Even as a writer, designer, and developer, I still don’t know what I want to do for a living. This question — of what to do with your life — can be overwhelming, for both professionals and recent graduates alike. Over on Zen Habits, Leo Babauta shares his insights on why you should focus on what you can do now, rather than the future, to build a better life and worthwhile career:

You can’t figure out the future. Even young people who have a plan (be a doctor, lawyer, research scientist, singer) don’t really know what will happen. If they have any certainty at all, they’re a bit deluded. Life doesn’t go according to plan, and while a few people might do exactly what they set out to do, you never know if you’re one of those. Other things come along to change you, to change your opportunities, to change the world. The jobs of working at Google, Amazon or Twitter, for example, didn’t exist when I was a teen-ager. Neither did the job of Zen Habits blogger.

So if you can’t figure out the future, what do you do? Don’t focus on the future. Focus on what you can do right now that will be good no matter what the future brings. Make stuff. Build stuff. Learn skills. Go on adventures. Make friends. These things will help in any future.

To be successful — and happy — in life requires that we not worry about what we want to do in the future, because the future is so impossible to predict. This is particularly true as technology continues to change what’s possible. Remember that just seven years ago hardly anyone realized you could browse the entire web from the palm of your hand.

Instead, overcoming the fears of doubt or uncertainty and deciding to do something now is a promising way to build a better future. Whether it’s learning a new skill on Skillshare, starting a new project (or finish an old one), or dropping everything to travel overseas for a year, your best bet in life is to work on building your path to there today.

Get even more of Babauta’s insights on Zen Habits.

  • Carol

    At the age of 19 I graduated from a 3 year registered nursing program. After 15 years as a full time delivery and emergency room nurse, I changed careers to become a teacher. I had to return to university for 10 years of evenings and weekends. I continued to nurse part time while I taught nursing and then adolescents at risk (gangs, drugs, weapons). My overlapping careers (nursing 30 years, teaching 20 years) have me now retired from both. I am now ending a very successful 10 year career as a real estate broker. I’m slowing down toward retirement.
    Choices early in life can lead you down a very interesting path. Find something you love and don’t be afraid of change and lifelong learning.

    • http://www.creativesomething.net/ tannerc

      Thanks for sharing your story Carol. I think you summed up Babauta’s advice elegantly: “Find something you love, don’t be afraid to change.”

      As Marcus Aurelius once quipped: “The universe is change. Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

  • http://krayzcomix.solitairerose.com/ SolitaireRose

    My career actually became much easier once I let go of goals and instead focused on what I liked about the job I had and looked for more jobs that had THAT. I got out of college with a degree in psychology and planned to go into counseling, and while I worked in juvenile justice treatment, I discovered I liked the tools of the job (tracking, monitoring, etc…) more than other portions. When I moved into the business world, I found positions that fit with my skills, the things I liked doing and my need to help people, leading to my current job as an HR Call Center supervisor.

    Coming out of college, I would have never thought of that, but being willing to move toward where my interests were, I have made a solid career that fills those needs, but also leaves me time for my other pursuits. Having a goal is good, but living your life by looking for themes has worked for me.

    • http://www.creativesomething.net/ tannerc

      Excellent insights, thanks for sharing!

      I think it’s important that other people hear these types of stories, particularly if they’re just starting out. The path you describe here seems to be fairly common these days; I know I can relate.

  • http://www.abrentco.com/ Kevin Brent REALTOR®

    The key to planning your future is to never stop learning and evolving. As we all know, the career we plan today, may not exist tomorrow.

  • Mae

    This is so true. All through uni I struggled with the idea of knowing exactly what thing I wanted to do when I was done school. Eventually I decided the best option was to follow what interested me the most wherever it might lead me. So far, I have no complaints. It hasn’t always been easy, but it certainly has always been fun, and interesting!

  • matchavez

    Whatever you do, do good work. Doing good work brings you good work. The opposite is true, too.

  • D I

    I have always felt this way but that doesn’t stop people asking you where you want to be in 5 years. Sometimes my lack of a plan works in my favour (especially now I work in digital!) but more often than not it has worked against me. Which is a shame for those employers because it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do an awesome job for them!

  • Alex

    Little late to the party! haha sorry.

    I struggle with this every day and I can see the effect it has on my family.

    I always worry about the future. I have been laid off twice and I’m not even 30. I went into broadcast journalism which is a JOKE since it’s always being rated as one of the top 5 worst career choices. I just don’t know what I want to do. I’m not really good at any one thing, just know a little about a lot. I wish my future self could sit down with me and just say one thing: this is what you’re going to be good at. Just focus on that and you will be successful. But I like this article. It gives me the boost I need today.

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