“You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream, you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself”
– Diana Ross
In a world of endless possibilities, it’s only too easy to be overwhelmed by the extent of choice and to feel rudderless: Lacking purpose and direction. How do we know what we are destined to do? Why must we pick only one direction? What if it’s the wrong one? And what if we just can’t make a living out of it, or there’s too much competition or we’re not good enough? Throw in an enormous amount of pressure from parents, friends, partners, teachers and yourself; societal expectations; and your own naivety – and choosing a life direction can become extremely confusing and anxiety-inducing. I know all too well how easy it is to lose touch with yourself and your own inner voice.
So below I’ve collated a list of important life lessons I have learnt that may help point you in the direction of your dreams.
1. Take the pressure off yourself.
Overthinking and indecisiveness can leave you powerless to make a choice, forfeiting all possible options due to the fear of having to pick only one and choosing the wrong path. In reality, most of us won’t suddenly wake up and know with certainty. But life will lead us on a journey, one that will take many twists and turns. Give yourself permission to get it wrong, to change your mind or to later take another path. In the end, nothing is lost; life is about learning.
2. Make your choice based on what you are most passionate about right now.
We only ever have the present moment and we have no idea where life will take us, probably in many directions. By bringing ourselves back to the present and doing things that make us happy right now, we can do ourselves justice and avoid regret later on down the road. If you have multiple passions, that doesn’t mean you have to abort one for the sake of another. It’s your life, each and every day you create what type of life you want that to be.
3. Stop doing the things that you don’t like and start doing those which you do.
Sometimes you need to be selfish and allow yourself time to do the things that you’re passionate about and that bring you happiness. Don’t be afraid to pursue new interests and hobbies as well.
4. Focus on your values.
You may find taking a self-assessment – such as the one provided by the following link www.lifevaluesinventory.org – helpful to identify the values that are most important to you and how you can incorporate these into your career and everyday life.
5. Follow your own inner voice.
No one can tell you what you should or should not do. Personally, I found journaling my hopes for the future, passions and interests helpful in bringing me back to my intuitive self. When thinking about careers, think about which ones arise your excitement and passions. Focus on what you want to do as opposed to what you think you should do. Know yourself and what makes your heart sing, what keeps you up at night and has you bouncing with excitement.
6. Use self-assessment tools.
Taking a Myer-Briggs personality type test really helped me to get in touch with my central interests, values, and natural disposition – applicable to careers, hobbies, relationships and how one generally leads their life (you can take the test for free here: https://www.truity.com/test/type-finder-research-edition). The description of an INFJ resonated so strongly with me and, funnily enough, all the careers I had been considering were listed as suggested professions for an INFJ. Additionally, a Holland Career Code test can assist you to identify your cluster of interests and skills, generally a combination of three of the following: Social, Artistic, Conventional, Realistic, Investigative and Enterprising. Again, there are plenty of free versions of this test (e.g. http://www.roguecc.edu/Counseling/HollandCodes/test.asp).
7. Talk to people.
It really helps to talk to people who are doing what you are interested in to find out what it’s really like. Sometimes we can have misconceptions about a job that is actually far different in reality to our ideals. In another vein, seek out expanders who you look up to who are blazing a trail and find out about their journey. You might just be inspired to carve out your own path and purpose away from the societal norm.
8. Enter a process of elimination.
In a world with endless possibilities, it’s sometimes helpful to cross off the careers you would hate. Also consider the logistics of the jobs you are interested in – maybe sitting in an office chair from 9 to 5 every day just won’t cut it for you.
9. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Imagine yourself at the end of your life. What will you look back on and regret not doing? Stability and security may have their benefits, but you may always be wondering about what could have been if you had done all that you could.