There comes a moment when you contemplate and ask existential questions: what is life? What is your role on this Earth? What is the purpose of everything if we all die in the end? What happens after death?
Well, even though some questions remain unanswered, or there are different opinions about the meaning of life – ‘the meaning of life is what you make of it,’ ‘the meaning of life is to enjoy it,’ and so on – you believe that whatever the ultimate truth may be, you must move forward and not be stuck in a state of inaction.
In this article, you want to talk about how you choose your path in life, the importance of finding yourself, and embracing your destiny.
Although it may seem like you have thousands of options in life, you could say that this is a false perception, a mistaken way of looking at things.
In reality, you don’t.
And why do you say that?
Because, of course, you can decide at any time to choose 10 different things to accomplish in life, but you won’t be able to surpass a level of mediocrity in this way. You’ll become decent at everything and, at the same time, good at nothing.
Choosing 10 different paths is pointless because you won’t truly enjoy any of them.
You can choose in one lifetime to become a doctor, a writer, an entrepreneur, a firefighter, an astronaut (or anything else). No one says you couldn’t do all the things mentioned in one lifetime, but the question is: how well will you do them? Won’t you end up being just a mediocre doctor? Or a mediocre writer?
Choosing the mediocre option will never allow you to unlock your true potential in a field.
After all, you live in a competitive world with over 8 billion people, and if you don’t apply the ‘5% rule,’ it’s unlikely you’ll have a good life.
What is the 5% rule?
This rule describes how many people with very good skills can surpass 95% of the world’s population. However, only 5% of people worldwide manage to exceed this threshold from various perspectives.
These are the ones who end up having a real impact on society. These are the ones who pass the funeral test (the moment when people still remember you even after generations have passed since your death).
In this highly competitive world, we can’t be very good at many things. We need to understand that we must narrow our focus and invest those 10 dark years in becoming masters of our own destiny.
(It is said that to be considered an expert in a field, you need at least 10 years of experience in that field.)
This brings us to one of the very important questions we should ask ourselves as early as possible: How do we know which field to choose? Or how can we know in which field we will truly become experts?
‘Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.’ – Steve Jobs
To be able to choose your path in life, there are a few important things you should consider:
- Make sure you know yourself well enough.
- Make sure what you choose aligns with the Ikigai philosophy (we’ll discuss it below).
- Make sure what you choose has a future.
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What self-discovery methods can you use?
There are many interesting and very useful methods to get to know yourself better, but we can categorize them into two parts: the theoretical part and the practical part. Both should be understood as a unified whole.
Here are a few good methods:
1. Keep a journal
Although it might seem like something out of a teen movie, keeping your own journal where you put your thoughts on paper is not at all wrong. On the contrary, once you put all the jumble of ideas you carry in your mind on paper, it will be much easier to visualize, prioritize, and categorize them.
Try to write periodically about yourself, your feelings, your past experiences, and put these thoughts on paper to better understand them.
Ideally, do it daily. It’s important to reflect on what’s happening around us. Think about what went well or didn’t go well in different situations you face every day. It’s an excellent method for analysis and improvement.
To find what you’re good at, you can answer the following four questions and carefully look at the intersecting answers (a reflective exercise):
What did you grow up with? What negative experiences have you had? What positive experiences have you had?
What have strangers praised you for?
What have you done in the last 10 years?
What can you talk about effortlessly on a Saturday evening when you’re out with friends? (avoid pretense about your weekends)
3. Explore your passions
It’s quite challenging to live solely in your imagination. How often has it happened that in your imagination, everything seemed perfect, but when you were confronted with the actual situation, the idea you had about something didn’t seem as cool anymore?
I always thought it was super cool when I saw others in videos having a great time on a yacht in the open sea, jumping into the water. In fact, the most exciting part seemed to be jumping into the water and swimming.
After I was there in person (I was in the Mediterranean Sea), and I jumped into the water, panic set in. It wasn’t as cool as I had imagined. The water was very cold and salty. There were many jellyfish around me. I felt uncomfortable and quickly swam back to the boat.
That’s why it’s good to try things yourself to see how they feel on your own skin before deciding what you want to do.
It’s good to explore different fields and see what it’s actually like to be there.
Here’s another example, quite sad: medical students who realize very late that it’s not for them.
When you’re in the final year of high school, it’s easy to be influenced by your peers. If most of them say they want to study medicine, you tend to be influenced by this context.
And unfortunately, at that age, it’s hard to make a good choice for the next decades of your life because you don’t know yourself well enough. Most of my classmates who want to study medicine have never even tried volunteering in a hospital to see what it’s really like to work with sick patients.
