Woohoo! We have another “Ask Rachel” reader question! This one comes from my recent reader survey (thanks to all who filled that out!)
My biggest issue right now is finding focus and figuring out what I should be doing with my life. I'm so confused (literally a confused millennial!). A series/more advice/etc on this topic would be so helpful! There really aren't many resources out there for this kind of thing. Most of the resources out there are for people who already know what their calling is or what kind of career they want and how to get started. But what about those of us who have tried a few things, but haven't found anything that feels like we should be doing it our whole lives?
Oh dang, this one hits close to home… I honestly feel totally unqualified to answer this question as fully as I would like to. So I am going to do my best, but I enlisted some friends below to help answer too.
I constantly feel like the Universe is calling me into fifty million directions and I have no idea which path to lean into (also a big reason as to why my blog focuses on so many topics, I can’t decide! I believe we are all confused millennials in this together, looking for a well balanced and joyous life)!
I recently posted an article on Forbes that might be helpful, towards the end it gives some actionable tips and advice for finding your purpose in life. While it’s definitely not a complete answer, it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for some questions to ask yourself or movies to inspire you. Also check out this post I wrote about how I found, and continue to find, my life’s mission statement.
To go a little more in-depth to the last part of your question, “But what about those of us who have tried a few things, but haven't found anything that feels like we should be doing it our whole lives?”
I would say two things:
1) Drop the “whole life” mentality. The average millennial is projected to have 4 jobs by the time they are 32, and many career experts recommend changing jobs every 3-5 years after that. Which means that whatever you are doing today, is probably not what you will be doing five years from now.
2) Figure out what comes easiest to you. What do people constantly tell you you’re great at? What do you think you’re a total rockstar in? Too often we are taught in school that we need to focus on our “weaknesses,” taking all those extra classes in our poorest subject or tutoring time – when in reality people should focus on their strengths. That is where you are going to see the greatest develop, momentum, and returns in your life (IMO).
But since I am a totally confused millennial myself, I decided to not only answer your response but partnered with The Big Picture Life to give you some actionable advice (because, heck they wrote a book on this)! If you haven’t checked out their site, I highly recommend it. It’s totally interactive and helps you figure out what your purpose is, how to get there, and even how you can afford to make that dream a reality! I would recommend starting here, a page specifically designed for those who don’t know where to start.
Here is their response to your question:
Figuring out what to do with your life—or as you say, what you should do with your life—can drive just about anyone crazy. This is even truer as another year comes to a close; with New Year’s resolutions and a new start on the horizon, the pressure to decide what you’re doing can build and feel that much more overwhelming.
First off, take a deep breath. Thankfully, figuring out your life isn’t like a project with a deadline or a test graded by the professor you can’t stand. Second, take a step back and thank yourself. The fact that you’re thinking about purpose at all is a huge step in itself.
One useful way to start figuring out your next steps is to write about what contributes to your purpose. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? What are your core values? What kind of positive impact can you make on the world around you? Even if you’re not totally sure, writing down what you might want to do, or, at the very least, what you enjoy can spark ideas about what might come next.
If you want to take it a step further, there’s a book* that goes along with the site that provides even more opportunities to dream, journal, and advance towards doing something meaningful with your life. The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life is a book is full of research-based ideas and activities to help you think through your next steps—and the bigger picture of why you’re taking these steps—all created by Dr. Christine Whelan, who specializes in helping young people find their purpose.
Looking for some more motivation?
Reading and listening to the stories of others is a great way to move towards a meaningful life.
Do you have friends or family who you think are living meaningful lives? If so, ask them about it: How did they get there? What decisions did they make? What decisions do they wish they hadn’t made?
The Big Picture’s Purpose Contest is an opportunity to share with the world what gives your life meaning. All you need is 300 words and a photo of you living your purpose—whatever you decide that is, even if it’s just your purpose for now—and you could win $500 (deadline: Dec 31, 2016).
Not ready to enter the contest yet?
You can check out previous winners and get some inspiration. Past winners include millennials studying to become US Park Rangers, mechanics, social workers, and mentors to underprivileged kids on the streets. Paige Gamrat found her purpose as a teenager when she started teaching piano lessons. She writes, “Enabling kids to think and connect in the world of music is my passion and purpose, one that I pursue by continuing to teach piano lessons.” The first-round winner, Miguel Anderson, found his purpose studying medicine and one day hopes to open a practice with his mother, a nurse.
While there isn’t a three-step formula for figuring out what’s next (how nice would that be?), but by asking good questions, being honest with yourself, and taking firm steps towards something—whether or not it’s what you do for the rest of your life—you’re already on your way to a meaningful life.
Once you figure out your goals, you'll want to grab TCM's Goal Setting Guide!
*This post is in partnership with The Big Picture Life. Thank you so much for supporting brands who support TCM! *Anywhere you see a * after a link is an affiliate link in this post