might be stuck:
- Unmotivated – If you find yourself not excited to go to work, class, or anywhere else, that’s a big sign that you’re not doing what motivates you.
When tasks at work are a struggle to start and more difficult to finish, that’s an indicator you’re not motivated.
- Dissatisfaction – Are you constantly thinking of what else you’d rather be doing? Do you come home each day and feel like the day was a waste?
The pit of dissatisfaction can be difficult to climb out of.
- Not feeling like yourself – Do your friends tell you that you’re not your usual self? The stress of living an unhappy life might be weighing on you.
Our friends and family are usually the ones to see these changes in our personalities before we do.
If you feel the emotions I listed above, you might need to follow the steps below.
Now, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to find you should do with your life.
Create Your Passion
Has anyone ever told you that you just need to find your passion?
The truth is that your passion won’t appear out of thin air one day. The concept of finding your passion is a misnomer.
- The truth is that each person has the power to create his or her own passion. Your passion or purpose in life is whatever you decide it will be.
You have the ability to make your passion become your purpose.
You might not have the skills and talents right now, but as long as you have drive and determination, you can develop the skills needed.
Rather than waiting for opportunities to present themselves, make the opportunities happen.
What Should I Do With My Life? A Step-by-Step Guide
Don’t rush the time it takes to find your purpose. Take it one step at a time.
This process could take one month or one year.
So, let’s get started!
1.Identify what is important to you
Identifying what is important to you will ensure you don’t compromise what makes you happy and fulfilled.
Here are some areas you should explore before moving on.
- What part of my life means more to me than the others?
- Do I value family over success?
- Is my current lifestyle important to me or do I desire something different?
- How do I feel about wealth versus life experiences?
- Do I value personal connection in my life?
- What makes me happy? What part of my current life makes me happy?
- Am I engaged in activities that bring me joy?
- What do I truly enjoy doing?
- What would I do all day if I had that opportunity?
- What motivates me or would motivate me to get up each day?
- If I could get paid to do anything, what would I do?
- What items are on my bucket list?
- Do I have any ambitions outside of my career?
- Is having a family of my own important to me?
- What can I accomplish that would make me proud of myself?
Plenty of time should be given for self-reflection.
As you’re identifying what is important to you, it’s critical to take note of certain thoughts.
- If you find yourself starting a sentence with “I enjoy doing…” or “I could do that better than…” then you should explore that thought further.
- Write it down and do some research to see if you’re still interested in that career, activity, or topic.
Connor, a Cabrini University student, struggled in deciding his major.
He thought back to what he enjoyed doing while he was a high school student to help him come to a decision.
- During his senior year, Connor really enjoyed photojournalism classes and held a leadership role in creating the yearbook.
This is why he declared digital communication and social media as his major.
Activity: Vision Map
Vision mapping is a wonderful tool to help identify themes in your life.
To create your vision map, you will need a pen and paper.
In no particular order, start listing what you enjoy doing, people that are important to you, and anything else that brings you happiness.
- You can include places you’ve visited, classes you’ve taken, and what you’re proud of.
- Utilize my questions to help complete the first step of your vision map.
Take note of your themes.
- For example, maybe you’ll notice you’ve taken a lot of art classes or find you engage with political figures on social media often.
These themes serve as an insight into what you might want to explore further.
2. Identify your strengths and skills
Now that you have some insight on what’s important to you, it’s time to determine what strengths and skills you have.
You need to know the skills you need to develop or acquire before moving forward.
This is how you should take inventory of your strengths and skills:
- Personal Assessments: Some personal assessments are available for free online; you can pay for others to get more detailed results.
O*Net Online, a database of job descriptions, has a tool to insert your assessment results and find careers that are suitable for you.
- Family and Friends: Family and friends know you pretty well. Ask what advice or tasks they think you’re good at.
You might not even realize that you’re their go-to person for something.
- Vision Mapping: Just like I explained before, vision mapping is a great way to take stock of your skills.
Once you’ve performed these exercises, go back into self-reflection mode.
You can categorize your skills into ones you enjoy and others you’re interested in developing.
- For example, you might really enjoy cooking and are interested in learning more about recipe writing.
- Maybe you love F1 racing but wish you understood how engines and transmissions worked.
In these cases, you’ll want to focus your development in recipe writing and car mechanics.
3. Perform research
It’s time to take this information and do some research.
After the last step, you should have an idea of your skill set and interests.
With this sense of direction, you’ll want to research people and opportunities related to what you’ve discovered.
