On two separate occasions last week I was asked about life plans and the future (once from a writer friend and the other from a student), and I thought I would share some of the thoughts I offered to them publicly.
The question was:
What do I do with the rest of my life? Or . . . how do I know what I should be when I "grow up"?
First of all, when my parents were coming along (Baby Boomers), they watched their parents enter one career field and stay with it their whole lives. Many of them tried to do the same, to varying degrees of success. We are not living in a Baby Boomer world, and I've read that, on average, the student coming of age right now will change careers about three times in his/her lifetime.
And yes, this sounds scary, but I also think it can be a good thing--that it's a sign of growth and development. I am not the same person at thirty-three that I was at eighteen (thank goodness!). I've grown. I have new ideas and beliefs. The core is still there. I'm still very much me, just Me 2.0 (or even 3 or 4.0). I definitely feel like improvements have been made in those new versions. Upgrades, if you will.
So it goes without saying that what was right for me at eighteen might not be right for me at this point in my life.
But that doesn't mean everything I did at eighteen was a waste. No. I needed to pass through that stage to get where I am now. It was a crucial part of the process.
So . . . how do you know what to do with the rest of your life?
First, don't think of it as the "rest of your life." Think of it as today. Right now. In this moment.
And what I've learned is that the most fulfilled people I know are using their gifts, in this moment, in service to others.
They're taking their talents and using them to give back to the world. The same is true for the artists and writers I know, and the accountants and administrative assistants. They're creating those images and writing stories that speak to others. They're handling paperwork so that the customer's lives will be a little easier. They're crunching numbers so that the business owner can concentrate on what he/she is good at: making and selling the product.
As you learn and grow, you may develop new talents and find other interests. That's when you adapt. Try new things. Make mistakes.
So if you're in a flux and you're not sure where you want to be or what you need to do, think about your talents. Think about what makes you happy. Think about a gift you have that only YOU can offer the world. Look for areas in your life and community to use these talents. And, if something isn't working, know that it's okay to re-evaluate your situation and goals and make changes.
It's okay to "fail."
It's okay to start over.
At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own happiness and well-being. The idea of "what do I want to do with my life?" is ever-evolving, and this is a really, really great thing.