I’ve once heard a story told by someone who’s a priest and an expert in the field of mental hygiene as well. The story was about a woman who was looking for her calling. She approached him and asked:
– I don’t know what I should do with my life. How could I help people? How do I have impact? There’s just so much to choose from…
– Well, what have you tried so far?
– Let’s see, I meditated on it, I prayed to receive a calling, I even visited a therapist – but still, I don’t know which path I should choose.
– Okay, but from all this much to choose from, have you actually tried doing either of them?
That’s the trick of having a calling. You are not given one. You have to find it – or even earn it.
I’ve also seen an interesting experiment: generation Y folks were asked to write goals that they’d want to have achieved by 7 years from now. Most of them had a similar answer: a good job, money, a house without mortgage, etc. Barely any of them wrote family but what’s more important is that job, money, etc. are tools – not goals.
Your job might be aligned with your purpose, but it doesn’t have to. Your job is a mean to achieve something – again, it might or might not be related to what you do at the office. According to EMSI, 87% of people are bored by their job!
Okay, but what should I do?
I’ve put together a few pieces of advice for when it comes to searching your life goal.
“What are you gonna do when you grow up?”
When I was a child, a lot of people asked this question and I always replied with a generic job title or something like that. Nowadays I keep getting the same question over and over, except people ask about my 5-years plan instead of being a grown-up.
I refuse to answer this question. No exceptions made.
The thing is, there’s just a lot of things to do in the present. I don’t want to commit to doing something in the future that may turn out completely different from what I imagined. You grow one day at a time, leave your options open.
Roll with the punches
The downside of having many options or following up on many ideas is that you have to get used to failure. Though it may ease your mind that having many, small failures is still a lot better than putting all eggs in one basket and failing spectacularly at something you’ve committed your whole life to.
It’s never too late to change. If a plan didn’t work out just throw it away and come up with a new one.
Make your own dream
If I was given a dollar for every close acquaintance who’s chosen a path their family or friends laid out for them… well, I’d have about five dollars. But that’s still five sob story that could’ve worked out ways better.
If you faint at the sight of blood, don’t become a doctor just ’cause your dad and his dad was, too. Make your own kind of music, duh.
Money can’t buy stability
Money can buy a lot of things like food or housing, it can get you closer to your goals, you can buy
happiness temporary satisfaction induced by owning some new stuff, etc.
There’s one thing you can’t buy, though – and it’s stability. And because of that it’s pointless to go around throwing money at finding your life goals. When you’re trying out different things, you can usually do a trial run without heavy investments money-wise.
You’re interested in data science but not sure if it’ll work out? Take a look at coursera or other e-learning stuff before you waste a lot of money on formal education on a topic you might or might not like at all.
Importance of setting goals
I believe this is the most powerful piece of advice, which is exactly why I’ve made it the last on the list – otherwise, you’d just close the browser without reading it all, or following me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
But back to the point: leave SMART goals at the office. Vetting the purpose of your life based on how realistic or measurable it is? My ass.
Can’t let go of SMART criteria? Set SMART expectations instead. You want to solve the hunger crisis in Africa? That’s a great goal, don’t even start considering how realistic it is. But what you should do is to set SMART expectations. Stuff like, “I probably not gonna do this in 5 years, but maybe a couple of decades?” or “I might not do it alone, but I could support the hell out of an ongoing effort?”
Now put your laptop or phone away and start working on that big ol’ dream of yours.