15 Dec 2020

Forget the question ‘What will I do with my life’

By Paddy O' Leary

Studies philosophy at Trinity College Dublin.

His favourite music is the inside of a bookshop.

Email: connect@paddyoleary.com

This article is the first of a series of four articles titled ‘An unconventional approach to your next job’ dropping each week for the rest of December.

What if someone was to tell you that you’ve spent enough hours racking your brain over what your life long career should be. What if we were to tell you that life long careers are complete nonsense. A rare case. You’ve better odds of winning the Irish lotto than you do of finding and keeping the same job for your entire life. Unless you get lucky and die on your first job that is. This type of thinking is a couple of generations old.

In fact it isn’t even yours, so why think it? This thinking belongs to your Grandparents who grew up in a different world where resources were scarce and manifestation slow. Things happen at a much faster rate these days, companies come and go, people outgrow their jobs, have different careers at different points in their lives or change industries multiple times. So the next logical question is, where does this leave us? Or more importantly, what are the alternatives?

One alternative is to think instead in terms of life stages or phases. The benefits of thinking in terms of your next project, life stage or phase is that it breaks things down into nice, easily digestible chunks. Rather than asking yourself the question ‘What do I want to do with my life’, we instead ask something like ‘What would I like to do with the next couple years of my life’ Or ‘How do I envision my dream life going 3 years from now?’ or ‘What project would I like to take on for the next six months?’

Now that’s more digestible than a three in one on a Saturday after a well earned night on the town. Can you already sense how much better these questions feel when asked? Immediately the pressure is off. We’re not talking Mount Everest, we're talking about a tough but doable hike up the Sugar Loaf. And who knows, maybe we can get enough Sugar Loaf’s under our belt, and Everest will be within our reach.

This all sounds very reasonable, you might say. But what does it actually mean? It’s up to you to decide what that could mean. We’re not here to give you all the answers. Instead our aim is to provide new questions and perspectives you may not have considered yet so that you can breathe some fresh life into your job search. The bottom line is, if you are reading this in between jobs at the moment, then you have a massive opportunity on your hands. An opportunity to reinvent yourself for the next stage of your life in whatever way you like.

You may be struggling financially but you are most definitely time rich. This resource that you have in abundance can be used to get clear about how you see your next life phase. Some people like journaling, others like talking to friends to brainstorm about ideas, others again prefer to think in nature. Your preferred tool is irrevelant, your objective is everything. What will I aim at for the next six months, one, three or five years.

We all know how easy it is to get stuck in a boring habit of checking any and all jobs, while we slowly lower our standards as the time we’re between jobs lengthens. It’s for this very reason it’s so important to remember the gift of freedom we have to even consider these sort of questions. If you’ve gotten this far and have realized the opportunity that lies ahead of you, there’s only one question left, what are you going to do next?

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