One of the biggest struggles of young people around me these days is figuring out what they want to do with their lives. Of course, this is a first world problem and there are bigger things to worry about blablabla – nevertheless, this issue is real. People have no idea what they want and the choices seem endless. Where do you start?
The older I get and the more soul-searching I do, the more I realize how simple it really is. The problem is this:
We are distracted
By people around us, by the media… We lose a little bit of ourselves when we follow other people’s advice. To ‘do what we love’, ‘follow our passion’ and ‘never settle’. In all this well-meant advice, we are forgetting one important thing:
This is the key to every choice we make in our lives, whether work-related or otherwise. And it’s something many of us seem to have forgotten.
Opportunity. Think about a choice you’ve recently made or are about to make. Forget about your goals, dreams and passions for a minute. And if you don’t have any – forget about what everyone is telling you you should do, and ask yourself one thing: what opportunities are currently available to you?
To me, this advice is indispensable. It’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten. The phrase ‘follow your passion’ is hollow to me – because I have no fucking clue what my passion is or where to find it. Opportunity is much easier to find.
Keep it simple
Look around you – and look at yourself (this is very important). What are your skills? What can you actually do? What do you (somewhat) enjoy? And what opportunities are out there, right now, for you to practice those skills? Don’t think in terms of jobs, or careers, or permanent choices, think simple. There are always things you can do, perhaps better than others. Or things you enjoy more than others. I know comparison is supposedly bad, but it does help you to learn what your qualities are.
I meet a lot of people who struggle with figuring it all out: what they’re supposed to do, what job they should get, how they should spend their days. I struggle with it too, sometimes. But I realize that there are two things that help me keep my peace:
1. Listening to myself
Nobody knows me like I do. I’m the only one who really knows what I want. I know the things I am good at and the things I enjoy. I may not excel at these things, but they push me along in life. They may get me to ‘passionate’ places, who knows? What I know for sure is that when I listen to myself, follow ‘where it feels good’ and grab every opportunity, I am on the right path. Whatever that path may be and wherever it may lead.
The right path feels like home
Listening to yourself can be difficult, but here’s how I know I am on the right track. It feels like home. This part is crucial. It requires you to be quiet, turn inward, turn off your mind and listen to your heart. Allow yourself to feel. My best choices feel like a mix of nostalgia, love and excitement. It’s a perfect cocktail and it’s never wrong. It also can’t be forced. I know it when it’s there, and I also know when it’s not there. However regretful that may be.
So the essence is this: if you’re feeling stuck, first listen to yourself. What do you like? What don’t you hate? Write it down if you have to. Then look at your list and allow yourself to feel. How do you feel? Is there anything on your list that makes you feel good or excited? The next step is to look for opportunities, however small they may be. Perhaps there are people around you who can help. Something as small as a conversation can give you a nudge in the right direction.
Don’t follow your passion
Finally: I have found the video below very insightful. It’s all about opportunity – and this is exactly what we’re missing when we’re desperately trying to ‘find our passion’.