Freshmen year of college I thought I had it all figured out. I declared my major and worked hard in every class, whether it was Spanish 201 or Advanced Reporting. I loved to talk to people, to learn about others and their passions, and pass on this information through articles and stories. With every analysis, feature, and editorial, I felt validated and even more certain of my path.
In the fall semester of my senior year, I decided to study abroad in Seville, Spain. Thus far, the decision to live in another country for a semester has been the best choice I’ve ever made, though it did have some “consequences.”
My time was spent learning everything about the country, from their culture to cuisine, language and customs. I loved exploring my new city and traveling around the country and the rest of Europe. However, as I talked to locals, my teachers and friends, I began to question my own path in life.
While abroad, I learned that you don’t always have to have your life figured out the second you finish school. Life isn’t all about work and you are not defined by what you do. The people I met in my travels were less worried about the future and their career paths. While this may be a generalization, it seemed there was less pressure when it came to picking the “right” profession.
When I finished my semester and returned home, I was confused. I no longer knew what I wanted to do and I was afraid of being defined within the narrow category of my profession. With questions and doubts, I completed my remaining journalism classes. I was able to write feature articles and travel around southern Arizona, which of course I loved- I was completely torn. It was the perfect last semester leaving me with more questions than ever.
Upon graduating last May, I decided to take some time to really figure out what I want to do. I am channeling the mindset I had in Spain. The last four months have been difficult and the in-between has been scary, but I know that if I work to define my vision, later on down the road I will be thankful I didn’t waste time doing something I didn’t enjoy. I have done some introspective thinking, and while I still don’t have everything figured out, I have discovered how to hone my focus and gather the necessary information to determine my next step.
Join me in following these simple rules to figure out your path:
- Never stop learning. Even after you graduate, there are still plenty of opportunities to learn something new. Check out the course schedule of at your local community college, take an elective course you enjoy. Find a meet-up.com group that enjoys whatever closet-hobby you enjoy- script writing, metal working or web design.You get the point. Seek out new opportunities you didn’t pursue in the confines of your college major.
- Stay curious and question everything. Sometimes those questions can lead to new ideas and exciting new opportunities. Start by writing down a list of 20 questions you have always wanted to know the answer to. Then, start with number one- browse an online forum, contact an old professor, ask a mentor. When you are satisfied, go to number two.
- Try a little bit of everything. Don’t narrow your passions and work toward one goal. Mix it up. Right now I am getting my yoga teaching certification, and have a freelance writing gig. I am pursuing two totally separate passions so I can always have choices.
- Read. Get your imagination flowing – books, newspapers, magazines, blogs – anything. Shut down the social media, and direct your extra energy and time toward soaking in what your brain craves.
- Talk to people. Share your concerns, fears and goals. It’s amazing how many people are in the same situation. And sometimes verbalizing your feelings helps you better understand them. Getting a mentor can be especially helpful. How do you find a mentor? We’ve talked about that previously here.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Compete with yourself and strive to be the best you. As Dr. Suess said it, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Don’t let fear of failure keep you from trying. The most worthwhile pursuits will take some work. Get in the mindset that you will fail, but that you will quickly get back up again. This simple change of expectations will completely change your attitude towards trying. Learn more here on why failure is important.
Write down your goals in baby steps. Why? Writing down a lofty goal can be intimidating, so instead, break down the steps to complete it and attack each task one by one. Every time you check something off the list, you will get excited and see that you are closer to your end goal. And in the end, you will find the gaps in what is keeping you from accomplishing your goal and really how do-able most goals are.
- Figure out what you are passionate about and then go for it! Sorry guys, this is the hardest part. This is where most people get stuck. At some point, you just have to get up and start doing something. You can’t get anything wrong, because in realizing something wasn’t for you, you’ve gotten closer to realizing what you want to spend your time doing.
The Outlier Series is about following your passions wholeheartedly and accomplishing more than you thought was possible. I am fortunate that the author of the Outlier Series, and LeadershipYOU, John Shufeldt, is my dad, He has never been glued to one career. He has followed his passions down multiple paths, finding success in various places. He loves to say that he has “never worked a day in his life.” I used to think that we could only have one career, one choice for the future, but that is not the case. My dad showed me that we can continuously alter our course. Our futures are not set in stone, we can change our paths if we are unhappy, or add on a couple more “paths” if we want to experience more. The most important part is enjoying what you do.
See what he has to say about finding your passion.
Check out his advice for declaring a major and determining your future (funny thing, he actually mentions he in here).
Here’s another video on how failure has helped Dr. John Shufeldt refine his vision.