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onesecondregrets's avatar

What is the best way to decide what you want to do with your life?

Asked by onesecondregrets (2578 points ) February 4th, 2009

In my future I want happiness and I want money.
I want to wake up every morning and not dread generally what my day has to offer.
Yet I want to go home at night, knowing I can splurge on a little something here this week, a little something there.
I want to live with minimal to no debt.
I want to not live from paycheck to paycheck, as it is now for my mother and I.

I don’t want to make a mistake in the route I’m supposed to take to achieve this and I am deathly afraid and worry about my future constantly.
I know what makes me happy: art, people, music, interacting, creativity, writing.
I’m in college right now and started out as undeclared, switched to graphic design but something about graphic design just takes the fun out of the “art” in it.
I wanted that to be it, that to be my legitimate career that would bring this happiness+money thing but its not.

Now I don’t know what career will be.
There has never been a time in my life that my family and I have not been struggling financially. I just want to achieve financial security independently and even moreso for my family in the future when I get married, and have children because of knowing what it’s like versus what it could be like.

What in the hell is the best way to not be a failure and be happy like that?
Throw any advice, suggestions out there.
I’m just all ears.

And boy was that a yummy tangent!

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19 Answers

damien's avatar

The best way to decide is not to decide, IMO. See where things take you and be open to opportunity. Don’t weigh yourself down with preconceptions about where you should be.

dynamicduo's avatar

You can have financial security even without a college degree job, though I will admit it’s easier with the degree to get a higher paying job nowadays. All it really takes is working hard and saving your money. Taking a financial class at a young age is a great thing to do because you learn how to manage your money, how to make and stick with a budget, the powers of investing and compound interest (yes, the banks are all up and scattered around now, but investing for your future retirement, fueled by your own money, will likely be the smartest thing to do), how credit cards work and how not to get burned by them, etc.

You mention how your field of study is becoming less fun. Well, I hate to break it to you, but many jobs are not terribly fun. That’s why it’s called Work and not Fun Time For Money! However, there are people who are lucky or determined enough to find a job that they truly love to do. You just need to find your passion. And that’s what’s hard to do. Sometimes we don’t know our passion until we are older. Sometimes you just have to work at something you may enjoy but don’t love, until you become secure enough that you can start exploring other avenues of employment.

Emdean1's avatar

You have to put money in to make money. With graffic design try to work on webpages that people want to see/use and the money will come. Good luck.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Steve Pavlina has an interesting take on this.

Good luck!

I’ve always known what I’ve wanted, it’s the “I’m a coward about putting myself out there to get it” that has tripped me up.

peyton_farquhar's avatar

First, if I may make two suggestions:
1. “I don’t want to make a mistake in the route I’m supposed to take to achive this”
Ok. Stop there. If you think that it’s possible to go through life making only the right (and by right, I mean most profitable or most beneficial) decisions, then you’re setting yourself up for a real letdown. You will make mistakes. Many will be expensive ones. However, it will only prove to be a waste of your time if you do not learn from those mistakes.

2.“and I am deathly afraid and worry about my future constantly.”
Here’s another thing. There will be times in your future where you will have no control over the forces at play. Things will happen that you won’t be able to prepare for. Life is full of uncertainties and your second mistake would be to think that you can plan every detail of life ahead of time and somehow avoid the curveballs.

With that said, the best thing for you to be doing right now is to explore your options. If graphic design isn’t cutting it for you, then take classes in other professional fields that interest you. Focus less on finding what you forsee as a lucrative career as on finding something that you sincerely enjoy doing, since it’s pointless to worry about the future anyway.

On a parting note, you might find this book useful in helping you manage your personal funds, since money seems to be your biggest current concern.

marinelife's avatar

peyton_farquuhar is spot on. You need to relax. You are not perfect. No one is. You will make mistakes. It’s how you handle them, learn from them, and don’t let the fact that you made them overwhelm you that will determine happiness.

Also, be very clear. Happiness or even contentment (which is really what sustained happiness is) are not equivalent with having enough money.

I understand having to struggle financially and wanting security, but attaining financial security will not make you happy.

Strive for balance in your life. Work on being happy now, not in some future time, when you achieve your goals.

Take care.

kevbo's avatar

This is a future version of you talking. Pay attention.

1. I’m rereading this book and these things struck me:

a. There are more artistic people than artistic jobs (in 1990 by a factor of seven).
b. More often, an artistic person is an appreciator (e.g. critic, reviewer, appraiser, etc.) rather than a creator.
c. Artistic people get disgruntled because of the perceived or real lack of job opportunities and because they have sensitivities to the bad aesthetics of the world around them. This sensitivity is a strength and a weakness. Try not to be disgruntled. Identify your sensitivities (colors, words, etc) and look for opportunities to turn your sensitivities into assets for someone else. (What kinds of ugliness distress you the most?) You may also see problems where others don’t or are constantly looking to improve things.
d. One such asset is divergent thinking, the ability to come up with multiple answers to questions that have no right answer.

Another inspiring book.

