A Guide for Highschool & University Students: Finding Your Life PathYou've never been told the basic system to discovering what you want to do in your life. Stop feeling lost and build certainty around what you will do next.
Discovering your path
First, let me start by saying you must go on this journey with a sense of wonder.
You may not realise it, but over your life you have been programmed to act, think and feel a certain way. Your programming is interfering with your authentic desires.
The best way around this: start from a blank slate. Assume you know nothing about yourself, or what you want to do.
It is from this place that we can begin to deliberately enquire about the path we wish to walk.
There are three key aspects to discovering what you want to do.
- Self-Research & Self-Inquiry
- Understanding & Eliminating Paths
- Making Small Bets
Self-Reseach & Self-Inquiry
Starting from a blank slate, you have nothing to work with.
This means your first phase should be about research and inquiry.
You can follow a general outline for how to go about this research phase effectively.
1. Use psychometric assessments, personality tests, and related psychological tools
The goal here is to use the resources that psychologists, scientists and philosophers have developed over centuries to gather the objective insights into who you are.
Some of the best tracks for this are:
- Holland Career Code
- Big Five Personality Traits
- Multiple Inteligences Test
- Archetypes Test
- Career Values
- Multiple Intelligences Test
You're goal here is to complete all of the above tracks, and intuitively develop a feel for the insights that stand out to you and any common themes between the insights.
For example, in the Big Five Personality Traits, scoring high in trait "Openessness" is an indicator that you need the ability to be creative and new in any career you go down. Perhaps entreprenurial endeavours would suit you better.
If you find that a work-life balance is important for you through the Career Values test, you may not want to become a high-end Lawyer.
Do the research here, approach this like you are researching an alien. You really don't know yourself. And before we can move on to the subjective areas, we must get the objective research completed to help guide us.
ACTION: Right now, go and complete at least 4 of the listed tracks. Read over all the insights and write down in a notebook the parts that stand out to you as deep or important. Be completely open minded to the results.
2. Go through courses to discover your authentic self
Once you have built up an intuitive understanding of the objective insights. It's time for you to do the difficult work and start pulling out your authentic self.
In this stage, you will create a vision for your life. This vision will act as a reference for fitting all the pieces together in a holistic and systemic way.
Additionally, you will need to create and refine your personal values. This will make the decision making process much simpler, as you will have criteria to evaluate different paths.
Some of the best tracks for this are:
- Values Assessment
- Future Vision
- Inner Gold Track
ACTION: Complete both of the listed tracks. Continue to refine and work on both the vision and values for the next few months or years.
3. Self-inquiry and journalling
Now for the most difficult part. This is where you will likely feel the most resistance come up. So see through it and do the actions anyway.
Sit down for an hour with a physical journal or writing app and write down the following question.
Question: "What will the next 5 - 10 years of my life be about?"
It's important to understand here that no decision is final. You need to allow long enough to see the fruits of your work, but not so long that you make yourself inflexible to changing circumstances. In 5 years you may re-evaluate your choice.
But for now, sit down for between 20mins and 1hr every day for the next few days and just write everything that comes to mind. Go down tangets, return to the question at any time. Start new pages and write crazy ideas. Whatever you want.
Remeber the resistance? You might be thinking that it's pointless or a waste of time or it won't work. That's your monkey-mind talking.
If you want to get clarity, you have to do the work.
Also, a side note, expect to get lost before you find an answer.
ACTION: Sit down for at least 20 minutes for the next 4 days and answer the question as many different ways as possible: "What will the next 5 - 10 years of my life be about?"
Understanding & Eliminating Paths
At this point you should have in your mind and on paper a list of the different life paths you could go down. These will be quite messy and long.
Now, your task is to make each of these "sections" as succint as possible. Go from a paragraph for more, to a sentence or less.
For example: "Long form" possible path
Over the next few years I would like to write a book, which will be a long form poem. It will cover the story of my life and an autobiography of my emotional state, journey through it, and growth I experienced as well as insights I got into life and myself. I will not be tied down to a single style of poetry but will write freely how I see fit and explore different styles in relation to the content it deals with. I will either publish this book online in a creative website format, or self-publish the book through Amazon and different online directories.
From this I can launch myself into creating a writing subscription service, like Mark Mason does to provide his insights.
Becomes "Short form" possible path: Write a prose/poetry book about the self
The goal of this is to do this with every career idea that has taken your interest, as well as all the different ideas and paths you came up with through journalling.
Now that you have simplified that paths. You can rank them.
But you may wonder how you rank the paths?
Well, it's 3 fold. Go through each aspect, in order, to rank them.
- Feel into your excitement or love for the possible path
- See how much each path aligns with your personal values
- Use the intuitive understanding of yourself you built up in Part 1
Begin to go down your list and compare each path with the one below it. If the one below it wins, move it down one. The keep going until it settles. Then start up the top again. At some point you will have compared every path with every other path.
You will now have the top 5 most exciting ideas aligned with your authentic self.
ACTION: Simplify and rank every different idea you came up with over the last few days.
This is the juice. The culmination of the research and enquiry.
This is where you make things tangible and validate your theories in the real world.
You have to understand that the current model for choosing a career is deeply flawed. Picking (almost at random) a career path that sounds good to you and then studying it for 4 years before evening getting into the work is a bad strategy.
Unless you feel very sure about your path (in which case, you probably don't need to be here) you should not jump head first into a 5 year time commitment with financial ties. Going down a path without testing the waters first is a dangerous and foolish.
This is where small bets come in. And the sooner you start the better.
Now that you have a few (3 - 5) diffent paths you could theoretically take, you have to start seeing how it actually feels in the real world.
Do you know what a programmer actually does all day? Do you know the stuggles a writer has to deal with? What is it like to be an etrepreneur, or a psychologist?
The truth is you have no idea and you need to find out!
So, pick any possible path, now your goal here is to figure out how you can get a taste for the career without yet committing to it.
Now depending on the career, there may be a higher barrier to entry, this is where you have to get creative.
Want to be a journalist, novelist, or writer? Go online, sign up for Medium.com and write your first article. Now try and get it out to as many people as possible. Commit to writing 2 new articles every single week for a month. While you're doing this, go out of your way to promote your articles and get people to read what you're writing. Try and get featured by different publishers. You will learn that:
- Writing can be difficult, creative blocks arise when you write at larger quantities
- Most of the work you'll face surrounds promotion and marketing
- Marketing is difficult and requries creativity, time, and sometimes money
- Proof reading over and over again
- You might like the idea more than the reality?
Want to be a programmer, or software developer? Come up with a project that interests you. Develop a personal website, build a blog for yourself, build a todo app without following a tutorial. Create a project by yourself that involves programming. What you will learn in the process:
- Programming is 80% fixing bugs
- Building apps is largely writing styles for the UI
- Trying to keep issues, features, code, etc. organised needs systems that take time
- Dealing with different platforms, browsers, APIs, versions, screen sizes, etc. is painful
- You're sitting behind a computer all the time
- You have to stay up to date with industry changes in your own time, all the time
Want to be a psychologist or councellor? Why not start by going to group meetings, sitting in on AA meetings, ask to go to a session with a few councellors (email them, they'd love to help). Spend some money to hire a therapist for yourself. Spend some time reading psychology papers on scholar.google.com. Try and develop a psychometric test for yourself with you friends and family as the sample.
- It's not a science, things are often messy and you can make them worse
- You will be personally attacked and take on a lot of peoples personal shit
- Marketing, sales, and retention is 90% of the issue
- Finding your market/niche is difficult and important
- Research is often tedious, slow, and repetitive involving writing academic papers
Now, don't let this deter you. If you've been making small bets in an area for a few months and you're still loving the work and most of what it entails. Then that's awesome!
If not, that's still great.
The goal here is to get real experience of what the job or career actually involves, rather than your fantasy version of it.
Accept that you don't know shit...
Then go find a way to learn and get the different experiences. Your purpose between 14 - 21 should be to dabble in as much as you possibly can.
When you've built up an experience base around your top 5 - 10 possible life paths. You have 3 decisions: Yes. No. Gather more data.
That's right, if you're still unsure, or you've seen through the fantasy of your paths you don't have worry about being lost. Being lost is great. Just make sure you keep collecting more data in more diverse paths.
You will not figure everything out just by being stuck in your head all day.
Look out for the follow up to this Guide. We'll be discussion shifting mindsets, developing real world skills, build your infrastructure independently of your specific career, and the traps along the way.
The content in this article should take you 3 - 6 months at least to work on.
If you're in High School, START NOW! If you're in University, START NOW! If you've graduated, DEFINITELY START NOW!
You can either do this actively over the next 6 months, of passively over the next 30 years. You choose, either way you have to actually decide to do this.
Just reading this article won't help you.
You need to get out in the world, and start making small bets. Trying new things that are based on research about yourself, and exploration into yourself.