Part of the human condition is the deep desire to live a life of value and purpose. This isn’t always easy to define, and often it is natural to ask what we should be doing to make the most of the life we have been given. It is tempting to think that this comes down to a career choice, a living situation, a friend group, a pastime, a relationship or some other aspect of life. We often find ourselves asking,
- Pursue a new job?
- Relocate to a new town or housing situation?
- Get married, divorced and/or have children?
- Become involved in a social or charitable group?
- Join a faith community?
While it is normal to periodically doubt our choices, we tend to wrestle most when our current situation is leaving us dissatisfied, drained or worried.
In times of uncertainty, it can be helpful to remember that purpose and contentment can be found in a variety of situations. There is no single path. Admittedly, our choices take us in different directions, but we can live lives of meaning in all of them.
If you feel a bit unsettled or insecure about your choices, here are a few truths to remember.
- What You Do ≠ Your Value
Life has value simply because it exists. Period. Whether we are born with a long list of talents or are born with limited faculties, each life is a creation that adds to the human race. We may not be able to see exactly how we are contributing to the lives of those around us, but we do. The concept that a person’s worth is in direct proportion to his/her output is a lie. A newborn baby in the ICU brings tremendous value, even though he isn’t doing anything but fighting to survive.
- Life is Primarily About Today
It is good to have goals and dreams. Setting priorities helps us make good decisions. For example, if I want to become a lawyer, I need to work hard in school so I can get into college and then law school. However, it is unwise to dwell too much on the future. No one really knows what tomorrow will bring, and often we spend an unhealthy amount of time worrying about things that may never happen. When concern over future events prevents us from fully experiencing reality, our perspective needs some shifting. The majority of our energy should be directed toward the task and needs of the present.
- The Inner Voice Matters
Everyone faces external expectations. These can come from friends, family members, employers, community groups and elsewhere. Sometimes, we allow a longing to fulfill the expectations of others to drown out our own desires. Each individual really is different, and we all have passions and interests. Furthermore, it is unlikely that any course of action will be universally pleasing to everyone in your circle. Resist the urge to feel guilty if you aren’t doing what “everyone else” is, or what others think you should. We all have something that tugs at our heartstrings, and acknowledging this a good place to start. Reality may dictate that we can’t earn a living pursuing our passion… sometimes we need to work in one job while cultivating an interest on the side. Nevertheless, true joy may prove elusive if we regularly suppress our inherent intuition and inclinations.
- Honest Work Is Honorable
Ever feel like what you are doing with your days isn’t as worthy as what others are doing? Maybe your Dad had a “big “ job and yours seems insignificant. Perhaps you have chosen to stay at home with small children and wonder if you are wasting your talents. Maybe a friend seems to be racing up the success ladder while you are trapped in what seems to be a dead-end position. When professional doubts creep in, remind yourself that any job you are performing matters, and all genuine effort is worthy of praise. Societies thrive when people fulfill different roles. What would the world be like if we had only bankers and no farmers, dentists or plumbers? Avoid the habit of talking down your own accomplishments. If you want to move into a different career, make a plan and work towards it. In the meantime, give your all to the work you have now.
- Integrity Breeds Contentment
One of the surest paths to discontent is talking one way and then living another. At the end of the day, each of us must go to bed with our self. It is a wonderful feeling when we can put head to pillow feeling proud and thankful of how we lived the day. In contrast, when we know we aren’t “walking the talk,” we begin to feel as if we are perilously straddling two personas, often fearing the moment when we will be found out. True joy comes when we have confidence that we are living in a way that is consistent with our values, even when no one is watching.
- Filter The Critics
Everyone benefits from a trustworthy circle of close friends and/or family who truly care. Valuable wisdom can come to us through these sources, both positive and constructively critical. At the same time, there will always be a plethora of people who are more interesting in hurling commentary than contributing to our welfare. Often, hurtful words and unsolicited advice reveal more about the critic than the recipient. Discerning a prudent path becomes easier when we filter out the ill-informed (even if well-intentioned) comments of the masses, and give thoughtful consideration to input from the trusted few.
