There is a well-known quote: “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.” It sounds simple enough. Yet, we live in a world where we are constantly trying to one-up each other and ourselves. Where did we get the idea that our life and our goals are dependent on the ones of those around us?
I believe we were all born with our own course, our own start and finish lines, our own story. This mentality can be applied to our careers and professional development, a significant part of our story. We need to stop valuing success based solely on the opinions of our parents, peers or co-workers – that can lead to more anxiety and confusion, causing us to stray from our course. The best way to discover what your path is to understand yourself. What do you value? Truly value? What are your passions? Is there a cause you are extremely passionate about? Pursue it. Aim for it.
We’ve all grown up constantly being told by people around us what our goals and aspirations should be. Study hard, get a job, make money, find a spouse, settle down, have kids, and then you can finally be happy. It’s only recently that I came to realize that most of the goals I had for myself were placed on me by other people, whether my parents, teachers, fellow students, or friends. Call it an epiphany, a spiritual awakening, or whatever you’d like, but I have come to know that a career isn’t an end but a means to serve a greater purpose.
This doesn’t mean, however, that I still don’t worry about the future, especially in the midst of everyone else’s “success”. Here are some ways that I have found useful in coping with the stress of trying to understand my purpose:
1. Be still
We live in a fast-paced society, where we constantly go from here to there, dislike being inconvenienced and lack much in patience. Between work, school, family and friends, our schedules seem to be jam-packed with never-ending to do lists. But one thing we need to realize is that rest—and I mean solid rest, not a bingeing-on-Netflix type of rest— is crucial in not only figuring out what you want to do, but also in maintaining your physical, mental and spiritual health. Take a breather… go out and sit on a park bench once in a while, read a book. Be intentional about putting rest into your schedule and making time for it! Once you build a habit of taking care of yourself, you can gain perspective and an idea of where you want to go in life.
2. Figure out what’s important to YOU
Let’s be real. How amazing do you think your life would be if you only allowed the opinions and aspirations of others to influence your own? Would you truly be satisfied? Do their ideas of success and happiness align with your character, your talents, your desires? Truly think about this. Sit down with a pen and paper and write down all your aspirations (no matter how big), your goals, and then your options. Find out if this is realistic and what path you would need to take in order to achieve each goal laid out for you.
3. Go from there
Set small tasks for you to develop your character and relate them to your goals. Are you interested in going into non-for-profit? Volunteer at your local charity once a week. Interested in marketing? Offer your social media expertise to a club. Want to pursue writing? Start a blog. Place time into your schedule for these things! It still may not sound simple, but take these tips as baby steps to figuring out who you are and what you want to do. You won’t figure it out in a day and you may not figure it all out within the next few years. But one day, you’ll look back and it won’t be about what your classmate got on his exam, what job your friend just got hired for, but it will be about what you did with the time YOU had and how that developed your character and led you to where you want to be.
I have yet to figure it all out. Exactly what I want to do, where I want to be. I guess you could say I’m still in the “Be still” stage, learning to rid myself of the external pressures to find happiness in materialistic things. But I do know that one day, it will all work out, even if I don’t see it right now.