How To Decide What To Do With Your Life

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If you’re reading this chances are, you really are trying to decide what to do with your life.  What is it that brought you here?  Finances?  A relationship?  Maybe it’s your job?  Maybe it’s none of that, but it is something… you’re just not sure what.  

Sometimes life gets away from us and before we know it, we’re lost in a sea of distractions.  The current is dragging us under and we realize it’s now or never.  It’s at this point you have to decide what to do with your life.

The feeling comes on quickly, without warning.  All of a sudden you know you have to make a decision right now. You can’t keep going on aimless, hoping that one day you’ll stumble into a series of good decisions and wind up better than you are today.

It doesn’t happen like that and you know it.  You just can’t figure out what to do about it.

How to Figure Out What to Do Right Now

Part of the reason people have a hard time figuring out what they want to do with their life, is that they’re trying to figure out what they want to do as a whole.

As in, “When I die, people will remember me as someone who ___________________________.”

Then they analyze it to death, terrified they’re going to make the wrong decision.  Meanwhile they never do anything and risk becoming a person whose eulogy consists of “Here lies Anne.  She never made a wrong decision.  Help yourself to coffee and doughnuts in the receiving hall.”

Wow.  

If that’s all we get out of a lifetime of safe decisions, I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.

To avoid falling into this trap, I try asking a new question.  Instead of “What do I want to do with my life?” I askWhat do I want to achieve in my life?”

The answers are much different.  Start with what you want to achieve.  

How Does Knowing What I Want to Achieve Help Me Figure Out What I Want to Do?

Have you ever wanted to try something new, but stopped before you gave it a real shot?  You don’t even fully realize the thought before you start thinking, analyzing, planning, and worrying how it could or could not actually be done.

Before you know it you’ve talked yourself out of trying.  Obviously that huge list of reasons you just created is concrete proof that it was a dumb idea in the first place.  And you push the thought away, never to be heard from again… until the next time you come across the exact same problem.  

And so it goes, on and on until it’s been weeks, months or years and you ‘just haven’t found the time’.  And by then the problem is so huge you don’t even know what to do with it any more.

It’s like a rabid squirrel, thrashing and kicking about, growling and making a scene.  And then it’s gone as quickly as it showed up leaving everybody else wondering what just happened.

It is overwhelming, having so much you want to do but being caught up by all the stuff you have to do.  So many other things are distracting you, filling up your time, and stressing you out that you never get around to ‘that one thing’ you have wanted to take care of for forever.

Here’s the thing – if you focus on what you want to achieve, you will inherently know what to do.  If you focus on what you want to do, it’s hard to achieve anything.

Crazy, right?  

I know.  But it’s totally true.  Why?  Because it’s easy to know what you want to achieve.  What’s hard is knowing what to do about it.

Example:

I want a job that makes me happy (what I do).

vs.

I want to be happy (what I will achieve).

In the first example, you start questioning yourself and your motives and you waste a lot of time trying to figure out what to do to make yourself happy.

In the second example, you know what to do because you know what you want to achieve.  Your main motive is happiness – so you do what makes you happy.  Using the same example, you might not know exactly what job will make you happy, but you do know what situations will make you happy (i.e. what hours you want to work, where you want to live, etc).

This helps narrow your focus. For instance, if you know you want to be home every night when your kids get off the bus, you probably don’t want to be a trial lawyer because those hours are very unpredictable.

You will naturally choose something different because you know what you want to achieve (flexible hours).

I Know What I Want to Achieve, But I Still Don’t Know What to Do

Don’t pretend like you don’t have a thing.  Everybody has a thing.  Do any of these sound familiar?

I have always wanted to try:

fencing / sewing / blogging / running / LARPing / cooking / swimming / event planning / Jazz singing / graphic design / acting / shuffleboard / DJing / sky diving / deep sea fishing / drawing / boxing / anything

but I :

don’t want to look stupid / don’t know who to ask for help / don’t know how to make a website / have two left feet / am worried someone might think I’m a dork / can’t even make ice / have a weird belly button / don’t know anyone / am afraid no one will come watch / don’t have a degree / have stage fright / don’t want to hang out with old people / only like Country music / am afraid of heights / get motion sickness if I linger too long in the bath tub / am not artistic / have a really good looking face / do something else instead.

Change Is Hard. Do It Anyway.Listen, I totally get it.  I can personally attest to saying at least half of these things myself.  Here’s the problem… and, I know you’ve been telling yourself this for a while.

You’re too smart.  

