What am I going to do with my life?
From a young age, most of us are plagued by this question. We see piles of blank pages ahead of us and despite possible dreams and visions for what could fill those pages, we don’t know which of those dreams will actually make us happy, give us stability, and provide just the right dose of challenge and excitement. It’s that sort of unsuredness and hesitation that often stops us from doing or just getting started with something. What many of us don’t realize is that we don’t have to let not knowing stop us from pursuing anything. In fact, doing happens to be one of the best ways to figure out the answer to all those questions on what to do!
Where do I even begin?
It’s likely you’ve acquired two main groups of interests in your life–
1) Interests you’ve already pursued and enjoy
2) Interests you’ve always had but never actually tried out
Listing these interests out is a great starting point. You can learn a lot about yourself by digging into the root attraction you have to each of your interests. For example, you may be an avid Dungeons & Dragons player while also always have had an interest in public speaking. You’ve never pursued public speaking because it’s outside of your natural skillset, but the challenge of it excites you and you think it’d be beneficial to your personal development as a whole. Dungeons & Dragons, while being fun and filling your social bucket, has taught you how much you enjoy organizing group events and creating solutions to problems on the fly.
If you take a look at each individual interest you’ve listed out and really analyze what the skills and common themes behind them are, you’ll start to get a clearer idea of what you’re good at, what you want to get good at, and of course, what you like. It’s from these connections you’re able to draw that you then can take the next step to actually “doing” something!
Setting up your interest roadmap
So what do you do now? After identifying your top 1-2 interests, desired skills, and the “whys” behind what you like, you can begin to roadmap your journey to pursuing those skills as career goals. The great advantage of a roadmap this early in your career, is that if you set up your moves progressively (e.g. starting with a small project, moving to a temporary apprenticeship opportunity, etc.), you will put yourself in a position to be flexible and make changes as you further discover what you like, don’t like, and are excelling in. For example, with traditional higher education structures such as college, one of the common anxieties young people face are with switching around their majors. Students are forced into a position where they have to choose between either continuing to study something they really don’t like or losing money if they decide to switch majors and thus forgo their progress on their current major’s track and classes.
The key to setting up your roadmap effectively is to start with the least committal actions towards learning and exploring. This approach gives you the optimal flexibility for change while still allowing you an authentic chance to explore. Let’s go back to the public speaking example.
1. List the skills you need to pursue your interest.
Often the skills desired behind an interest like that are:
- verbal communication
- interpersonal skills and understanding
2. Find simple ways to establish those skills.
That’s a lot to take in. The first step could look something like spending 5 minutes every day recording a vlog of yourself to release to your personal Youtube channel. It’s not a huge commitment, but due to the consistency of the action, you’ll be able to see progress fairly quickly. After a one month commitment of this, you’ll be able to fairly gauge if this is something you want to continue with and take to the next level or switch trajectories onto a new skill. If it is worth continuing, you can then up your commitment. This can look like a free group like Toastmasters, or researching some public speakers you admire and following their program/tips for improving.
3. Keep building up on the foundation of skills you’ve set.
Each month as you explore and learn, you continue to challenge yourself and grow within the skill. Challenging yourself can include bringing other interests into the fold and combining them with your existing and developing skill set. If you’re a photographer working on public speaking skills, you can organize or snag a gig speaking about your expertise (photography). The possibilities are truly endless once you realize just how easy it is to get started with anything!
Design your roadmap with a permission-less mindset and the purpose of eliminating your analysis-paralysis. You need anyone’s permission to get started or explore something new. You also are never stuck in any venture you decide to embark on so over-analyzing is not even an option with your roadmap. You are an explorer! Get out there and start DOING something new!