How to Figure Out What You Want in Life

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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.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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

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  3. J.A. Mulvihill says:

    Thank you for the information, it is appreciated.

  4. Michele says:

    Thank you for that powerful message

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