What Do I Want To Do With My Life?
“What do I want to do with my life?” Does this sound like a question relevant only to late adolescence? Don’t be too sure of that!
Certainly, the question is very important to people in the post-high school period. At that time, individuals are confronted with big decisions about what studies they will undertake, and the potential career path they will follow, along with many other vital choices. Yet, this question has a great relevance long after that time in life.
For example, consider how important this question is for many people going through midlife transition. At this stage in life, individuals are often well aware that time is passing and life is passing, and so the question of “What do I want to do with my life?” takes on a whole new level of meaning — and urgency. It can become an absolutely crucial matter!
If anything, this may be even more true for an individual still further along his or her life journey, say, during the years immediate prior to, or immediately after, retirement. The days and years have become even more valuable at this stage in life! And the question of what to do with those precious days — what is good for me, now — is unavoidable.
This question is much broader than simply “What job do I want to do?”, although it often certainly includes that. This is a question about what is meaningful and valuable in all aspects of my life.
How Do I Get to MY Answer to This Vital Question?
“What do I want to do with my life?” is an intensely personal question. To come up with anything like a satisfactory and meaningful answer, it’s necessary to examine oneself very carefully.
When we initially ask ourselves this question, we may draw a complete blank! We may be so used to “going with the flow” in terms of the expectations of others close to us, or of society as a whole, that we find it hard to even get in touch with what we really feel is important to do with life. Sometimes, when people have been driven by necessity long enough, it can seem impossible to get in touch with our deepest real desires. I recall a time in early mid-life when I felt just this way myself. Yet, as I know from my own experience, seeking a satisfactory answer to this question is well worth the effort, in terms of feeling that one has had “the life well lived”.
Maybe surprisingly, as Jung pointed out, sometimes we find clues about what’s really important to ourselves by looking at what what we really loved to do as a child…
The Perils of Not Honouring My Individuality
Given our highly pressurized modern world, it can be easy to “keep on keeping on”, just doing what we’ve always done, without making the attempt to get in touch with what we really want for our lives. Yet, if we’re really not doing what we want with our lives, the question can come back to us in some very powerful ways. We may experience intense burnout; we may experience substantial anxiety and/or depression. We may even get to the place where we feel that we have substantially missed our lives.
What I DO Want to Do with My Life
It doesn’t have to turn out like that. We can find ways to cope with the question “What do I want to do with my life?” — and with the answers that emerge from it. As Jungian Robert A. Johnson points out, we need to find a way to live out the life in us that remains unlived, either literally or symbolically, if we’re to feel at all fulfilled. This just keeps getting truer and truer the further we go on our life journey.
Focusing on the question of “What do I want to do with my life?” helps us to bring into focus our deepest desires, and to get a sense of where we want to take our lives. Depth case studies can often help even more us to see ourselves clearly, however. It often enables us to become more conscious of the unacknowledged parts of ourselves, and gives us a non-judgemental space in which we can explore how we might want to live out our truest calling — to be who we really are.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst