Of course no one else can tell you what you should be doing with your life. Only you can decide that. Also, no one single approach is going to suit everyone. Some people don’t mind jumping in with both feet and quitting their day job to pursue their dream, trusting that everything will work out. That is fantastic and I really believe that if you really want something, you absolutely should pursue it. But I myself like to be reasonably sure of financial stability and some chance of success before putting in a lot of time and resources. So here is my slightly risk-adverse take on making major, potentially life-changing decisions….
“What should I do with my life?!”
Remember daydreaming about what you might “be” when you grew up?
I have one amazing friend who, as a child, said she was going to be a scientist (and has written proof of this!), and then proceeded to do exactly that. But we don’t all have such foresight! I myself had a list of any number of things, which would change from week to week depending on how I felt at the time. I have never been able to map out my career years in advance with any certainty, but have taken up opportunities as they arose. I have no regrets about where I am now and the path I have taken to get here. So I guess, the point I am making is that:
- It’s OK not to know exactly where you want to be in 10 years. There is no harm planning, of course, but be prepared to adapt and change your plans. That way, you will be open to opportunities that might lead you to something even better.
- Do have an idea of what sort of thing you might want to do and start there.
I generally set off in the general direction I want to go, and then make more specific decisions and take up various opportunities as they arise.
Say you are interested in science but you are not sure which field. So at university you try papers in botany, biochemistry, biology and psychology. You develop a particular interest in one of these areas, start a project with a professor you admire and thus find your way into that field.
“What If I think I want to do something but am not sure?”
Thinking in terms of these questions usually helps me to clarify if I am really prepared to put in the effort to make something happen.
- Is this something I am really prepared to work hard for?
- Would my life feel incomplete if I didn’t do this?
- What is the chance that I might realise it’s not what I want after all?
- If I tried but couldn’t achieve the goal, what would I lose?
- Would having tried give me the closure to move onto something else?
- Is quitting an option if it doesn’t seem to be working out? If so, how will I decide when to stop?
“ Can I really make this happen?”
There is no fool-proof way to eliminate the risk that your time, efforts and other resources might not pay off, but you could consider the following:
- Honest self-appraisal. We might be wrong about ourselves of course, so don’t stop there, but it’s the obvious place to start! Gather all the information you can about what it might take to succeed and then consider your abilities.
- Consider the opinion of a trusted family member or friend. Take their opinion into consideration, but remember those close to us may have pre-conceived ideas about what we can or can’t do, so this is only one consideration.
- Consider getting an opinion from a professional in the field if applicable/possible
- If possible try to get some experience in the area you are interested in or take a course to see if you like it and might be good at it.
Just for fun, if you are considering pursuing a new path, try this!
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