“Maybe I just have to move abroad. Yes. It will bring all the answers. I will discover what I want in life. Far away from society’s pressure. I will find my passion. I will follow it and become successful doing something I love.”
I know you are thinking it. And believe me, I also wished it works like that. But it rarely does.
3 years ago I arrived to Colombia with all options open. As an empty notebook. It was for me to decide how I wanted to fill it in. I was 100% ready for it and hoped that I would finally discover what I wanted to do with my life.
Although I did many things in Colombia, including starting my own business, I still don’t feel like I know what I want. But I did learn “How to discover what you want in life”. Below, I share my conclusions with you.
1. You are asking yourself the wrong question
First of all, there is no such thing as ‘Discovering what you want to do with your life’. The more I read and talk about it, the clearer it gets: It’s total BS (smiling shit emoji).
This question is way to big to be asking ourselves. You have to take it step by step. It’s like dating. You don’t walk over to a random person and ask if he/she wants to grow old with you.. They’ll say:
“Dude, I don’t even know you! I’d have to first get to know you. Date you. Fall in love. Meet your family. Go on vacation together. Fight with you. Make up with you. Live together. Install an Ikea closet together. Suffer from diarrhea in your company (talking about relationship tests). Have a conversation about babies. And a hundred other things, before I could even think about getting old with you.”
But this is exactly what we do when we ask ourselves “what job do I want to do for the rest of my life?” Take it step by step. You see something you like? Then first investigate. Try it out. You don’t have to quit your job immediately. Take a beginners course. Do the work for free to practice. You’re still loving it? Then you can think about making it your job. If you don’t like it (anymore) then you shift to another thing.
We do not live in a world anymore where you have to do the same career for the rest of your life. Options are limitless and I know that it can feel overwhelming so let’s not complicate our lives.
The right question to ask yourself would be “What’s the next step”? Not where you want to be in 20 years, not in 10 years, even not in 5 years. But now. What is your very next step? The world will change. You will change. So let’s focus on now. This takes off the pressure and lowers the threshold to try out new things.
Side note: I do not mean you don’t have to take the future into account. I mean you should not let it paralyze you when you have no clue of what you want to do.
It’s like Steve Jobs says in his Standford University Speech:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards.”
This means we do not have to worry about what the dot will look like in 10 years. We only have to know what our very next dot looks like. He took a calligraphy course because it interested him. Not because he knew he was going to be the first to introduce beautiful typography on computers. He didn’t even know he was going to build a computer. He just followed his interest.
2. Define your very next step
“Ok Laura, that’s great, I just focus on my next step!”
“God no, I don’t even know what my next step should look like.”
Ha! I anticipated that.
Through my own experience I have identified three steps you can follow to define your next step (oh the irony).
Step 1. Do you have any interests?
I really hope you do because if not it would be a little awkward. Define your interests. What gives you energy? What can you talk about for hours? What do you spend your free time on? What do you want to know more about or get better at?
As I spend my free time reading personal development books, writing about life, and talking with friends and family about personal growth, I can say this is definitely one of my interests.
If you are not really sure about your interests then I strongly advice you to get out of the house and start trying out new things.
Step 2. What are you good at?
Identify your strenghts. Forget that you have to be good at everything. Focus on your strengths and talents. What are you naturally good at? What comes easy to you? What is it that your family always asks your help for? What do your friends say you’re good at?
When I moved to Colombia I started a blog. I didn't start cooking or drawing. No, I started writing. Why? Because apparently writing comes easy to me (and believe me, cooking or drawing don't). But even then, I only realized I was good at writing (or that I had potential) when people actually started saying it to me.
Step 3. Put it all together
If you put these two things together, you could come up with some potential next steps. Try to link your strengths (what comes easy to you?) to your interests (what gives you energy?).
Do you love sports and you are great at leading people? Then maybe your next step could be ‘to coach a sports team’. Are you passionate about the environment and you’re great at speaking in public? Then maybe your next step could be ‘to give talks or workshops in companies to help employees lower their environmental footprint’. Are you passionate about women empowerment and are you great at organizing events? Then maybe your next step could be to organize events that help women to grow.
In my case, I could use writing to further develop my interest in personal development. So, my next step could be 'to write about personal development'. I know, big shocker.
3. Get into the arena and learn to fail
The last thing that I realized is that we have to unlearn what we were taught in school.
Don’t be quiet, but go full in and don’t worry about failing. You can only know if something is right for you if you try it. So take action. Don’t worry about not being amazing in the beginning. Give yourself the permission to make mistakes. And if you fail, then accept it, and get back up. Remember that failure is the source of creativity aka everything that has been created in this world.
This means that I will probably write some bad articles. Maybe write about something nobody cares about. People will probably criticize me about what I write or the way I write it (which to me is not failing, but it might feel like it). Either way, I will have to fail from time to time to become better at it.
So, decide upon your very next step and try it. Accept the fact that you will make mistakes, more than once, and change your relationship with failure. The more you fail, the better you’ll get.
- You shouldn’t be asking yourself “What do I want to do with my life”.
Instead, focus on your very next step and let your interests and strengths lead you.
- Get into that arena. Take action. It’s the only way to really know whether you’re on the right track.
- Give yourself permission to make mistakes and make sure to get back up when you fall down.
As the title says, you don’t necessarily have to move abroad to do these things. But since I am a big promoter of living abroad, I do want to state the benefits of moving to a different country when you are a bit lost in life. All the steps mentioned above will definitely be easier to do abroad since you are out of your comfort zone already. You feel less pressure from society which causes failure to be less scary, and you’ll be more open to try out new things. Just don’t expect to “discover what you want to do with your life”.
I hope this was of any help. If it was, then let me know. If you have a different opinion, then also let me know. I am here to learn as well. Your feedback will give me energy and motivation to keep on doing this!
Ps: If you want to read more about this topic I can highly recommend this article written by Tim Urban about “How to pick a career”. It’s long but it’s insightful (and funny)!