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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    How Can I Decide What to Do With My Life?

    Dear eNotAlone: I feel like I'm going through an identity crisis. I'm nearing the completion of my college program, but I feel so lost and confused about what I should be doing with my life. All my peers seem to know exactly what their passions are - they're all working hard to hone their skills and apply them to lucrative careers. But right now, I'm paralyzed with indecision.

    I want to do something important with my life. I want to do something that excites me and makes me happy and is meaningful, as well as giving me some financial security. But I don't know how to figure out what direction I should go in. And I'm worried that if I make the wrong choice now, I'll just end up stuck for the rest of my life. I'm afraid of taking a risk and winding up with nothing to show for it.

    Can you help me figure out what my passions are, and how to get from where I am now to a place of security and joy? Is it possible to find a vocation that can give me happiness and financial stability?

    * * *

    It's understandable why you feel anxious about what you should do after college. It can be difficult to know which paths will lead to success, and it's impossible to predict the outcome of your decisions.

    However, there are steps you can take to find the right path for you, even if it's not one that's already established in the popular narrative of your peers. Here are some tips to help you get started:

    1. Reflect on your past experiences. Really think about what you've enjoyed doing in the past, both in school and outside of it. Think about times when you were in a "flow" state, or times when you just felt internally content while doing a simple task. These experiences can give you insight into what makes you excited, what your strengths are, and what motivates you.

    2. Make an inventory of your skills. List everything you believe you do build at, both professionally and personally. Think about past successes, achievements, awards, and goals that have been met. This inventory can be a helpful way to visualize just what you bring to the table and which paths could be beneficial for you to explore further.

    3. Get out there and try different things. Exploring different environments and activities can help you cultivate clarity around your values, interests, and ultimate goals. This doesn't mean signing yourself up for something that feels overwhelmingly risky; start small. Read books, talk to professionals in fields you're interested in, or join a club or organization that seems interesting to you. Slowly reflecting on these experiences can help build momentum around your decisions.

    4. Talk to someone about it. Reaching out to a career counselor, mentor, former professor, or another trusted professional can help you sort through your thoughts and help you decide which paths could offer the most potential.

    It's natural to feel overwhelmed when it comes to navigating your future. Take the time to reflect and explore, so you can make a decision that feels fulfilling.

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