- When you research people who have careers you’re interested in, you can read articles about certain professions, watch “day in the life” videos, or start following professionals on social media.
Social media is full of professionals in all industries, so following someone on Instagram is a totally valid way to research a potential career path.
As you do this research, here are some questions to keep in mind.
- How do I feel reading about or watching someone work in this area?
- Can I imagine myself doing this job?
- What do I need to do to acquire the skills needed for this job?
- Is it possible for me to acquire the skills I need for this job?
You can also interview people if you’re interested in their field.
- Informational interviews can provide you with insight that you might have trouble finding elsewhere.
Sitting down with someone in person gives you an opportunity to learn the whole picture about a career.
You can ask what they love about their job, how they got there, what they dislike about their field, and the advice they would give to someone following the same path.
- For example, are you an aspiring magazine writer?
- Would a current writer tell you to major in journalism or creative writing?
- How are job prospects looking now that almost all publications have a major online presence?
- Is the print scene dead? How tech savvy should you be if you want to work in journalism or writing?
Alexandra, a student at the University of Denver, interviews a senior VP at Morgan Stanley because she was interested in a career in finance.
- During her interview, she was given invaluable advice on how she needed to stand out when she started applying for jobs.
- The senior VP advised her to take a look at industry trends in international finance and asset management.
The Senior VP gave her some tips and even sent some articles for her to read. This helped Alexandra perform market research.
Later, Alexandra applied as an analyst in the international markets department at a major New York City investment bank. She is now a VP for her department.
Activity: Informational Interview
The easiest person to interview is someone you already know.
If you follow someone on social media, reach out to them! You might be surprised at their willingness to answer your questions.
- Informational interviews are best in person, but a phone call or Skype session can be just as valuable.
- Prepare for your interview with questions. You’ll want the person you’re interviewing to feel their time is valued.
The more prepared you are, the more likely that person will answer additional questions you think of later.
4. Try something out!
This is the step where you really put the information you’ve gathered to the test.
- Look for part-time opportunities: If you aren’t able to commit full-time to develop new skills, search for a part-time job or internship.
This is a great way to develop skills without added pressure.
- Take a class: Whether you’re learning a completely new skill or perfecting one you have, taking a class is one way to learn entry-level skills.
If you’re in college, take an elective with several friends. You can also search for free classes in your local area.
- Say “yes” more often: If you have the time and opportunity to open your eyes to something new, then do it. Life’s too short to avoid risk.
Taking advantage of opportunities is the only way to gain substantive experience.
Advice From People Who’ve Been In Your Shoes
We’ve asked some successful people about their thoughts on this question: When you’re feeling lost in life, what should you do?
Enjoy, and use their advice!
From Vic Lindsay, director of student life at Sweet Briar College:
Our identities are multi-faceted, and many parts of them are defined externally by those around us. Social identities, like those associated with gender, socio-economic status, culture, or religion, are framed by how others perceive you and your position of privilege compared to them.
Likewise, setting, context, and life experience may determine the relevancy of each component of your identity in a given situation. Everyone experiences doubt and indecision. That’s healthy and normal.
In these difficult moments, try to center yourself around the core of your identity. What are the values and attributes about yourself that you hold most dear? Use these as a compass by which to orient your decision-making process. Find the authentic you, and take the steps necessary to honor those beliefs.
Caleb Backe, a health & wellness expert for Maple Holistics:
If you don’t change your path, you’ll wind up exactly where you’re headed. So if you’re not happy with your direction, take the necessary steps to change course.
One way to do this is to go to a career coach. Through speaking to them and taking an aptitude test, you can figure out what your strengths are and some unexpected positions in which you’re likely to succeed. Getting an outsider’s perspective might be just what you need to bring some positivity into your life.
But if you want to make a change, also look within yourself. Take the Myers-Briggs personality test to really understand who you are and what you need in life. Then consider your interests and hobbies, and even write them down in a list so that you can consider everything all together.
Once you’ve done some self-reflecting, organize your list in order of importance and then search online for job ideas that meet your criteria.
Understand that there will be some things that you will have to compromise on but that you are also allowed to have standards, and with time you’ll find just the right thing for yourself.
Dr. Benjamin Ritter, MBA and founder of Live for Yourself Consulting:
Dissatisfaction in life, everything from your career, friends, relationships, etc., all derives from misalignment or a lack of clarity in your life.
