What does success look like? What do you want from life? What career do you want?
Most of us answer “I don’t know.”
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. And yet, we think it’s the worst thing in the world if you don’t know what you want to do in life.
We say: “OMG! I don’t know what I want!” And then we have a full-on panic attack. Be honest — it happens to all of us.
Especially, when you see that your old college friend just got married. Or that your co-worker, who started at the same time as you, just got promoted.
It’s at those moments of weakness when we shine a spotlight on our own uncertainty about life.
One of the biggest thinking errors that I’ve made was that I thought I needed to know what I exactly wanted to do with my life. The truth is that no one knows what they truly want.
Accept The Uncertainty
You could get killed by a cow tomorrow (really happened). You could lose half of your money on the stock market. Your property could go up in flames.
I don’t have to tell you all those things. But we must realize that we don’t have the answers to most things in life.
Will you stay healthy? Will the stock market crash? Will your business continue to prosper?
NO ONE KNOWS!
That’s the beauty of life. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best:
“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.”
Some people ask me, “Why do you read so many books? There’s no way you can apply everything you learn.”
They are right. I cannot. Why do I still read about all kinds of different topics?
There might come a time in my life where I will need one particular piece of knowledge. And that one time I need it might just change the whole outcome of my life.
I‘ll give you an example. In 2015, after my friends and mentors told me I should share my ideas about productivity, life, and business with others, I seriously started thinking about doing it.
But there are many ways you can share your knowledge with others. You can give training to groups and host seminars. You can coach people individually. You can create videos for YouTube. You can give talks at conferences. The possibilities are endless.
But because I’ve always had an interest in writing and had read so much about it in the past, I realized that I should start with written ideas. That was the easiest way for me to get started.
I had also learned all about creating websites in the past. So it was very easy for me to get started with all of this. In fact, I created a website in a day.
And I started writing every day for a month. The result? A book and a bunch of articles.
Know Your Direction. Not Your Destination.
When I read about writing and building websites years ago, I didn’t know I would use that knowledge to build my own blog.
To be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted. I only knew what direction I wanted to go in. I knew I wanted to make a contribution and do work that I enjoyed.
So it’s not important to know exactly what you want to do with your life. People change. Economies change. So, it’s not even realistic to boldly claim “I know what I want!”
The only thing every person needs is a sense of direction. A vision of where you’d like to go.
Look, you don’t need to know your exact destination.You often read about people who say they always knew what they wanted.
But that’s just a small portion of the population. I’ve personally never met someone like that. Most of us don’t have that conviction from day one. It grows over time.
If you can’t decide what direction you want to go in life, that’s automatically your #1 goal in life — to figure out where you want to go.
That’s what Jay Abraham also recommends in Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got (which is one of my favorite business books of all time):
“Your first priority is to identify what you want and then make sure you take the path that’s going to give you that. There’s nothing sadder than to see someone get to be seventy-five or eighty years old and look back regrettably because they pursued the wrong target.”
You see that he doesn’t say you should know exactly what you want? That would not be realistic.
Instead, we need to know where we’re roughly going. I know, it remains intangible. But that’s the only helpful answer that I’ve found in life.
Work On Universal Skills
While you’re figuring everything out, don’t waste your time watching hours of TV, drinking booze, or eating junk food. Spend your time usefully.
Learn skills you can always rely on. Need some inspiration? Here are a few skills that I’m constantly working on:
- Self-Discipline: Get better at ignoring the negative voice in your head. Get out of your bed. Go to the gym. Don’t listen to “I don’t want to.”
- Personal Effectiveness: Learn how to maximize the results you can get during the 16–18 hours you’re awake. Get more done — effectively.
- Communication: We think we’re all master communicators. But the truth is that we suck. Communication is both art and science. And our ability to work with others depends on it.
- Negotiation: You negotiate all the time. With your spouse, kids, parents, teachers, friends, co-workers, managers, etc. Learn to get the best deal for all parties.
- Persuasion: Learn how to get what you want in an ethical way.
- Physical Strength & Stamina: Getting stronger is a skill. Pull your own weight. It’s something every human should be able to do.
- Flexibility: Sitting all day long behind your computer or in your car turns you into a stiff being. Learn how to stretch your hips, lower back, hamstrings, and calves — the most common weak points of desk workers.
That’s enough to keep you busy for a lifetime if you want to do it well. Pick a skill that excites you. Get better at it. Then, pick another. And keep on repeating that process.
Soon enough, you’ll know what you want. And if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. There’s still plenty to learn.
Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance. His ideas and work have been featured in TIME, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Observer, and many more publications. Join his free weekly newsletter.