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Where do I even begin to start to get my life on track?

I haven't decided on anything I want to do in my life. I'm unsure about anything and having a hard time making any type of life altering decisions.

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Subject: Career question for you

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Grace’s Answer

Hi Jennifer! As someone in their 30s now, I can tell you no one really knows what their life plan looks like. Many of us are just taking it one step at a time. We try something we like it and we move forward, or we try something, don't like it and we try something else. You can think of it as just sampling different cuisines and with time you'll know what you like and don't like.

The most important step is to just try something out, you don't have to go all in and put every moment you have into it but try it first, then pause and ask yourself, do you enjoy doing this? how does this make me feel? what did I learn? and we then have more information to make the next decision.

We all make mistakes and its ok to make mistakes :)

Good luck!
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Kate’s Answer

Hey Jennifer,

Like others have said here: no one knows what they're doing all of the time.

It's easy to feel like everyone around you has a path and a plan, especially when there's so much language out there about "five year plans" and "future planning" and goal setting and etc. And *especially* when you're a student with a million adults asking you what you're going to do with your life. But the reason that all this go-getter language exists in the first place is because *everyone* (including those million adults) is hoping that if they find just the right magical framework, it'll spell it all out for them. That they, too, might finally understand what they're doing in life.

You said that you're afraid of making any life-altering decisions. Every decision we make, from what we eat at breakfast to who we date, alters our life. It is altering every minute of every day. The joy of it is to make decisions -- sometimes even bad ones! -- and see how they play out. And then learn. And then move forward. And then decide on the next thing. Living in fear and stasis is draining. Take the leap. See what happens. We figure out what life is by living it.

In an advice column from the '00s called Dear Sugar, an anonymous letter-write says: "I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. I know that’s normal for someone in his or her mid-twenties, but I seriously have no idea. [...] I don’t know the necessary information to even articulate the question of what to do next. I feel like a third grader whose teacher has asked them what they’d like to be when they grow up. The possibilities are endless, but I have no concept of what any choice would realistically entail. Please help."

Sugar writes back: "Stop asking yourself what you want, what you desire, what interests you. Ask yourself instead: What has been given to me? Ask: What do I have to give back? Make a list. Make the list very long. The give it."

So give it.

Stop asking yourself what you should do, or what's the right thing to do, and spin the wheel. Land on something. Live it.

Everything will be okay.


~ Kate
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Jessica’s Answer

Much like others, I want to stress to you that is COMPLETELY NORMAL to not know what you want to do or where to start. I've been there, more than once. My advice is two fold - think small steps and think about what you like. make that venn diagram like Mitchell suggested - things you like, things you are good at, and jobs you've considered. If anything falls in to all 3, start there! If not, move on to the ones that fall in to two categories. Like cats and good at helping others? Look at what jobs there are at animal shelters. Like gaming and good at drawing? Look in to game design courses! Like cake and good at good at following directions? Look in to being a pastry chef! Let you creative juices flow and follow your interest and you can't go wrong.

Jessica recommends the following next steps:

List out things you LIKE
List out things you are GOOD at
List out jobs that combine the two (or reach out to a mentor with your LIKE/GOOD lists)
Think in small steps - read a book/blog or take an online course on a career field before committing to anything
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Vandana’s Answer

Hello Jennifer,

It's perfectly okay to feel a bit unsure about what you want in life. Trust me, you're not alone in this. Many people are in the same boat, figuring out their life's path and building their careers as they go. It's not unusual to feel a lack of passion in your work. The journey to find your true calling might seem a bit scary, but don't worry. We're lucky to live in a world filled with resources and guidance to help you navigate this journey.

I highly recommend you check out this book - "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" by Sean Covey. I urge you to stick with it, even if you get distracted. I promise, if you apply even a small fraction of what you learn, you'll feel a huge difference. Also, start pinpointing activities that bring you joy. Think about whether there's a career that matches your interests. Once you find a potential career path, dive deeper into it.

Always remember, the aim is to discover something you're genuinely passionate about. Engage in activities that make you happy and channel your energy in a positive way. Don't lose hope and never, ever give up! You're stronger than you think, and I have faith that you'll do great things! Sending you all my positive vibes!
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David’s Answer

Hey Jennifer!
If you're feeling overwhelmed and confused, that's okay. That's pretty normal actually, and I guarantee you that everyone you know has felt like you do at some point or another, even the people around you that seem like they have a crystal clear vision of their future. My 17 year old son is one of those now, but when he was a freshman he was totally lost and felt really despondant. There's this transformation process that all young people go through where you move from being this big ball of potential into a definite set of things. You go from being able to be anything and then you're supposed to pick something. You're surrounded by unknowns.

