We're all just struggling to figure out what the heck to do with our lives. Especially between the ages of 18-25, the struggle seems insurmountable. Here's how one 20-something figured it out.

For the first time (in a long time) I actually have a plan for my life and it feels great.

I couldn’t feel more different to how I did a few years ago. Back then I felt  stuck, confused and frustrated with my direction in life. Now I’m working towards a couple of clear career goals. I feel like I’m actually living a life I’m proud of and making progress towards my dreams!

Looking back I can see the key steps and decisions that took me out of the confusion on to the right road for me.

With hindsight I can see that they really helped me answer the question most of us are really thinking when we feel stuck in our post-grad careers:

“How can I still make the money that I need by doing something meaningful that I actually enjoy?”

We spend most of our adult lives at work and a lot of us twenty-somethings just aren’t happy to settle for living our lives at the weekends. We want our work to be an expression of ourselves and to really make a difference to the world.

It can be so frustrating not knowing where to start with this. I mean I just expected to be able to find the answer within myself.

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But what I’ve learned is that no amount of thinking can tell you what career is right for you. It takes action!

Here are the 4 steps that I took to get clear on what I want to do with my life:

If you’re feeling confused and stuck yourself right now, I hope that they point you in the right direction and help you to feel clearer about what you’re doing with yours.

Step One: What do you already love to do?

Take an audit of any hobbies that you love and the parts of your current role that fill you with joy.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • When do I feel in flow?
  • What do I look forward to everyday?

Step Two: What have I always wanted to try?

If Step One comes up blank then think about any activities you’ve always wanted to try or skills that you’ve always wanted to learn.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What have I always wanted to try?
  • What do I really value?
  • What am I amazing at?
  • Which of the activities I want to try will fit well with my values and strengths?

Extra tip: If you aren’t sure about the answers to these questions, ask your friends, family, and mentor about what strengths they see in you.

Step Three: How can I make money from it?

This is the big question!  Brainstorm options for careers and businesses linked to your favorite ideas from Steps One or Two.

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Questions to ask yourself:

  • What careers are related to this topic?
  • Are there any products, services or information that I could sell?

Try not to get held back by practicalities and self doubt. Go big!

Step Four : How can I test it out?

Once you’ve thought of some ideas for Step Three. Circle your top 3.

Now it’s time to see how you really feel about them. Set yourself a mini goal that allows you to test them out.

Here are 3 ways you could do this:

  • Shadow someone doing what you’d like to do
  • Ask for an informational interview
  • Volunteer in a similar role
  • Create a mini project (e.g. blog, workshop, ebook) linked to your idea

Whichever you choose, set yourself a clear timeframe and reflect on the experience after.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What did I enjoy?
  • What would I change?
  • How would I feel about doing this every day for the next two years?

Remember, even if you spend time on something and find out you hate it, that’s ok! You’ll have narrowed down your options and learnt more about yourself in the process. You can then move forward by testing out one of your other two favorite ideas instead.

If you’ve finished testing out all three but don’t want to take any of them further, go back to your answers to Step One and Two and pick out another idea.

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On the other hand if you find that you love the first thing you try, stick with it and take the next step! Just make sure you keep reviewing your progress and asking yourself those Step Four questions.

Working out what you want to do with your life can seem like an insurmountable mountain to climb. And that’s after you choose which mountain you want to summit!

So test them out, a few steps at a time and discover which one you enjoy climbing the most. Once you’ve chosen, don’t stop until you reach the top. Good luck!


By Claudia Roberts

Claudia Roberts
Claudia works for a UK education charity providing career and education support to young people from the country’s most disadvantaged backgrounds. She graduated from Cardiff University in 2011 with an LLB in Law and Sociology. Her interests include career education, travel, outdoor activities, and helping young women find direction in their lives. She blogs at Peace & Purpose which focuses on the latter. Find her on Twitter: @ClaudiaFRoberts.