Or rather, you have evolved with the ability to reason.  And because humans resist change, you are at a crossroad.  On one hand you’ve been blessed with this amazing mind that lets you think, understand, and question what’s going on around you.   But it’s this same ecology that prevents you from doing anything about it.  Damned forever to know how great you could actually be – forced to live a life of contemplative mediocrity instead.

I hope you have a good imagination because that sounds like it sucks.

So How Do I Decide What to Do With My Life?

What if you were able to stop yourself from stopping yourself?  What if every time you had an idea you acted on it?

Not some day.  Not tomorrow.  Not in an hour from now.  Right. This.  Second.

Before you do anything.  Before you research how much it costs, where to try it out, or anything else you think you need to know, just stop.  

First, acknowledge the thought.  Stop letting your passive mind dictate what you’re going to think about. Second, decide whether or not you’re going to do anything about it.

Don’t do anything else yet.

Just decide.  Asking yourself whether or not you’re going to do anything about ‘your thing’ forces you to decide where to spend your time and energy.  It helps you decide what you really want and pushes you to actually make a decision.

(Stop hedging.  This is a yes or no answer.  If you’re saying something like “I’m going to do it, someday“, or “I think I’m going to do it”, or “I can’t do it right now”, then your answer is no.)

Have you made a decision?

Alright, now follow through accordingly.

If you decided the answer is no, continue on your way.  Stop wasting time thinking, being angry, or complaining about it.  You’ve already decided you’re not going to do anything, so there is no point spending any more time on it.

But, what if your answer was yes?  Then what do you do?

First Things First.  Hold Yourself Accountable

Tell somebody.  Anybody.  Do it right now.

Why?

Because it solidifies your thing for you.  This isn’t just something you’re thinking about.  It’s something you’re actually doing.  You don’t want to be a liar do you?

Second, make a plan.

When are you going to do it?  Where are you going to do it?  Who’s going to be there?  How long is it going to take?  What is the first thing you need to do to make it happen?

Does any of this sound familiar?

If you’ve been hanging around long enough it should.  If you just found 631, you can check out what I’m talking about here.

Add this thing to your year map.  Don’t think about it for the rest of eternity.  Get your plan together and do it.  It’s now or never.

But I’m Not Ready.  What If I Make the Wrong Decision?

Stop worrying.  Now or never doesn’t mean you have to do it right now.  It means you have to decide right now to do it.  

Once you make a decision you can actively decide when and on what terms you will accomplish this goal.

Sometimes it can be done immediately (like calling and signing up for a class right now).  Other times it might be a littler further out (like buying 1000 acres in the woods and building an off road go cart course where you host a series of races every weekend).

It doesn’t really matter.  Once you make a decision you will have accomplished two things.  First, you’ll have made an active decision.  This is no longer a ‘some day’ thing.  It’s a a real life thing.  Second, you’ll have freed up valuable mind space.  Now the next time this problem comes up all you have to do is consult your plan.  

Are you doing something about it?  No – then move on.  Yes – stop daydreaming and get back to the plan.  Before you know it, you’ll have accomplished lots of things… and in the process you’ll have refined the skill of deciding.

What If I Don’t Do Any of That Research and I Make the Wrong Decision?

Who said anything about skipping the research?

Not me.  What I did say was, skip the research right now.

When it’s time to research, have at it.  Go all out and get all the information you need.

But don’t waste time doing that right now.  Why would you spend hours researching, solidifying, and daydreaming about something that you can’t do anything about for 5 or 10 more years?  By the time you get around to doing it, all of your research will be outdated.

Why Can’t I Just Research It Now So I Have an Idea of Whether or Not I’m Interested?

Because it doesn’t matter.  If the information you’re looking for is going to be different when you’re actually ready to execute, you’ll have wasted your time.  And if it’s the same, there is no point looking it up now just to look it up again later when you’re ready.

And finally, if you spend your present time doing the things you need to do right now, you may discover that a lot of the things you spend time ‘researching’ never even pan out because the right now of every day changed your mind/course/beliefs and your time is better spent on something else.

What If I Wait to Do It Until Later and Then Decide That’s Not What I Want?

Let me make sure I understand this.  

Your dilemma is that if you don’t figure it out now, you might have to figure it out later.  If you figure it out right now you’ll for sure be wasting valuable time.  But, if you wait to figure it out until later, you might not waste your time at all.

I’m not sure I understand your problem.

The steps are easy.  Decide, plan, execute, repeat.  This is how you figure out what to do with your life.  You can start right now by commenting below and telling everybody what your thing is.