How to Find Your Purpose Before College
A recent controversial blog post from conservative author Matt Walsh included one thought-provoking line with which many on both sides of the aisle seem to agree: college is not a place to go to find your purpose; it’s a place you go when you have a purpose.
While some may choose to disagree with that, the rising cost of college tuition and the increased ineffectiveness of a standard bachelor’s degree in landing one the job of their dreams, attest to what Walsh is saying as fact.
College is simply too expensive and too time consuming to attend when you have no clue what you want to do with your life. So how do you find purpose before you enroll, and what do you do if college isn’t the answer? Let’s tackle each of these questions.
How to Find, Step 1: Notice what your natural talents and passions are.
Are you good at fixing cars, writing stories, welding, house painting? What types of activities interest you? Which ones do you have a knack for, or which ones would you like to know more about? Take the time to explore each of these before settling on one. You don’t have to be a one-trick pony throughout your life, but you do need to pinpoint the thing that you want to make a living at and shift most of your focus in that direction.
Step 2: Find influencers with whom you can interact.
It is one thing to have role models or idols in certain fields, but there is only so far you can go reading biographies and news stories about your favorite people. At some point, you will want to learn from the expertise of someone, who came before you and is good at something you wish to be. You don’t have to see these people every day (or at all in-person), but you do need to have some means of interaction — phone calls, Skype chats, FaceTime, emails. Get their advice. Take it to heart. Try to implement at least some of what they tell you.
Step 3: Work a ‘real job.’
Nothing will give you a greater urge to find a career than working a job you’re not all that crazy about. Unless you are born with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth, the chances are pretty good you’ll have to take a job that you dislike or even hate.
While you don’t have to love the fact that you’re in it, you can use the things you don’t love about it to motivate yourself into finding a purpose. Really, it’s not that hard to do when you’ve had a glimpse of what your life could be like working at McDonald’s.
Nothing against fast food jobs — in fact, at a certain level, they can make really nice careers — but working in one at entry-level isn’t something with a pension, and it’s not something you’re going to enjoy doing for the rest of your life. Still, it may be something you NEED to do in order to find your purpose.
Step 4: Make note of the things you enjoy reading.
Are you more of a fiction person, or would you rather be learning how to do something when you’re reading? The types of materials that you consume can tell you a lot about yourself. Literature lover? College may be the answer. Training manuals and books on programming language? Learning a skill and working may be the better choice.
Step 5: Examine your favorite movies and television shows.
This is an extension of Step 4, but it is worth mentioning on its own because movies and TV are often dismissed as inconsequential. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Many programs have a depth to them that can feed the imagination. For instance, Breaking Bad may not be family programming, and it may inadvertently glorify the life of a criminal, but there are many high school and college students, who have grown a love for chemistry out of watching that series. Examine the media you consume and ask yourself, “Why do I like this so much?”
Step 6: Role-play with this scenario: if money and time weren’t an issue, if I had all the sleep I needed, and if there was nothing to read or watch, what would I prefer to be doing with that idle time?
We put that part in about sleep because far too many students have used that as their copout answer. Same with generic answers like “watching TV” or “reading.” Delving into this role-play requires you to take a closer look at yourself and your interests that go beyond the mundane. If you do want to say “reading,” we’ll allow that, but you have to expand the answer: what would you rather be reading and why?
Step 7: Envision your life in 10 to 15 years. What does it look like?
Every great business leader starts with a detailed vision for where he wants his company to be several years down the road. Try to step into their shoes. Your company is your life. Think about what it looks like in every aspect. Are you married? Where do you live — city, state, country, home, apartment? How many kids do you have (if any)? What do you do for fun? What do you drive? Where do you work? What do you need to do from an educational standpoint to make all of that happen?
Finally: What do you do if college isn’t the answer?
It may be as you are exploring these steps and creating a vision for your life in 10 to 15 years that you notice there isn’t much need for college. If that happens, don’t fret. There is always some way to continue your education and turn your dreams into reality. You just have to find what it is. Do you want to be a video game programmer? Perhaps coding school is the answer. Want to work with your hands? Study up on how to build things and offer construction services. Don’t just automatically assume college is the answer for your life — not until your purpose actually points you in that direction.
Have you taken any of the steps we’ve mentioned above? Is college the answer for you? If so, why? If not, what is the answer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Image via Biola.edu]