I was talking with a student awhile back at a conference, and she was feeling some anxiety about her future and what she should do with her life. She was just getting started in a counseling graduate program, and although she was excited, she wasn’t sure what kind of population she wanted to work with. She was feeling some pressure because her program was relatively short (i.e., 2 years), so pretty soon she would be out in the real world working.
It’s Okay to Not Know
As I listened to the student share about what she was thinking, and how she wasn’t sure about the future, I got the distinct feeling that the student was right where she was supposed to be. She wasn’t sure what population she wanted to work with because she hadn’t had much experience yet. She needed to try some different things out and see what was a good fit.
Explore and Experiment
Sometimes we can get caught up in our head, trying to “figure out” what we should be doing with our lives. The reality is that this usually isn’t something we can just think about and figure out. We have to explore and experiment. Often we need to try a bunch of different things out. We need to actually experience a job before we can know whether it is a good fit for us.
That’s why I encourage students not to worry or think too much about what they want to major in or do for work. Instead, get as many experiences as possible. Interview people about their jobs, volunteer, get an internship, try something out. Get as much actual experience as you can, and then see if the shoe fits.
I want to say one additional thing about how faith plays into this struggle. Sometimes as Christians, we have this idea that we need to know God’s will for our life. This can be quite stressful if we feel like we haven’t found it yet. We can worry and fret about our struggle to find God’s will, and a normal process (i.e., figuring out what you want to do with your life) becomes heightened and spiritualized.
I don’t think it is likely that there is one specific thing that is God’s will for your life. Sure, I think there are some guidelines and parameters. But I think God is okay with giving us some freedom as we figure out the specifics. I think it’s like playing in a sandbox. There are some parameters (i.e., stay in the sandbox). But whether you want to play on the swing, on the slide, or with the dump truck—I think God celebrates all of that.
It’s a Process
One last point I’d like to emphasize—figuring out what you should do with your one and only life is an ongoing process. I don’t think it’s something you “finish” or “complete.” For example, one of my best friends just retired from his job. He had worked in the health care system for over 30 years. He had a great career, but now he’s on to the next chapter. And, he’s wrestling with some of these same choices. Wrestling with your direction isn’t a bad thing—it’s part of the adventure of life.
Where are you at with figuring out what you want to do in your life? What has helped you in the past when you have wrestled with your mission and purpose?