“What do you want to do with your life?”
“What’s your dream?”
“No really, where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Questions like this used to make my bones shiver.
It seems I never have the right response.
Some people do, and that’s awesome. I know folks who can verbalize their dreams with incredible courage and clarity. They have ambitions to become great educators, engineers, politicians, whatever.
I’m thankful for these friends because I know they will change the world.
Like my friend who told me a few months ago, “I want to become a teacher and figure out how to affect long-term educational policy to fix the broken education system.”
I admire that.
But for me, clarity just doesn’t exist.
I legitimately don’t know what I want to do. I squirm every time someone asks.
Sure, I can tell you some great ideals I believe in. I want to accomplish something “meaningful.” (Whatever that means.) I have an idea of who I want to become.
When it comes to a legitimate bill-paying job, however, the future gets muddy.
Not knowing what I wanted to do constricted my movement completely.
I see a lot of friends in the same boat.
They don’t know—even after those magical 4 years of college when you’re supposed to figure it all out—what they want to do. And because they don’t know where to go, they don’t take a step. They remain devastatingly still.
And I’ve been there. Sitting back, waiting on the right thing to come to you.
The other day a friend told me, “I don’t know what I want to do. So I’m just kind of waiting for God to tell me what’s next.”
“I get it,” I said.
I did get it and hope she has a great future ahead, but I actually wanted to scream.
“You don’t know what you’re missing out on! God has told you what to do and it’s your turn to take some risks and move forward and try things. Don’t miss this!!!”
And that’s truly what I believe the answer to be.
If you don’t know what to do, just start doing things.
Really, that’s it.
Start saying yes.
Break down doors.
Try new challenges.
Build great relationships.
Do something scary.
Actually, do something that will almost certainly end in failure.
The truth is: You’ll never know what to do if you don’t start doing things.
As far as fears go, waking up 30 years from now realizing I traded in purpose for contentment ranks near the top of my list. I don’t want to be the middle-aged man who speaks of what-could-have-been all the time.
I want to be the guy who does stuff. The guy who works tenaciously and loves people inefficiently and fails honestly. It’s those people I admire. And I don’t think those guys sat back wondering what they should have done, they did stuff.
They have a grasp on who they were designed to be because they have skin in the game. They refuse to sit on the sidelines.
It’s those guys who end up far down the road without ever carrying a map.
And honestly, staying still isn’t staying still. Still really means backward.
You can spend your time paralyzed by lack of information. Or you can move in a direction that seems the good-est. You can make course corrections along the way. Heck, you can turn the whole ship around if the situation really goes south.
While you’re taking a first step, you’re bound to learn more about taking a second. You’ll learn what you do well, what you like and what you despise. You’ll take the abstract ideas you recognize in yourself and make them concrete.
You’ll make connections in one place that will open obscure trails elsewhere.
And maybe then realize where you’d actually like to be.
Or, you can stand still.
Frozen by non-commitment.
Terrified of the wrong choice.
Uncomfortable with hard work.
Settling for whatever comes your way.
I’d imagine you didn’t plan on safe.
And it’s definitely not where you belong.
Let’s start doing things; with or without a clear direction.
Take a step.
You’ll figure out the rest along the way.