How to Figure Out What You Want in Life

Image courtesy of Joiseyshowaa

What do you want to be when you grow up? For some it may be a disturbing notion to consider that even in our late twenties, thirties and beyond we may still find ourselves asking this question of ourselves. Before I was ten years old I knew with naïve assurance what it was I wanted to do with my life. By the time I was twenty I was well established in the career I had decided on ten years before. Shortly after, life came along and swept the board clean.

If you can decide on a long-term career goal having it ahead of you can be a source of comfort and certainty that you can draw on. Knowing what you want to be when you grow up can serve as an anchor point in life. You know where you are and you know where you’re going. You know what needs to be done and have a plan for how to go about doing it.

On the other hand, indecision and uncertainty when it comes to deciding which career path to choose, which job to take or what training to pursue can become burdensome. Some may feel without a well-defined path to tread throughout their working life that they are at sea without an anchor. Simply drifting along to nowhere in particular. Achieving nothing in particular.

And that’s just what to do during work hours.

Life is incredibly complex. It is filled with infinite possibilities limited only by our creative ability and courage. Do you perhaps want a family and to buy a house? Or do you want to travel, see the world and meet all manner of different people? Both? Would you like to start a business? Or perhaps you would like to disappear into the rural hills on your own quiet little self-sufficient farm? Learn a martial art? Learn to paint and draw? Meditate every day? Write a novel?

In fact you might have an inkling that you would somehow like to do all of the above. With so many possibilities you’re going to need to…


The wealth of possibility available to us can at times be as paralyzing as having no clue whatsoever. The first step is surely to bring some order to the multitude of pursuits, interests and potential life paths you can envisage yourself enjoying. If you’re currently free and unattached then you’ll have a broader scope of possibility available. If you’re at a time in your life where you have responsibilities and obligations the possibilities open to you must be considered in light of those.

That certainly does not mean you should cast aside any of your dreams. Part of being creative is being able to find a creative solution that encompasses both achieving what you wish with your life while still fulfilling your responsibilities.

I see this process much like brainstorming. First you while free of any judgment brainstorm all the potential solutions and write them all down. Only then do you begin to prioritize. How though to prioritize? Well, first you need some…


Perspective rules the world. Your perspective is your world. The person who has never left the small town they were born in has limited perspective. A person who lives their life with little consideration of the nature of finite physical existence lives a life lacking perspective.

Many people who have a near brush with death return from the experience with a fresh set of priorities. They live their life differently afterwards. For one thing material possessions reduce in meaning while love, compassion, companionship and enjoying the simple priceless thing of daily life to the full becomes much more important.

Before you prioritize make sure you take the time to ensure your perspective is as broad and clear as possible. Reflect on your life so far and listen to how that makes you feel. Imagine the things that will matter when you’re old and you’re looking back on your life.

Now it’s time for you to…


Life is not an intellectual debate, as much as some people would like it to be otherwise. Life is something you do. It is something that happens. We are be-ings. Get out and be in your life. Run small-scale experiments to give you come idea what a course of action would feel like if you did it full-time and for real.

For example, if you’re considering that maybe teaching something you love such as martial arts may be the life for you try it on first. Start assisting your sifu, sensei or coach and then see how you feel about it. You might discover that teaching is far removed from what you really love about martial arts, which may be training yourself. Or you might find that you have an aptitude and a love for teaching others and that teaching only deepens your art.

You won’t know until you get out there and try. Until you do the life you’re leading is a life of pointless speculation. Choose a potential course of action, test the waters and pursue or discard depending on the outcome. Whatever happens be sure to keep in mind…

The Nature of Life

Despite the best-laid plans and intentions it is the nature of things that they change. Life is not a static thing that conforms to our will. It is more like music that we must sway to else be broken. Remember, life is one gigantic possibility. When hardship, impassible barriers and unforeseen circumstances come your way old doors are closing. If that’s the way it is then let them close. It’s your job to find the new doors that just opened.

This article was written by Stephen Cox. Stephen writes daily at Balanced Existence where he shares the knowledge and insights gained from his personal journey of holistic health and wellbeing.

39 Responses to How to Figure Out What You Want in Life

  1. Stephen, for me prioritising is the key thing to do. I have many things that I want to do and the only way to find the right focus is to realise that we have to prioritise in order to use our time in the most effective way. Only by taking the correct actions can move along the most efficient path to our goals.

    I’ve recently been considering this on my blog too.

    Nice post.

  2. Shanel Yang says:

    Great post and topic! There are many ways to figure out what we truly want to do with our lives and I explore many of the different ways to do that from psychology to stream-of-consciousness brainstorming in my 30-day “All About You!” series at

  3. Oscar says:

    Thank you for the article Stephen, I must say I have nearly cry when I was doing a review for my spanish blog adding my thaughts an reflexions to your great post.

    I think the structure of the post is fantastic, leading to conclusions and practical tips.

    I will also apply it on life I have really liked the idea to do a brainstorm and them apply things to see if you like it. It is the way I am doing but with order and structure.

    Thanks again and keep posting.


  4. Julian says:

    Lovely post! It was really as if you spoke directly to my mind!… All the things you mentioned were things that I really have been thinking about but not really put into words… THANK YOU!

  5. Life is your choice. No matter what happens and what doors close you have the power to open them back up or use a different one.

  6. Hi Stephen

    Nice post and topic!

    It can be difficult enough finding your passion, but sometimes the means of implementing it can seem pretty much impossible!

