'What Do You Want To Do?' is a question my oldest daughter is asked a lot right now. She's a senior, and is on the verge of choosing a college.
There is much to consider when choosing a college, as it is a time and place where young adults continue to learn and grow as individuals and members of a community, preparing them for what they ultimately will do as members of the global community that is the world. Given that the goal is to prepare young people for what they will do as adults, the question generally asked and pondered is, 'What do you want to do?' A fair question, indeed. But also a difficult one. I, for one, believe it is illogical that at 17 or 18 years of age, one would know exactly what one wants to do with the rest of one's life. Some feel quite certain they do know, and that gives them an advantage, at least in terms of where they begin. Others are quite unsure, which makes it more difficult. Or does it?
Knowing what one wants to "do" generally refers to knowing how one wants to earn a living, what one wants as a career. Finding joy in a career is a wonderful gift, as for most, it is how we spend a great deal of our time. But what if you don't know?
As I journey through life, it has become obvious to me that many don't know what they want to do--at age 17, or 30, or 50, or 70, etc. Life for many isn't lived by setting a particular goal, crossing all t's and dotting all i's toward achieving it, and then relishing the success before moving on to the next goal. I, for one, am a terrible goal setter--at least when it comes to setting specific goals for my life. I'm not lazy nor uninterested; quite the contrary, I have many interests, and I give my all to everything I undertake. And that makes it challenging to choose one specific goal or path. I'm often heading down many paths at any given moment. This gives my life meaning. It also makes my track record of achieving at a high level in any single area of my life disappointing, at times.
I have learned to prioritize channeling my best efforts at all cost into the few areas of my life where I unconditionally expect success. The best example of this is in being a good parent. I have placed advancing in my career, and often other goals which are important to me, on the back burner in order to ensure that I will give my absolute best to the goal of being the best parent I can be. It's always good to know what one's top priorities are, even if we don't know everything we wish to achieve.
The other way I live my life of wanderlust, without feeling the sadness of underachievement, is to remember that my ultimate priority is to live a life of joy. If I allow the joy in my heart to guide my daily life, seizing opportunity as it presents itself, whether or not I was seeking it, I generally find myself on the right path, even if it is twisted and winding, confident it will lead me to the ultimate goal I have of feeling my inner joy and channeling it toward making the world a better place.
My daughter, despite not knowing exactly what her job title will be one day, has already demonstrated that she is on the same path. I trust that her own inner joy will take her on a wonderful winding path toward wellbeing--for herself and the world. I may also be on the verge of being successful in the one area I insist on it. Keeping my fingers crossed.
What do you want to do?
author of "JOY"