Nearly a decade ago, I felt utterly lost.
I had just come off of a job I realized wasn’t what I really wanted to do with my life and for the first time in nearly four years had zero direction in my life and was without purpose. I didn’t know what I was going to do but I had to figure something out.
I think most of us feel that way at least once in our life. I felt like that in high school once I realized that, after ten years of loving basketball growing up, I no longer wanted to be a professional NBA player. The thing is, school doesn’t do much to help this along, at best giving us the occasional aptitude test and then leaving it at that (and the aptitude tests they give you in school aren’t even that good).
So, what are we left with? For most of us, that means wandering between fifty different things until we discover something we love to do. However, in my experience, we lack direction and focus and so this process ends up taking far too long (if we’re even lucky enough to stumble upon it in the first place).
So I created a simple exercise that helps you discover not only what you want to do with your life (now, as opposed to later) but also identify your natural strengths and talents.
A Simple (and Fun) Exercise for Finding Out What to Do With Your Life
Follow your heart. Do what you love. Because I was constantly struggling with that. If it’s in your heart, go for it. Don’t listen to other people.
– Maz Jobrani
Luckily, one day an idea came to me. I felt lost in general so I figured, why don’t I go all the way back to my childhood and make a list of everything I’ve ever loved or wanted to do…and just jump in? So, that’s what I did. And along the way I refined the process to create something highly effective.
The exercise centers around discovering two things:
- What you love to do: Pretty simple, doing what we love to do infuses us with a sense of meaning and purpose like nothing else. This allows us to make our mark on the world and live a happier life.
- What you’re naturally good at: Why this? Doing things we’re naturally good at tends to fill us with a lot of joy because of the ease with which we do it and utilizing our strengths is generally a key to success.
And the exercise itself has four steps:
List out all your loves and interests
First, start by listing out every single thing you’ve ever loved to do in your life. Also, include the things you’ve always wanted to try but just have never gotten around to.
This is the basis of the of the entire exercise so don’t hold back. Go all the way back to your early childhood and think about anything you’ve ever had a passion for or interest in. Don’t worry if the list is huge, the bigger the better.
Next, ask questions with regards to what you did in step one to start gaining clarity. Questions include:
- Why do I think I like (or would like) this?
- What do I think of this now as compared to when I was a kid? (if it’s something you did earlier in life)
- Can I see myself pursuing any of these things?
Questions are an important part of the process so keep in mind that you’ll not only ask questions now but also after step three once you’ve gotten out there and tried things out.
Test (get out and have fun)
Now is the fun part. Get out there and try everything. Look at it as one big experiment as this will help remove any sort of emotional baggage attached to the exercise.
You want to do this exercise without anything hanging over you so that you can enjoy and experience each thing purely for what it is without any bias or preconceived judgments getting in the way. That will be critical for uncovering what you really enjoy to do.
Record your findings
Lastly, record your findings and don’t hold back. Write down which things you like, which you didn’t like, what you liked and didn’t like about them, and anything else you feel in connection with the activity.
Extra: Repeat to discover strengths
This step isn’t required, but I found it to be highly useful for discovering my strengths at the time.
Now that you’ve already done step one, steps two through four become:
- Step two: Ask yourself, “Why am I good at those things?”, and, “What specific skill or talent can I ascertain from this?”
- Step three: Ask yourself, “Do I truly enjoy doing this?, and, “Can I see myself doing this professionally every single day of my life?
- And step four stays the same.
In addition, you can also do this with people as opposed to things (steps one, two, and four) to discover the kinds of qualities you admire and want to emulate in other people.
Ultimately, there’s no way to know what you’ll find by doing this. But I can say for certain that it helped me and gave me a ton of incredible insights that still serve me to this day.
No matter what happens with the exercise, this will condition you to look at life as more of an adventure, seeing how fulfilling it can be to get out there and try new things.