These tips will help if you’re wondering “what should I do with my life?” I come back to this question every couple of years; these tips always help me figure out the right path.
I’ve finally settled into the purpose of my existence and job – and it feels great! I’m 46, and it took over 30 years to finally know what to do with my life. I have a sense of peace and joy, of excitement and security. I’ve struck that balance between risk and stability, adventure and certainty that I am exactly where I should be. You can feel this way, too – and I can almost guaranteed it won’t take you 30 years.
You, too, will find your place in this world. You will wrestle with the “What should I do with my life?” question for some time, but you will eventually find your answer. You will learn how to make a decision that will change your life, and you will be free from confusion and indecision.
The funniest and weirdest thing about this question – “What should I do with my life?” is that you’ll probably ask it again and again. As I said, I’ve wondered over and over what to do with my life. This is part of being human, and of living in such a transient, connected, social world. We move faster, we change course more quickly, and we have more options available to us.
This can be difficult to adjust to, especially if you’re my age! I’m 46, and grew up in an era of more stability and less creative options. Here’s what I’ve learned, and what helped me finally figure my life out…
10 Ways to Figure Out What to Do With Your Life
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau.
I’ll pair an insightful life quote with every tip, because quotes can bring ideas to life in powerful ways. At the end of this article, tell me which quote or idea resonated the most with you. Think about this as you read through these tips – because the quote that resonated with you is the one that will help you know what to do with your life.
1. Succeed and fail at a variety of things
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it. –Art Williams.
I never knew what to do with my life, so I did lots of different things! My latest achievement is learning a difficult piece of flute music and performing at a recital, which I describe in How to Play the Flute on Stage When You’re Terrified. That was so hard, but I learned that I do not want to spend my life learning music for hours and then performing in a concert for minutes. I also don’t like be watched. It’s not easy to try different things – and fail, and succeed – but it’s the best way to know what to do with your life.
2. Keep trying something different and new (to you)
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – E. M. Forster.
Maybe your parents planned that you’d be a mechanical engineer, but you’re planning to be an airplane mechanic. Maybe you planned to get married and have 7 kids, but God planned for you to be single and childless. One of the best ways to know what to do with your life is to accept your circumstances for what they are. Even better — embrace them! You will go far if you learn how to accept, surrender and enjoy your life for what it is.
3. Picture yourself as an octogenarian (80 year old)
“A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.” – Eudora Welty.
When I was 27 I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to live big and adventurous, so when I looked back as an 89 year old I could see that my life was exciting! That helped me know what to do with my life: my perspective at the end of my life. Picture yourself as an octogenarian (an 80 plus year old) – what do you want to have accomplished or experienced in your life? What do you want to leave behind?
4. Prepare to slay the dragons
“It’s not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” – unknown.
Did you know the biggest, most powerful and scary dragons are within you? You are your own worst enemy, and you have more power to hold yourself back or propel yourself forward than anyone else in the world. When you’re thinking about what to do with your life, don’t allow your fears, insecurities, self-doubts, or inability to stand up to others get in your way. You have to identify and fight those dragons.
5. Turn your back on the crowd
“A woman who wants to lead the orchestra must turn her back on the crowd.” – unknown.
I love this tip for figuring out what to do with your life because I had to apply it at the concert last week, when I played my flute. I had to set aside all my self-consciousness and ego, turn my back on the crowd (figuratively, mostly), and play my heart out.
And that’s also what I how I know what to do with my life: I let go of my fears and worries about what others think. Of course, this is difficult if you’re dependent on others (if you still live at home, you might find How to Cope With Controlling Parents helpful).
6. Be realistic about your abilities, personality, and plans
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill.
When I was 29, I thought I knew what to do with my life. I went to Africa and taught grade 8 Language Arts and high school Journalism at an American school for missionaries’ and ex-pats’ kids. It was wrong for me. Not the Africa part, the teaching part. I wasn’t being realistic about my personality and temperament. Teachers of middle and high school students should have extroverted personality traits.
If you’re an introvert, read Best Jobs for Introverts and People Who Like to Be Alone.
7. Don’t give up so soon!
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein.
Figuring out what to do with your life is a process that you have to stick with for a long time. It’s not a problem. It’s not an obstacle. It’s not a weakness! It’s actually a privilege that you should be grateful to have. Billions of people don’t have the luxury of deciding what to do with their lives. Their main purpose is finding enough food to eat today, or fleeing a civil war, or taking care of a child with mental or physical challenges. I am thankful that I’ve always had the freedom to decide what to do with my life…for it is a blessing.
8. Respond to changes in the wind
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward.
So I’ve always wanted to be a writer. The truth is that I’ve always known what I wanted to do with my life…but I got distracted. I chased all sorts of different types of university degrees that didn’t involve writing: my degrees are in Psychology, Education, and Social Work. I’ve worked at more than 65 jobs in my life, and none of them worked for me. Until I started blogging. I tried getting traditionally published with a book published, but that didn’t work for me either. So I blog. And I love it.
To learn how I Blossomed into my blogs, read How I Became a Blogger – Laurie’s Story.
9. Accept endings gracefully and gratefully
“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.” – Ivy Baker Priest.
When I didn’t get a book publishing contract, I thought it was the end for me as a writer. Wrong! I found – I mean created – something even better: my Blossom blogs.
Maybe you’re wondering what to do with your life because of an ending in your life. Maybe you’re graduating from grade 12, or you dropped out of school in grade 9. Maybe you’re getting divorced after 25 years of marriage, or your fiance left you at the altar. Maybe your dreams of being an athlete are destroyed because of an injury, or you got rejected from all the colleges you applied to.
These are endings…and they are beginnings. They will help you learn how to find your dream job.
10. Trust that you will find what your purpose in life is
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11.
Have faith that if you keep moving forward and trying new things, you will figure out what to do in life. Believe that God knows you – after all, He created you! – and that He has plans for you. You have a purpose here, and He has good things in store for you.
But you have to act. You can’t just search the internet for “what to do with my life.” You have to try different things, fail, succeed, recalibrate, and keep moving forward.
What to Do Next
Pretend you could live any life you wanted. What is your ideal, perfect life? Who do you want to be, where do you want to go, and what will you do when you get there? Feel free to share your dreams in the comments section below.
Also consider…what is holding you back, and how can you get out of your own way?
Read How will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen. He and his coauthors James Allworth and Karen Dillon discuss a series of fundamental questions that everyone asks themselves at some point in their lives:
- How can I be sure that I’ll find satisfaction in my career?
- How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness?
- How can I avoid compromising my integrity – and stay out of jail?
“I promise my students that if they take the time to figure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they discovered while at school,” says Christensen. “If they don’t figure it out, they will just sail off without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough seas of life.”
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Winnie the Pooh.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you figure out what you really want to do with your life.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.