- Resist Comparisons
Now more than ever, it is possible for us to peer into the lives of others. Social media has granted broad access to what other people are saying, doing, achieving, experiencing and taking pleasure in. It is almost impossible to be exposed to these “best” moments of our peers’ lives without letting it erode our sense of self. We tend to react in one of two ways, each of which is damaging. Either we believe we are doing better than others, which leads to pride. Or, we decide we are falling short, which saps our confidence. We are all vulnerable to these reactions, so we need to be mindful of what we take in, and always cognizant that we are seeing but a glimpse of another life. We may never know what others have overcome, are dealing with or will face in the days to come. When screen time leaves us feeling worse, it is time to shut it off.
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Have you struggled with your purpose in life? Do any of these truths resonate with you?
36 thoughts on “What Should I Do With My Life?”
Deep wisdom here… thank you.
Thanks, Mike. So glad you found value in this post. Thanks for stopping by!
Love this and definitely agree with all of the above, especially being in the here and now, as much as possible with living life and how we deal with our choices on a daily basis.
Today we are sure of, but tomorrow is an unknown. What a shame to lose today by letting it be overshadowed by a possibility!
So many great truths here, Seana! Number two spoke to me – it really is all about the NOW!
It can be so easy to become paralyzed by the future. Planning is good, but obsessing can be destructive. It is my goal to try and focus more on the present moment’s joys and challenges.
Just the wisdom I needed for today, Seana. Number 4 has been one I’ve worked to teach my children. And I’d weave the tenants of my faith into every aspect of answering this question for myself.
We share our reliance on faith as we wrestle through this question Susan! I talk with my children about #4 all the time. They are under such pressure to achieve some vague “greatness,” but greatness can present in the smallest detail of genuine contribution!
I LOVE this – so many true points! Thank you for sharing!
I heard a wonderful speech once that inspired #4… greatness comes in the most surprising forms. So glad you enjoyed it, Melanie!
You’re going deep today, Seana. I love all of the tenets that you shared. There’s so much here to consider and absorb. The main takeaway for me is your encouragement of accepting who you are and living what you value. These are huge. This post has such a different feel to it from others of yours. Was there something in particular that inspired you to write it?
Linda Samuels recently posted…How to Improve Handling Next When You Are in Limbo
Well, it is Holy Week for many. Thought it was a good time to dig a bit deeper and talk about some of the issues that might be entangled with productivity and time management challenges. My coaching clients and I talk about these kind of thoughts. Not easy to tackle in a blog post, so a bit risky!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic, Seana. I really needed to hear this today. It’s a struggle when I work remotely with clients to truly see the value it is to them. So, when I don’t speak with clients often and I do my work for them, doubt creeps in and says, “am I being of value to others?” Part of me knows I am or they would have left me already, but it still happens.
I can relate to this emotion, Sabrina. I often pray that I will bring true value, and I know there have been a few situations where I feel like I’ve brought “situation management,” but not perhaps “situation improvement.” I think it depends on the client, but I know we all long to make a difference that lasts!
I was having trouble over the weekend, just feeling a little blue and confused. Not knowing how to proceed with certain work functions, and where to go on spring break, and the house and baby stuff. Helps to think about living for today, and filtering out the critics.
Tamara recently posted…7 Steps to a Happier and Healthier Pet
The change of seasons is always a tricky time for parents… new schedules to plan and vacations and all that. It was never my favorite time. Just when I was “settling into” the routine, a new one interrupted! It is hard to live in today, but when I can, I enjoy it!
Thank you, Seana. I think it is particularly important to remember that we ALL contribute something to society. A good message to hear now.
Diane Quintana recently posted…De-Cluttering
There is so much pressure to pursue your passion, use your gifts, make a difference… just being kind makes a difference! We all have choices to make, but it helps to keep them in perspective.
