I recently read this:
In the name of being sensible, we end up becoming numb to our own desires. It’s no wonder that when we ask many teenagers what they want to do or be, they honestly answer, “I don’t know.”
There are too many layers of “should’s,” “ought to’s,” and “you’d better’s” piled on top of and suffocating what they really want.Jack Canfield, The Success Principles, Chapter 3
Do you know what you want to do or be?
I think Jack Canfield’s right that as kids, we get used to doing what others prescribe (parents, teachers, coaches, even friends), and can lose contact with what we want.
I was one of those teenagers! I was fantastic at executing in school, i.e. doing what was required to get top grades. However, being great at doing what you’re told, is not that useful a skill when you’re trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. I had very little idea as to what I wanted. After high school, I went to UC Davis Undeclared (can you even do that now??), eventually picked a major I liked, but still had no clear picture. Hey, I figured it out eventually and I LOVE my life, my work and where I’ve ended up, don’t get me wrong…
But there’s such an advantage in knowing where you want to go! You can accelerate results. You can spot opportunities once you know what you’re looking for. The odds of getting what you want are massively better IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.
When I graduated with my B.A., the main thing I wanted to do was go live in France, not just visit, and I did for the next 8 years. Knowing what I wanted to do helped me put myself in the right places to land jobs, place to live…
Having a direction, a future vision and/or goals..helps you figure out a plan…which leads you to taking effective action.
Students today need to know what they want to do even more than I did, thanks to the well-documented uncertainty around future jobs, the cost of higher education and the skills gap. Might be good to figure out what you want a little bit!
So how do you start figuring out what you want to do or be?
Here are 3 ideas for you.
1. Practice in small ways.
Jack Canfield’s advice is to start with small things:
When you have a choice, even if it’s nothing big, act as if you have a preference.
Do you want string cheese or almonds in your lunch? Where shall we go for dinner? Do you want a green notebook or a yellow one? Which board game do you want to play? What do you want to be for Halloween?
This of it this way:
Act as if you deserve to have everything in your life exactly the way you want it.
For me, this quote isn’t about being arrogant or demanding. It’s about being deserving of good things.
Thinking about what you want in any situation will build up self-awareness and help you tap into your instincts and preferences for anything.
2. Practice at school.
It seems to me that high school is a GREAT PLACE to practice getting what you want!
Imagine if you decided to own everything you do in school – every assignment, every class discussion, every test, every project. What if you saw school as a place to practice influencing what happens (and getting what you want)? What if you tried to customize everything a little bit?
I’d encourage you to:
- Instead of choosing a science project off the suggested list, think about what YOU want to spend your time doing, and turn your interest into a science project.
- Ask questions in class to steer the discussion towards aspects that YOU find most interesting.
- Ask your teacher if you can research a historical figure that YOU are curious about, even though it’s not on the list.
- Study and learn about something you’re truly interested in. There are millions of learning options outside of high school, and independent study is possible! Find a city college class/apprenticeship/home study class/online class, and then talk to your counselor about how to get permission (and credit) to substitute this for something else.
Start acting like you’re in charge. Or stop pretending like you don’t have any power.
3. Follow your curiosity
If you don’t know what you want to do or be, the easiest way to get there is to start following your curiosity.
Start learning more about the:
- Stuff you like to watch, listen to, buy, eat, study.
- Questions you have about the world,
- Questions you have about how things work.
- People you admire.
- Jobs you hear about that seem amazing…
And once you’ve got an idea about what you might like to do or be…then you you can spend time on what’s worthwhile to YOU and your dreams, and look beyond the craziness of the high school to college experience.