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No One Actually Knows What They're Doing With Their Lives
How coffee with a professor taught me it's okay to admit it.
Have you ever felt like you don’t know what you’re supposed to do with your life? Perhaps, in those seasons, you felt like you were the only one. I’ve been there, too. The more I talk to successful, well-established adults, the more I realize: it’s not just you and me. Everyone struggles with confidence in their career direction. And, believe it or not, your own struggle can serve as a comforting reminder to others, even those you look up to, that they are not alone.
On my last day of final exams this semester, I scheduled a coffee chat with my sales professor. As we talked over green tea and a frappuccino, she began to share how, while she values her current role, she feels like she’s ready for the next thing. The only problem? She hasn’t yet figured out what the next thing should be.
As I listened to my professor, who has built a successful career in professional selling and now as a marketing researcher and professor, share her doubts about what’s next, I couldn’t help but remember many similar conversations I’ve had with other mentors in similar situations. Individuals who, from the outside, appear to have a clear understanding of where they are and where they want to go, yet inside are questioning it. Most folks I know are willing to be transparent about it, too, if you show genuine interest in their lives.
I shared this with my professor, and she didn’t seem to believe it at first. “Really, other professionals feel this way?” I nodded my head. Inside, I wondered why she hadn’t had this conversation with her peers. Then, it dawned on me: perhaps the professionals I know are more willing to share their uncertainty with me since I’m young and they know I will resonate with it, but they assume once they are an adult they are now the only one with the uncertainty. Seems almost silly, doesn’t it? But, we all do it.
Remember back to middle school. The kids in high school? They had it ALL figured out, didn’t they? Or, so we thought. Then we got to high school and realized we were still young and still didn’t know what we’re doing. But the college kids, they HAVE to know what’s up. Then we got to college or started our careers, and we realized… still no, don’t have it figured out. As I've graduated and continue to know more professionals, I’ve realized there is no magic year where we suddenly figure out what to do with our lives. Ever. And that’s okay.
In fact, I think it’s more than okay. It’s good, for two reasons: it keeps us humble, and it challenges us to stretch our known capabilities. When we don’t have a perfect map for our life, we are reminded we do not have control over every aspect. As a person of faith, the more I become at peace with this truth (admittedly, it’s taking me a long time), the more I find my trust in God strengthened. I don’t need to know where I’ll be in ten years, because the Creator of the universe does. Secondly, if we don’t know exactly what we want to do with our lives, we are pushed to try new things, in case something new is what we want to do next. Whether it ends up being the next step or not, it will teach us something of value.
Yes, setting goals can be a valuable exercise. Yes, having a general direction for our life is good. But also, yes, we won’t always keep the same goals. And also, yes, our specific direction may shift over time. That’s the beauty of it all: there is always more to learn, even about ourselves. As we learn these truths about ourselves, what if we were more open with our peers about our uncertainties? Whether you’re in high school or in the C-Suite, I bet you’re not alone. When we share our struggles, we not only open ourselves up to valuable advice, but we also encourage others who are dealing with the same challenges. As we do that, I think we’ll all get one step closer to figuring out what we’re doing with our lives.
Journal Prompt of the Week
When was the last time you admitted uncertainty to someone? Were they a peer, or someone younger or older?
Share with the Community
What’s one thing you can do this week to help someone else in their journey of figuring out what to do with their life?