80% of students in the U.S. end up switching their field of study at least once. The average adult changes jobs 10-15 times. If you’re struggling to figure out what makes you happy, it should be clear that you’re nowhere near alone.
Millennials are constantly getting a bad reputation for being entitled, spoiled and lazy. While these stereotypes may be true for some, the majority of millennials are confused and unsure about what their place is in the constantly moving world. If you feel pressured to stay in a field you hate or you’re living at home while you determine what makes you tick, don’t panic or listen to judgement. It’s actually a good thing to have the desire to find what makes you happy.
Start by figuring out how important passion is to you. Everyone is different. Some people aren’t motivated by passion or don’t have the option of finding their passion. If you have the means to find what makes you feel alive, decide what’s going to motivate you at the end of the day. Is it purely a paycheck, your family’s happiness, the location you’ll have to live, the lifestyle that comes along with it, or the passion behind what you’re doing?
For many people who value passion, a job is going to make you miserable if you don’t have an interest in what you’re doing. For others, you might be happy to complete tasks you aren’t excited about if it means a comfortable salary and the ability to have fun outside of work. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have both passion and a comfortable salary, but think deeply about what’s going to make you the happiest if you could only choose one motivation from the list above. Because sometimes, especially when you first start out, you’re only going to have one choice.
Try things until you figure out what excites you. Talk to people, ask what they like about certain fields or jobs, and decide what you’re willing to try yourself. Even if you think something is right in the moment but change your mind down the road, you’ll never find clarity if you fall victim to the fear of change.
As hard as it is, don’t let anyone make you second guess what you’re trying. Yes, money is important. No, nobody wants to be in debt. But if you’re feeling lost or unsure of your life’s purpose, doing something that makes you miserable will feel more irrational than the “logical” course of action — which might be sticking with a field that has a lot of job opportunities or a path that’s extremely lucrative.
If you’re feeling so unhappy that you’re not sure who you are anymore, it comes down to two questions.
1) Would you rather be happy?
2) What are you willing to give up to be happy?
If you’re willing to lose a little money or enter a field that feels more risky in order to eventually find fulfillment, then don’t ever second guess yourself. But if you're not willing to sacrifice your family's security, for example, then make your decision accordingly. Ultimately, if you know what you’re willing to lose to make yourself happy, that’s a logical decision for your mental health and future well-being — even if people try to tell you it’s senseless.
Also remember that no matter how much you love what you do, every day won’t be perfect. You’re not going to automatically know everything. You’re still going to have to learn, start from the bottom and hone your craft. Sure, we all have occasional lulls and we may change direction slightly throughout our lives. But when you find something that excites you, it makes you want to do the legwork and not become complacent.
Take action. Making a decision, even if you change it later, is the only way you’ll start moving towards your purpose. So take a deep breath, remember more than 80% of people are struggling with the same thing, and start making moves.
Don’t settle until you find something that makes you relentless for success and excited to do good work. It doesn’t have to be glamorous or appealing to other people, either. While some people’s purpose is to dig up ancient bones on archeological sites, write critically acclaimed poetry or discover the cure for cancer, other people feel called to make kids laugh on a school bus, make people smile with a freshly arranged bouquet of flowers, or raise a child to the best of their ability.
When you eventually figure out your purpose, it won’t matter what anyone else thinks of it. You’ll be excited and invigorated with what you’re doing most days, and hopefully you’ll eventually have the sense of peace you’re craving now.
My favorite things are the simple ones: day-long book binges, cozy candles, dog kisses, ink on your hands, tree stars (leaves for those of you who never watched The Land Before Time) sweater weather, new ideas, local craft beer, punctuation, and knotty saltwater hair. Desserts are my favorite meal. I'm a creative writer and editor, and I created this space to keep my writing reflexes sharp and to share my simple ramblings with you!