Three words for you: you got this.
First thing, you don't need to map out your entire future life, you want to move in a direction that is going to set you up. No giant leaps required, no life-long commitments necessary, just steps in the right direction. No one climbs Mount Everest at the beginning of the journey.
Next, you don't need to decide exactly what it is you're going to do, pick a few futures and careers that look likehave potential and start to explore them. You need information and experience, and my guess is you're a little light in both. So go get some. As you gain both you'll learn good and bad things about some of your futures and things around them. You're also going to have unexpected successes and setbacks, and that is going to alter your course in ways you cannot predict.
Last, I can bet you're asking yourself after reading that, my problem is I don't know what futures to start walking towards, how do figure that out? Well, there's no one perfect way to do that, but I've got some suggestions for you. There are three things I'd like for you to spend some time thinking about.
There are people you know that you admire or respect. Without thinking about what their job is specifically, what is it about what they do that you see as impressive? Write those down and start imagining a path for yourself towards those.
There are things in the world that are meaningful for you. It could be an event going on in the world, something someone is doing in your town. It could be a someone who is running their house in a way you admire. Make a list of things that speak to you.
There's probably something you know a little about that seems magical. Or wonderous. Build a path that takes you towards that magic.

You got this Jennifer. Don't think that you have to figure it all out at the beginning of your story.
Thank you comment icon Jennifer, David has given you some excellent advice. I just want to add that it might be good to read the book: What Color is Your Parachute? It can be found on amazon in Kindle or in all book stores and libraries. It is a very helpful book for someone like you. It asks all kinds of questions and adds anecdotes to explain further. Judith-Ann Anderson
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Mitchell’s Answer

Hey Jennifer,
I hope this message finds you well!
I know planning the future can be very scary, especially with this idea that the decisions you make now will have some massive impact in your life later. But this isn’t true, life happens rather slowly, which means you’ll know well in advance if you’re on the wrong path.
For example, college is 4 years, you’ll know by year 2 if you’re on the wrong path and if you want to change you might only need to take 1-2 extra classes.

I remember being very scared to start college. I felt like I was going to waist my money bc I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I went to work. I worked in construction after high school for 2 years. This job kinda chose me, but I loved learning with my hands and that experience lead me to engineering.

Here is a practical way to identify a career path:
1) create a 3 circle Venmo diagram
2) label them per below
1) things I like
2) things I’m good at
3) things people will pay me to do
3) fill the all out (this took me a couple of days)
4) see which one lands in the middle.
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David’s Answer

Navigating your life's path can sometimes feel challenging, but always remember that you're the one holding the reins. Here are a few encouraging suggestions to ponder on.

It's perfectly fine to feel uncertain about your future career. Take a moment to reflect on your interests and dislikes. For the things that spark joy in you, delve into how these passions could potentially shape your professional journey.

When it comes to your dislikes, challenge yourself to understand why. Reflect on whether these reasons resonate with you and what lessons you can obtain from these dislikes.

You might also find it helpful to connect with friends who have experienced similar feelings. Ask them how they managed to overcome such uncertainties.

Your school career counselor can be a valuable resource as well, offering insightful advice on potential career paths. Don't hesitate to ask plenty of questions.

During your moments of quiet, consider keeping a journal. Document your interests, achievements, and moments of success. This can serve as a tangible reminder of your journey and growth.

I sincerely wish you all the best in your pursuits. Remember you are in control and you have greatness in you!
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Dawn’s Answer

It's normal to feel uncertain about a long-term career or future. Remember, your initial choice isn't set in stone. Many people shift their majors or careers, exploring different paths as they grow personally and professionally.

Choosing a career is about aligning with your values and what you wish to contribute to the world. It's okay to start in one direction and find your true calling elsewhere. There is a great resource - " What Color Is Your Parachute? 2022: Your Guide to a Lifetime of Meaningful Work and Career Success". by Richard N. Boles. This book has been around for many years and still one of the best resources out there. It has been updated in 2022 and still relevant today. There are a number of workbooks and related materials available that leverage the content and help you explore what you want to do.
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Emmanuel’s Answer

Hi Jennifer,

Great question! Starting to get your life on track as a student involves a few key steps:

1. Set Clear Goals: Identify what you want to achieve in different areas: academic, personal, career, health, etc. Make sure these goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

2. Organize Your Time: Use a planner or digital calendar to schedule your study time, assignments, and any other important activities. Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance.

3. Develop a Routine: Establish a daily routine that includes time for studying, exercise, hobbies, and relaxation. Consistency is key to forming productive habits.

4. Improve Study Habits: Find a study method that works best for you, whether it's group study, flashcards, or summarizing notes. Stay consistent and avoid cramming.

5. Stay Healthy: Pay attention to your physical health through regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep. Mental health is equally important, so practice stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness or meditation.

6. Financial Management: Learn to manage your finances, create a budget, and stick to it. If you have financial goals (like saving for a trip or paying off student loans), plan for them.

7. Seek Guidance and Support: Don't hesitate to seek advice from mentors, counselors, or trusted individuals. They can offer valuable perspectives and support.

8. Expand Your Skills and Knowledge: Engage in activities outside your academic curriculum, such as workshops, online courses, or internships, to gain additional skills and experience.

9. Reflect and Adapt: Regularly reflect on your progress. Be open to making changes to your goals or approach if your circumstances or interests change.

10. Stay Positive and Patient: Progress takes time. Maintain a positive attitude and be patient with yourself as you work towards your goals.

Remember, getting your life on track is a personal journey, and it's okay to take small steps and make adjustments along the way.
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