And after several years of studying, they find themselves faced with the fact and realize that it’s not as beautiful as they thought.
4. Feedback from others
It’s important in the process of self-discovery to take feedback from those around us. Maybe we imagine that we are perfect artists and have excellent voice. But how many have gone to talent competitions and faced the shock of their lives: Their voice sounds awful.
That’s why it matters who you get feedback from. It’s preferable to get feedback from people in that particular field who don’t necessarily have a hidden interest in us.
Singing at karaoke in the evening and getting applause from those around doesn’t mean you have a good voice. The karaoke crowd is more about having fun, and it’s normal to be encouraged because it’s something amateur.
5. Personal development courses
There are various means through which we can get to know ourselves better. When I was in my first year of college, I enrolled in a personal development program at the ‘Leaders Foundation,’ where I learned a lot about myself.
I learned what type of personality I have, what my strengths are, what things I’m not so good at, and so on. I think such programs would be very useful even in high school.
Japanese Philosophy: Ikigai
“Ikigai” is a Japanese concept that refers to the “reason for being” or the “reason you wake up in the morning.”
It’s the intersection of what you love to do, what you’re good at, what the world needs you to do, and what you can offer to make a living from what you do.
To find your own Ikigai, you need to ask yourself:
What do you love to do?
What are you truly good at?
What does the world need, and what can you offer?
What can you be paid for in what you do?
Make a list of all your passions (what you love to do and what you’re good at).
Create a list of your mission (what you love to do and what the world needs).
Compile a list of professions you would like to choose (what you’re good at and what you can be paid for).
Make a list about your vocation (what you can be paid for and what the world needs).
Draw the above model on a piece of paper and list all the elements you’ve mentioned. Place them in the appropriate quadrants and see how they intersect.
In the middle of them, your Ikigai will emerge a combination of all the elements. These are the areas you should focus on from now on.
However, consider the long-term needs of people and how society evolves.
At the moment, you might be good at something people need, but in the future, make sure that what you excel at is not easily replaceable. Many people have chosen careers that seem to become increasingly uncertain in the future, partly due to the rise of artificial intelligence technologies.
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How to Choose What Is Future-Proof?
To choose a future-proof field, consider the following:
- Current Trends
What fields are on the rise? For example, technology, renewable energy, healthcare, and sustainability are some of the fields that show significant potential for the future.
- Future Options
Some fields may become more relevant as technology advances. For instance, VR technology, AR technology, blockchain technology, and artificial intelligence are currently in vogue and will expand further in the future, affecting many industries.
Identify real societal problems and needs. Think about how you can contribute to solving them. For example, environmental and mental health issues are becoming increasingly important.
Consider your personal skills and interests. What are you passionate about, and what are you good at? Your ikigai. Choosing a field that aligns with these can increase your chances of success and fulfillment.
Consult reliable sources and experts in your areas of interest. Read books, attend conferences and webinars, and participate in online communities focused on topics that interest you.
For example, a simple Google search (“best skills to learn in 2023”) can show you the top skills you can learn:
- Computer programming
- Data analysis
- Public speaking
- Software development
- Web design
- Digital Marketing
- Web development
- Graphic design
- User experience design
- Critical thinking
- Video editing
Sometimes, if you’re unsure about which field to choose, it’s enough to start acquiring some of the skills listed above (or others that you find suitable), and then decide more about your career.
In a constantly changing world, it’s important to be willing to learn and adapt. Choosing a field that provides you with a solid knowledge base but also allows flexibility can be an advantage.
Finding a mentor or experienced professional in your field of interest can provide valuable guidance and advice.
Make sure that what you choose is not already in a declining trend. Also, ensure that you choose something for the next 10-20 years. It’s a pity to start in a field and completely change it after 3-5 years of work.
Many people reach the ages of 40-50 and face significant career challenges with the choice they make. It’s difficult to change professions after working a lifetime in the same field.
Firstly, people are resistant to change. At the same time, you may no longer have the desire, time, or energy to start from scratch and go far in the new chosen field (there are some exceptions, but they are very rare).
Consider the other important areas of life as well.
Your career/work is very important, but it doesn’t represent your entire life.
We need social connections, health, and love.
While your current choice might be financially sound, if it affects your long-term health and happiness, it may not be the ideal option.
That’s why we need to integrate these 4 pillars to truly have a happy life.
Read the article: The 4 Pillars for a Truly Happy Life.
Keep these pillars in mind when making choices.