What if You Don’t Know What to do With Your Life?

Donald Miller

I’ve been taking people through the Storyline process for about four years now. The process helps people clarify their ambitions and take next steps. But a consistent question I get is “What if I don’t know what I want to do with my life?

The question normally comes from a person in their twenties. And I usually respond with the same tongue-in-cheek joke about how almost all twenty-somethings know what they’re doing with their lives except the person asking the question. The room normally laughs because, of course, we know it’s not true. Being in your twenties and not yet knowing what you want to do with your life is a common experience.

I spent my early twenties having no real idea what I wanted to do. I always wanted to be a writer, but that seemed as realistic as wanting to be an astronaut. I was grateful, then, when I got a job in publishing and was able to see how the process really worked. It was in publishing that I found my passion. Interestingly, my passion wasn’t writing, it was books. I wanted to work to bring books into the world. And while I love writing now, I’d say I love editing and marketing just as much. I just love bringing books into the world. But it’s true I had to “discover” that passion.

So what do we do when we don’t know what we want to do with our lives? Well, here are a few suggestions:

    1. Date a few ambitions until you find the right one. What I mean by this is to approach finding your passions the same way, well, you find your passion! Date around. Apply for an internship in a field that might interest you. Try switching departments in the company you work for. Ask somebody out for coffee who works in a field you’re curious about. Just date around.

    2. Attach yourself to a movement. If you can’t start a movement, attach yourself to one. Get involved in a political campaign. Intern for a cause you are passionate about. Find a person you want to be like and ask them if you can be their intern for a season (unfortunately, all the slots in our office are taken or I’d have an application right here for you to download because our readers rock!). The point is to find people who are doing something you want to do and join them. You don’t have to recreate the effort at this point. It’s out there.

    3. Be patient. And I mean this. Don’t lose hope. I really believe in you, not because of you (chances are we haven’t met) but because you were made by the God who made Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa and Steve Jobs. The same storyteller who wrote with your heros is writing with you. Not knowing what you want to do is tough, but it’s also a season of life, and it’s important. Many lose themselves during this season and settle. Please don’t. Just keep dating and attaching yourself to causes and taking chances. You’ll find your passion, just have patience.

    4. Understand there are likely many “right” paths for you. The question of what you want to do with your life is not a moral decision, most likely. It’s more like choosing paint for a house or a mate. Certainly there can be wrong decisions in all those areas (maybe not paint, but I’m not an interior designer) but mostly it’s about personal taste and understanding your skill set. Let’s not make this a “what does God want from me” kind of decision. God’s most likely looking back at you asking the same question. What’s in your heart, what would most light you up, what would make you most satisfied and fulfilled at the end of the day? Those aren’t moral questions, those are intimate, soul questions between you and God. If what you want is good, then what God wants is likely what you want.

I’m always grateful when a person raises their hands and asks what they should do if they don’t know what to do. I’m grateful because it just seems like yesterday that that was me. And God gave me a life I sincerely love. And He allows me to wake every morning and do what I love. Now, I want to help others find that passion, too. It’s out there. Don’t give up. Keep moving forward in all directions till you find the highway that goes to the right horizon.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.