There is a lot of pressure on young people today to figure out what to do with their lives. At job interviews or while filling applications, you are confronted with the question, “where do you see yourself in the next 5 or 10 years?” Parents and teachers mount pressure on their students to figure out something now or be doomed for life. It’s almost like a taboo to not know what to do with your life. As a result, many young people experience overpowering anxiety for not having clarity over what to do with their lives– what to focus on, how to live up to their potential. They think “everyone has it all figured out except me”.
But the truth is that you don’t need to have the answer to this question. In short, in this video, you will learn why you need to stop asking this question because, for the most part, it’s not a smart question. You will also learn a better and more useful question to ask. Before we get to it, be sure to subscribe to After School TV for more insightful videos like this.
Why You Should Stop Asking this question?
The simple truth is that you can’t know what you’re going to do with your life right now, because you don’t know with certainty who you’re going to be, what you’ll be able to do, what you’ll be passionate about, who you’ll meet, what opportunities will come up, or what the world will be like. People change; the world change; opportunities change. Just 15 years ago, no one would have figured they were meant to be an App Developer, Machine learning engineer, or Video Blogger.
So if you can’t figure out the future, what do you do? Don’t focus on the future. Focus on what you can do right now that will be useful no matter what the future brings. You can go about this by asking a simple, yet more productive question. Let’s take a lesson from the story of someone who figured this out.
Oprah Winfrey spent most of her 20s obsessing over the question, “what should I do with my life?” The more she focused on trying to figure out what to do with her life the more crushing pressure and anxiety she felt. She soon realized asking this question was not leading her to a productive life and that she was asking the wrong question. The right question to ask was this;
’what is the next move?’
The next move; not every move. You don’t need to know all the moves; you just need to know the next right move to make and build from there to the next move. Switching from the high-end ‘what should I do with my life’ to this simple question changed her life.
What should I do with myself – is asking for too much. No one can really figure that out. And thinking too far ahead can create needless pressure and anxiety. When you focus on the next right move, you go from trying to make sense of the entire journey to take life one turn at a time.
Here is a simple illustration of how this could work out. Let’s say you are in a place where you don’t know what to do with your life. Then you figure your next move is to study to understand the Information Technology industry since you have been hearing a lot about it. Then from what you learn your next move is to learn the most in-demand tech skill. Once you start getting good at it, your next move is to get an internship Job with a Startup company. Then your next move is to get a paid job with you internship experience; then to find a co-founder and launch a startup; then to take communication training to become better at pitching to investors; then to get an investor for your company; then to resign as the CEO and become a startup consultant.
You can’t see the entire picture from where you are now, and you don’t have to. You just need to start with your next move; from there you will figure out the next. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you with figuring out the right next move.
Figure out what you DON’T want to do with your life
Oprah was once offered a job that paid $30,000 more than what she was getting at her other job. If you were in her shoes, what would you do? Accepting the offer may seem like the smart thing to do. But the question is; is it the right next move for you? Oprah rejected the offer because she knew what she didn’t want – a job that wouldn’t allow her to be her authentic self.
Figuring out what you don’t want for your life is a lot easier than figuring out what to do with your life. Once you have figured out what you don’t want to do with your life, you can easily filter advice and opportunities to know which the right move for you is or not.
It could be that you don’t want to get trapped in a job that doesn’t allow you to be creative; you don’t want to have to wake up by 5:00 AM to get to work by 7:30 AM and return home tired every weekday by 9:00 PM. It could be not being able to spend time with your kids in the name of chasing after a career. Or that you don’t want to end up like someone you’ve observed in their adult life. It’s not that hard to figure out what you don’t want for your life. And it will help you make smarter decisions about your next move.
Learn to live with uncertainty
If you are afraid of uncertainty, you will often avoid the right move for what is easily predictable. For example, you may find that working with a startup would offer you a better learning experience on how to grow a business than working in an established organization. But working in a startup is riskier and more uncertain. You have to learn to live with uncertainty to be able to make the best decision for what is right for you and not what offers the most comfort.
You can’t know how things will turn out, and so if you need to know how things will turn out, you’ll avoid great projects, businesses, opportunities. But if you can be OK with not knowing, you’ll be open to many more possibilities.
Be Uncomfortable with Comfort
One of the most important skills you can develop is being OK with some discomfort. The best things in life are often hard, and if you shy away from difficulty and discomfort, you’ll miss out. You’ll live a life of safety. Learning is hard. Building something great is hard. Writing a book is hard. Marriage is hard. As much as these things are uncomfortable, they have the potential to bring you the biggest rewards. How do you get good at this? Do things now that are uncomfortable and hard, on purpose. When you find yourself avoiding discomfort, push yourself just a little bit more.
Build something small
Most people waste their time on things that don’t matter, like TV, video games, social media, reading the news. A year of that and you have nothing to show for it. But if you started writing a web app, or created a blog that you update regularly, or started learning a skill… at the end of a year you’ll have something of great value. Something you can point to and say, “I built that.” Something most people can’t dare to say. Building something great is like investing your money: it grows in value over time.
People change; the world change; opportunities change. Asking ‘what’s the next move’ wakes you up from dreamland into reality. It focuses on now as the actual driver of what could later be.
The point is that you can’t know what you’re going to do with your life right now. But understand that: if you are prepared, you will be in a better place with your life. You’ll be way ahead of pretty much every other person your age. And opportunities will come your way if you have your eyes open: job opportunities, a chance to build something with someone, an idea for a startup, a new thing to learn.
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