By Michelle Kennedy Hogan , She is a writer and the mother of 8 children living off the grid in Alaska, She is the author of 15 books and has been published in the New York Times, Salon.com, the Christian Science Monitor, Redbook, Family Circle and many other publications. Full Bio
Sometimes in life, we find ourselves at a dead end. Or a crossroads. Or on a path that seems to go nowhere. No matter what stage you are at in life, if you are unhappy with it, or unsure as to how to proceed, then you need to reevaluate.
When I was in high school, I remember thinking that I had to pick a career at which I would be happy for the next 50 or so years of my life. What a daunting task. How do you know what’s going to make you happy for the rest of your life, especially if you’re only 16 and you’re still getting a thrill out of watching “The Breakfast Club?”
You can’t know. You can’t know what’s going to make you happy even five years from now. But you can know what makes you happy now and if you’re current position — or school track — isn’t it, then you need to move on. When my oldest children were contemplating their college careers and job prospects, I often told them to just go and take classes or try things they thought might be interesting and if they didn’t like the class or workshop or whatever, then cross that off your list. Life is often about trying things and realizing what you don’t want to be when you “grow up.”
I spent a year substitute teaching in an effort to see if I wanted to become a public school teacher. I enjoyed that year immensely, but after talking with teachers and doing some of their job for a year, I realized that was a career that was not for me.
You can’t figure out the whole future.
Remember, you don’t know what’s coming next. Life is full of interesting twists and turns, but if we continually pursue things that we enjoy doing whether for a job or hobby, it will make the journey interesting and more fun. Maybe you enjoy making jewelry right now. Maybe you can sell it. In five years, you might be a successful jewelry designer or you might have moved on to another craft. It doesn’t matter. You have the experience of your jewelry design to fall back on and help you with other projects in the future.
Try to be comfortable with discomfort.
Sometimes life is uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t have enough money to do all of the things we want to do. If you have something you really want to pursue, then you must be able to live with some amount of discomfort in order to do that. For example, I want to mush sled dogs and run the Iditarod. In order to do that, I had to give up my neat, tidy suburban home and move my family to a cabin in Alaska. We don’t have running water or regular electricity and our cabin is much smaller than our old house, but we don’t mind the discomfort of those things because we live in a beautiful place and I get to pursue my dream.
Life is uncertain. Go with it.
Stuff happens. I thought I had it all. I had a great job and a great house in the woods. Then I got fired, lost my house and turned 40 all in the same week. Then I found out I was pregnant. Quite the week. I laid on the couch for a couple of days, depressed, but then we got it together, made a plan and moved to Alaska. Take uncertainty and turn it on its head. Every bad thing is an opportunity to make something good happen.
Overcome distractions. Stop procrastinating.
You’re not getting younger. Sorry, but it’s true. If you don’t start taking the time to pursue your dreams, you might find yourself at the end of your life with nothing to show for it but a lot of Facebook posts and a bunch of TV shows you just had to watch. If you are serious about pursuing a dream — whether it’s designing jewelry, professional skateboarding or being a rich and famous computer guru, you better get on it. Take those first steps. Turn off your Facebook notifications and get working. You won’t get anywhere merely thinking about how great you could be.
Ask yourself questions.
Take some time for yourself. Ask yourself big questions. And small ones. Learn about yourself. Meditate. Write down the things that interest you and things you could see yourself doing if time and money were no object. Dream big. Quiet your mind and really imagine yourself doing those things.
Volunteer or shadow someone.
If there is a job or hobby you are interested in — from grooming dogs to being a zookeeper — volunteer or job shadow and see if it’s an occupation you really want to do. All the dreaming in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t go and get your hands dirty. Sometimes, we think we want to do something and then once we try it, we realize it might not be the kind of work we like after all. Or it might be more involved than we realized. It’s important to get hands-on experience and do a lot of reading by those with first-hand experience before we give up our current life to pursue a dream.
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If you need to move or go to school to pursue your new dream, it might be pertinent to get a job doing something — anything — and save up the money to allow you to do it. I worked for many years to build my writing and editing portfolio and I now I can write and edit articles from my wee little cabin, get paid, and use the money to pay for the equipment and food I need to run my dogsled team. Would I love to be able to make money just from running dogs? Sure. But it’s not possible right now while I’m building and training my team. I don’t have a reputation in dog mushing yet, but I do have a reputation in writing. So I do one job I love to pay for the other.
Answer the door.
Opportunity may be knocking but if you don’t answer the door, how can you take advantage of it? You must take opportunities when they are presented to you. Sometimes it’s not the right time, but it doesn’t matter. Opportunities happen when they happen. Answer the door or that opportunity might walk on by and knock on someone else’s door.
The most important thing to remember when trying to figure out what do with your life is that no action is an action in and of itself. You must make decisions and try things — even if you end up hating them or wanting to do something else. At the end of your life, you won’t regret trying things and failing, but you will regret not ever trying at all.
Close that laptop and go get your life.