    I think of myself: I love writing, but the only option appeared to be journalism. Problem is, I’m quite an introverted person and the thought of going out and interviewing people all over the place, being surrounded by people didn’t appeal to me.

    I didn’t know anything about blogs and so the passion lay dormant. Until, my boyfriend and I developed a personal development application which led to a website and I started to come across all of these great blogs! And I haven’t looked back.


  7. dawn says:

    Flexibility is what gets me through – sanity intact :-)
    Even though I tend to be focused and goal orientated …
    I am willing to walk through a door when it opens for me!
    Sometimes opportunities that we never even dreamed about present themselves, and being willing to step out of our comfort zone can lead to great things!
    For me, I suppose it is really more about the journey, than the destination!
    Blessings ~

  8. Neil says:

    Life is a journey and by being flexible we are able to enjoy the best of it. Being too rigid in your thinking and expectations leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction.

  9. As the When I Grow Up coach, this struck a big chord in me. I’m someone who had to start with a “clean slate” after chasing a lifelong dream that eventually, no longer contained magic within it. I wrote about it just this weekend on my blog:

    I love your thoughts on Experimenting. It’s sometimes tough to realize that we DO have a choice, and if we find something we want to pursue it doesn’t have to be finite for us. I encourage my clients (and myself!) to always explore their interests and see what develops. You don’t have to commit from the get-go!


  10. Hi Stephen,

    Your quote caught my attention:

    “You know where you are and you know where you’re going.”

    Words to the wise. If more than 95% of the population used this one sentence, we’d be living in a different world.

  11. Pingback: When I Grow Up - The Blog » Blog Archive » Freakin’ (Great Links) Friday: Installment 5

  12. Pingback: I'm Not A Bloody Fortune Teller But...

  13. sundae says:

    would anyone be so kind to explain what “Life is not an intellectual debate, as much as some people would like it to be otherwise.”means. Many thanks!

  14. Stephen says:

    Hi Sundae,

    As the person who wrote the above post I think I can shed some light on your question.

    In essence I was attempting to express the point that if someone was to have great ideas about potential life courses, make plans, consider potential problems, talk about it with others, think some more, talk some more, become discouraged by the huge amount of effort and barriers and then start thinking of a different potential life course and so go through the whole loop again (I’ve seen many people do this including myself) then all they are doing is running around inside their head theorizing about things they will not actually have much of a clue about until they actually do something.

    In war plans go out the window the moment the first shot is fired. It is no different in life. To accomplish anything one must take action. Otherwise it is no more than intellectual ruminating and that will only get you more intellectual ruminating. Not the life you want. That takes action in the physical world.

    Hope that helps!


  15. Pingback: How to Figure Out What You Want in Life | Christophe Joseph’s Everyday Personal Development Blog

  16. Pingback: strolling | Travel Zona

  17. Jlforres says:

    Wow! I feel like you read my mind. I sometimes feel like I’m the only person I know that feels exactly the way you described – to a “T” literally word for word. I am going to do all of the things you listed and will revisit and post how it all went. Thank you!! :) -Jess

  18. LiveLife says:

    Check out this blog about a student trying to figure life out.

  19. Johneveryman says:

    I think I want to be your editor after reading this grammatical nightmare.

  20. dimple mahajan says:

    life is all about new possibilities

  21. dimple mahajan says:

    life is all about new possibilities

  22. dimple mahajan says:

    life is all about new possibilities

  23. dimple mahajan says:

    life is all about new possibilities

  24. dimple mahajan says:

    life is all about new possibilities

  25. dimple mahajan says:

    life is all about new possibilities

  26. kendavies says:

    I will be 67 next month and I still ended up on this site. Don’t expect to find all the answers. It takes time and you may still end up wondering if you’re on the right track. And age doesn’t necessarily make you wise. Experience can, if you listen to it right.

  27. Singh Songara says:

    why we are liveing

  28. Wes Reitz says:

    this post was written by someone who has no idea what they want to be in life..

  29. Arun Chikkop says:

    Helped me..

  30. Gkstoch says:

    And that’s ok. Many people have no idea including myself. YOU may have an idea doesn’t mean the other person needs to have an idea too. Get out of your ego self and try and understand what he’s saying

  31. jcur2 says:

    Yea, set your ego aside bro and listen to the message. Weak opinions like yours don’t serve people who are trying to make a difference. 

  32. Jacqueline Woods says:

    His grammar really wasn’t that bad, please. Interesting perspective, but I feel like something’s missing..

  33. LMo says:

    Thank you for that! That was really encouraging :) 24 & have no idea what I want. I’m extremely ambitious with no where to push myself. I’m working on it though!

  34. kendavies says:

    Yes, there should be a comma after “do” in the sentence “Until you do the life that you’re leading is a life of pointless speculation.” Otherwise the reader has to go back over that sentence after not seeing how you can “do the life”. Not as crucial as in “King Charles I walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off” in which you can not do without a comma or semi-colon after “talked”.

  35. kendavies says:

    You’re welcome. I suppose you could start by listing (1) what you can do (well) and (2) what you enjoy doing. If there is an overlap, that may a good place to be.

  36. Matheus says:

    The text got to be good enough to give a base to people. You will never make a text about how people should lead their life and make everyone like it. Because each human being lives a different dream, too much perspectives together.

  37. Pingback: strolling | Etravelb1ackboard

  38. Pingback: Google self-driving automotive coming throughout the nook

  39. Pingback: 7-18-13 Project Mayhem – Travel Workouts | UMLexpert NEWS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *