COLUMN: The right question is the key

I can recall during my later years of high school and throughout my college years continually searching for God’s will for my life.  I think what I was really searching for was a career choice that would bring me fulfillment, peace, and meet my financial needs.  I am not sure how much I was really seeking God’s desires versus my personal comfort.  Furthermore, I can assure you that I was seeking to avoid a mistake and a bad situation.  

As I have experienced more of life, been exposed to more things, and just gained some wisdom over the years, my perspective on education, careers, the job market, and life in general have changed quite a lot.  I currently provide personal coaching services to clients as part of my current business offering, and one thing I have realized is that people of all stages of life still wrestle with the question of knowing what to do with their life.  Young people are dealing with this question as they seek further education and their first step into the working world.  Mid-life workers struggle with knowing whether to make a job change or not.  Retirees are seeking how to be fulfilled in those post-career years.

Here are a few thoughts that I hope will help guide you in this area whether you are dealing with such an issue or just helping someone else.

  • Don’t rush and make a hasty decision that you can’t adjust.  I declared a major in accounting at college orientation and pushed through in four years. I went to work, passed the CPA exam, and then was hit by the hard reality of asking myself “what have I done”.   I am becoming a fan of a “gap” year either after high school or toward the end college (if college was an initial choice) before deciding on a job.  The “gap” year is not a year of doing nothing, but rather a year to serve, work, explore, and ask questions to help make future decisions.  The same holds true for those already in the workforce.  Talk to others, get wise counsel, and ask questions to better understand options.
  • Focus first on purpose, identity, and lifestyle and not a career/job.  When we start by asking questions related to purpose and who we want to become, we are better equipped to make educational decisions and job choices for the long-term.  This progression holds true for those seeking to enter the workforce, those seeking a change within the workforce, or those exiting the workforce and seeking their next purpose in life.
  • Ask questions related to talents, passions, and opportunities.  Oftentimes, where these three key areas intersect will direct us to specific areas to explore and consider.  Regardless of stage in life, you may need to try a few things to fully understand your talents and passions.  I don’t know if we can really find our passion without trying a variety of things.  Passion oftentimes will find us at different stages of life.  I have also become more a fan of the interdisciplinary studies degree for many college students.  This degree provides a broad spectrum of experiences and educational opportunities across several educational disciplines.  
  • Worry less about where you start and focus more on how you will develop and grow.  We should never stop asking questions, learning, and growing in life.  This statement holds true for any job we take.  We need to understand the growth and development opportunities within an organization and at various stages of a career.  When you stop growing, you stop living.  
  • Later in life, you will need to ask yourself what you are really seeking.  Are you seeking success or significance?  Are you seeking to make more money or make a bigger difference?  You need to ask some hard questions as you move toward those later years and into “retirement”.  What’s your plan?  I’m not a fan of shutting down and serving self.  I am a fan of redirecting to focus on impact!  

The key is to ask the right questions.  In fact, the right question is oftentimes more important than finding an answer.  Whether you are contemplating what to do at this next step in your life or providing guidance to someone wrestling with that issue, let’s slow down and ask some questions before making big decisions.  Asking the right question might just be the one thing that changes your life for the better!