I couldn’t help but let my eyes glaze over as my teacher waved his hand in the air despairingly, echoing the question, “Who are you?”. No one seemed to get it. We were a bunch of 16 year olds who had clearly never given much thought to this question.
It’s a lesson I will never forget and will always be grateful for. At this time in our lives, when we are paving the way for our careers, and making life choices that will shape our future, we are forced to consider what we want, yet seldom encouraged to think about who we are in the process.
More often than not, our life choices are directed by what we feel others expect of us than they are by our own motivations. But at what point do we stop giving precedent to what we think we should do, and ask ourselves where our own personal meaning and purpose lies? Because when the going gets tough, your drive has to come from a place of knowing what you want and why, and not from clawing on to meet what might be unrealistic expectations that are placed on us.
But so many of us struggle to understand what we really want, so where do we begin? First, there are two key ingredients. Time and introspection. You’re not going to wake up from a dream and suddenly realise what you need to do to find fulfilment. But you can rely on a steady process of learning more about yourself day by day, and a small set of questions to help with some direction.
Ultimately, there are three questions we need to ask ourselves.
- What do I enjoy?
- What am I good at?
- What can I get paid to do?
The first question is the most important, so if you are going to ask yourself just one question persistently, choose this one. You can always learn new skills and you will always find what you need to survive, but it’s miserable to live a life you don’t enjoy.
I have spent the past 10 months seriously thinking about the direction I want my life to take, and with this question, I have built a much clearer picture of what really matters to me. I love bringing great ideas to life. I love exploring new places and meeting new people. Yoga, family and friends are three things I can’t live without. So, I know these are things I need to make more space for in my life.
At the end of the day, if you don’t know what you want, ask yourself “what makes me happy?” and roll with that. We’re young and we’re free. If anyone questions your move, it’s probably just because they wish they were doing it, too! So be brave. Follow your heart and trust that life will take you where you want to be.