So many people struggle with not knowing what to do with their lives. There is so much value in this post, Seana. Thank you for listening to your inner voice.
Thank you, Elva, for this affirmation. This post is a bit deeper than my standard, but I find that many people are asking this question. Just knowing that others are struggling can be a comfort!
These are all really great points and good things to strive towards. #5 really resonates with me right now as I strive to work on my passion and figure out where my niche is in order to leave my day job at some point. Really great reminders to think about what is most important for each of us.
Kim recently posted…The Connection between Mental Health and Chronic Disorganization
Discovering our passion can be difficult! Somehow we seem to believe that everyone should have a driving passion that they discover at a young age. To be honest, I find this to be more the exception than the rule. In my experience, we go through seasons, try new things and end up finding joy in different activities at different stages. How we walk through activities tends to be the more consistent factor, especially if we are holding fast to our true values. Exciting to think about what niche might be next for you, Kim!
I love the core of this post being what is meaningful for us. It’s our sense of purpose that must resonate with us. I find that when I feel this, I look to how I can help or serve others. We all have gifts to share.
We really all do have gifts to share! Some of them are more obvious and rewarded by societal norms, while others tend to be overlooked. Being a great listener is one skill I admire tremendously, yet you probably won’t get an award for this one! True joy does spring forth from feeling like our energy and time are benefiting others and therefore revealing our purpose!
I love this post – you hit the right spot. Last few weeks I was feeling pretty down because I didn’t know what should I do with my life.. I wasn’t sure my job is satisfying enough.. Lots of things to think about. But I think I am getting there 🙂
Marina @ Parental Journey recently posted…35 Lunchbox Recipes For the Whole Family
We all wrestle with this question, and I think it is normal to wrestle more than once. Situational changes often make us wonder if we are in the right place, doing the right thing. Most people have seasons of life, and do different things at different times. I am sending you wishes for discernment and peace as you navigate your journey Marina!
#6 and #7 should be permanently etched in our brains. Together they are a destructive force. Thanks for the reminder to put things in proper perspective, Seana. Appreciate the thoughtfulness of your post.
Deb Lee recently posted…Good Multitasking: 8 Ways to Creatively Do Two Things at the Same Time
I think we are more vulnerable than ever to #6 and #7. It takes concerted effort to stay connected and up to date while protecting your sense of self. Not easy, but very important!
The two sentiments that particularly resonated with me were the concept of focusing on today rather than fretting about something that might never happen and the reminder to turn away from social media when it makes us feel worse. Thanks for all of these excellent reminders and insights!
Mo recently posted…Beginner’s Guide To Italian Wines
It’s funny how we are drawn to social media, even when it is making us feel lousy. I’m sure there is some psychology behind this, but it is sort of like the eternal Christmas letter, where everyone else seems to be living a perfect life. If an activity is optional, it should be serving us well. Otherwise, limit it.
Yes, filtering out the critics is one of the most important things that needs to be done. Sometimes I have to shut off that angry voice in my head and focus on just the good things I have been blessed with in life.
Me too, Marcia. I can be my own worst critic. The power of choosing to focus on the good things is pretty incredible.
My latest favorite quote is, “All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today.” Too often we let mental weeds discourage us from taking that next action step that leads to the life we really want to be living! So it really matters what I do each day.
What a beautiful quote, Olive. It really crystalizes the essence of this thought. That will stick with me!
Very wise observations Seana. I always tell myself that if I am doing something that has to be done, I’m doing something valuable no matter how menial or small the task. Concentrating on the gift of today is another very important thought. I have heard this quote attributed to several different people so I can’t say who actually said it but it has always impressed me-“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.”
I love this quote, Dianne. It can be challenging not to get caught up in worries about the future or reminiscing about the past, but it is worth the effort. Each day has it’s own value and significance if we can only settle and focus on it!