Yep, I did it; I said it. The title of this post just completely obliterated, steam-rolled, destroyed (pick your metaphor) the most important advice you’ve ever been given.
And I’m not taking it back.
But do not fear! I’m not going to leave you hanging. Let me restate my take on this platitude so you can better grasp my meaning;
Don’t figure out what to do with your life; figure out what to do next with your life.
Yes, let the brilliance sink in…
Look, I’ve spent a good part of my life trying to figure out my “passion”, my “true calling”, my “purpose” in life. For me this was primarily related to my career, though there are other pieces to the puzzle. But the other pieces I knew: I want to have a family, I want to have a strong marriage, I want to raise awesome kids who do awesome things. But what the hell am I going to do?? I’ve read the books, I’ve met with the career counselors, I’ve studied the MBTI until I’m blue in the face (if you want my advice, don’t waste your time, or at the very least, don’t take it too seriously) and though I’ve been able to come up with a million things to do with my life, I not only haven’t been able to narrow it down to one deep desire, I haven’t been able to maintain excitement for one career direction for longer than a few months! I know that I want – no, I need – to make a difference in the world. I know that I want to do something that has a nice balance between the left and right brain. Soooooooo….??
Lucky for me, this conundrum was beautifully resolved by a good friend of mine who is building motivation and resources to pursue her greatest dreams. Her brilliant comment over a cup of hot coffee was: “Everything that has happened in my life – every moment, every decision, every event – has lead me to this place.”
Damn, why is she ALWAYS RIGHT?! She looked back on her life and saw all the pieces of the puzzle that were slowly combining without her knowledge or awareness. All the moments of following something that felt good, or seemed right, or even scared her. They all brought her to where she is today: armed and ready.
I look back on my life and I see the exact same things. I see a girl who dove into music, singing and songwriting at a young age, who made friends with people who believed that unique is good, who pursued a practical marketing degree, who married a man with no guile and all the support in the world for his loved ones. I see a girl who worked in intense and stressful sales positions and survived, who has suffered through corporate America despite its insensitivity, who has learned a wide range of marketing skills but has specialized in nothing despite advice to do the opposite, who volunteered for several years and felt the incredible joy of serving others even though it delayed graduation.
And all of that has lead me here. Today. Now.
And now I know what to do with my life.
HA! Not even close. I’m *cough*ty-two years old and I still don’t know. But that’s the point – when you’re in the middle of the journey, when the path seems to far ahead and so uncertain, you have to simply believe in yourself and your ability to figure out what to do next with your life.
Because it is all leading somewhere.
It’s like collecting balloons. You pick one up here, another there. There’s a cool pink one – the deep foreboding green one matches nicely. How about a star- or heart-shaped one, they look fun! You keep collecting experiences, questions, conclusions, and knowledge until one day they all lift you slowly and carefully off the ground to your pie in the sky.
So feel free to wonder and dream about what you might accomplish in the future; but don’t let the pressure stress you out. Just make the next best decision. Use the information and the faculties you have now, and figure out what makes the most sense, and what makes your heart soar today. Even if the next best thing is to stay where you are, or to get a new job, or to take that transfer you’ve been considering, or to take a break because you have too much going on. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself.
I have always wanted to work for myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but the wide range of sales and marketing experience I’ve gained (rather than specializing) has prepared me for that. The relationships I’ve developed in my life have taught me to embrace who I am and never apologize for it. My volunteer experience and my experience in corporate America has taught me that it is top priority to feel like I am making a difference in the lives of others. It’s all leading somewhere.
And I don’t know where I will end up.
But I know what I will do next.
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