Misalignment in life is defined as living in some aspect in a way that is opposite of your core values, who you truly are or where you derive meaning. Misalignment can occur in your professional life when you are working or perceive your work in a way that goes against who you are.
A lack of clarity can also cause dissatisfaction because you don’t find meaning in your work because you don’t know what is meaningful to you.
The first step to clarity is exploring and defining your values, along with specific goals for different areas of your life. The second step is then aligning your values throughout your life, altering relationships, intentions, and the perceptions of your goals.
The connection between your values and your goals, and your career, is not so much about finding the perfect career, but about perceiving your career in a way that aligns with where you find meaning.
This is incredibly important because you don’t find happiness from a specific job, but from how you work and think about work. This process can sound overwhelming but can be made easier through hiring a personal coach, and is the foundation of how I work with clients.
Melony Hill, life transition coach and 8X author:
Take Money Out of the Equation – Too often, we are working to survive, pay bills, just to get by. That’s a miserable way to live. The age-old adage has some truth to it, “Do what you love and money will follow.”
True you may have to do double duty for a while, working on your dream while holding down a job but the satisfaction you’ll get while creating the life you desire and deserve will be well worth it.
I ask them, If money weren’t an issue, what would you be doing all day? Then, I encourage them to find a way to make money around their answer until they work their way up to making money for their exact answer.
Ask Your Inner Child – It seems that we all had a sense of who we wanted to be when we were young. Life can be overwhelming, day to day responsibilities challenge our wants and gradually, we settle into real life.
I tend to ask, however, “Who did you want to be before the world made you who you are, to take off all limitations, shame, stigma, health, our past, ask yourself: What do you want to contribute to the world, no matter how impossible it seems. Likewise, I suggest finding a way to incorporate that into their lives until it is their life.
From G. Brian Benson, award-winning author, TEDx speaker, and Ironman triathlete:
If one is wanting to start over in life, I think it’s incredibly important to continue to learn, grow and continue to keep moving forward. Life is constantly flowing and evolving around us. I feel we should bedoing the same. We aren’t meant to be stagnant.
Life is so much richer when we continue to grow, mature, and have new experiences. I know it isn’t always easy, but that what makes it so fulfilling to continue to test ourselves and see the world with new eyes.
And, of course, do what you love. It is as simple as it sounds. It is very important that you be able to do the things that you love and enjoy so that you can truly feel the full capacity of who you are and what you are about. You deserve to live life on your own terms. And, please, remember, it’s ok to start small. I understand that most people can’t just go and quit their current job.
It is possible though to start looking around for others or maybe take some classes on the side to begin to develop some new skills that might lead to a new opportunity in doing something that you enjoy more. The important thing is to get some momentum going and clarity flowing.
If you love to write and want to make it your profession maybe take a creative writing class or work part-time doing something you love until you can do it fulltime. If there’s a will, there’s a way to make it happen.
John Shieldsmith, digital marketing consultant and owner of thethriftydad.com:
Forget what you love, figure out what you like. If you have a passion, something you absolutely love doing, fantastic. You should find a way to monetize that and turn it into a career. If that isn’t feasible right now, try to make it a side hustle at the least.
If you’re unsure of what you love doing, find something you even like. Start small and try your hand at various skills and jobs. When you find something you enjoy, try your hand at freelance. So many people tell you to do what you love, but sometimes that just isn’t doable in that moment. Figure out what you like, and then worry about finding something you love.
Make mistakes, and make lots of them. Learning from your mistakes is truly the best way to figure out what you love doing, and what you want to do with your life. I wouldn’t have realized the importance of remote status had I not given up. Now, I know working remotely is most important to me, everything else comes secondary.
Realize nothing is set in stone. No matter how lost you feel right now, remember that nothing is ever final. If you hate your job, feel stuck in a relationship, or don’t know what to study in school, know that you can change it.
It’s never too late to change your career path or start anew. These fresh starts can bring about some of the most exciting opportunities in our lives.
Conclusion: What Should I Do With My Life?
Take the time you need to understand yourself.
You don’t need to discover your passion. Instead, try to find something that appeals to you.
This will make it easier to commit to. Don’t think too hard: Stay relaxed and take chances.
As beneficial as it is to reflect on your experiences, it’s just as beneficial to talk to the people who are important to you.
- Your significant other, parents, friends, professors, mentors, and many others might ask you questions you haven’t asked yourself.
Engage them in your reflection time to get a full view of what you might be good at.
Once you find something, take the plunge. Commit time and energy to it.
Who knows? Your life could change!