2. Learn about the creative process. Learn how to be creative and how to reliably tap into your creativity. Do it now, and keep at it so that you get really good. This will serve you no matter how your “career” takes shape. A couple of book recommendations: 1 2.

3. Make a list of what you think you want to do and start trying them one at a time. Graphic design doesn’t melt your butter? What’s next on the list? Keep moving! Keep trying! (But make sure you’re also on track to graduate. You’ll still have time to try after college.)

4. If you don’t define your path, someone will define it for you. This isn’t always bad, but it’s true.

5. I didn’t define my path, because I’ve was too busy being disgruntled. I fell into a corporate communications job that paid well and allowed me to use my creativity for corporate ends. It also allowed me to deal with horrible people on a daily basis. What ended up happening is that I found creative outlets by volunteering for theater and dance productions, which gave me an “art for art’s sake” creative outlet and allowed me to interact with much nicer people. So, that’s an example of how it can all work out even if you don’t try very hard. So don’t worry so much. Also, always keep a creative touchstone in your life whether it’s journaling or going to open mic poetry readings. Do more if you can, but do no less.

5a. Volunteer some of your time and donate a portion of what you have. Always. It will pay you back in many ways, including diminishing your worries.

6. This book is an excellent foundation for managing a budget. Using that book, I lived on $1,000 a month (take home) for a year, and I saved $1,000 in the first three or four months and bought a used car and a used motorcycle. If I had stayed with it, I’d have a lot in the bank right now and still be living happy. Also, pay attention to this guy. See if you can apply any of his ideas to your life.

7. I’ve never been wealthy, (although I had a comfortable childhood and adolescence, and I’ve lived comfortably enough for the past 8 years). I did have a girlfriend tell me, though, that (to her) I had an uncanny knack for attracting money, opportunities, or things of value. Her perception was that all I had to do was open my hand. On a related note: a couple of years ago, I made a resolution to be open to and gracious about receiving gifts from others. At the time, I meant things like compliments, but I’ve ended up receiving a great deal more. Make room in your mind for opportunities and put out a welcome mat. Write down the things you’d like to have and just review that list every so often. Opportunities will pop up.

8. Make a goal of changing your mindset about money. This will be hard and require work on your part because of your upbringing. Learn how the flow of money works and how to put yourself in that flow. It’s not rocket science, but if you’re like me, it would probably be easier if it was rocket science because at least that’s interesting. Recognize that if you maintain a “poverty mentality” you will have more trouble achieving wealth to your satisfaction.

9. “This above all: to thine own self be true.”—Less poetically, you cannot make mistakes if you are listening to your gut. The trick is to block out voices that aren’t yours (in my case, my mom’s) and have a clear enough mind to hear what your gut is telling you. And, you have to have the courage to act. Sincerity and risk.

10. Based on my experience, I bet that if put out a 10% effort on these ideas you’ll see results.

GAMBIT's avatar

Plan a little. Live a lot. Make no enemies. Treat everyone equal.Live simply. Count your friends on one hand. Only have one true love. Great men and women have used these simple steps for centuries to find happiness.

madcapper's avatar

put a bunch of careers that are fun and make money, pro athlete, movie star, oil tycoon, popular musician, astronaut, etc, on a dart board and see that you hit…

sdeutsch's avatar

I agree with pretty much everything @kevbo said, but I can’t stress enough the importance of part 5a. Especially for someone in the arts, volunteering your talents is a great way to get your name out there, get recognition for your skills, and make contacts with people who, while they’re getting your services for free now, might end up paying for them for a bigger or more long-term project in the future.

It’s also a great way to do what makes you happy, even if that’s not how you’re earning a living right now. Try out several of the things that you enjoy by volunteering, and if you’re open to it, one or more of them will present itself as a direction you could take your career.

lifeflame's avatar

I can only speak really from personal experience.

First of all, know that if you are an artistic person, no one can ever stop you from being creative. Creativity is a state of mind. Even if you are working in an office cubicle, you can find ways to be creative. I spent a year sketching sleepy people on my long commutes, and read more books that year then whatever.

Second of all, figure out what you are willing to compromise on, and what you aren’t. I’m lucky that I love teaching, so that keeps me financially self-sufficient. However, I’m wary of the fact that I want to make sure that I have time to create theatre, so instead of teaching full time at a school, I tutor part time. So I think it’s important to find a way to be self-sufficient in a way that you do like. I would not, for example, make commerical theatre because that’s not how I want to make art. But I can tap into my love of writing and literature through teaching.

In any case you have to find your own balance. It may be a simple day job that has regular hours; it may be that you set yourself a goal to work at a tough, really well paid job for six months and then take the other six months off to create.

Finally, if you are clear about what you want, people around you will start getting excited and opportunities will open up. It’s really important to be generous and honest with your passion. I decided that I would work at all these productions for next to nothing, partly to learn, partly to network, and by the time it came for me to do my own theatre piece in the community, I had all this support. Starting up is always hard, and it’s natural to have a lot of fear. That’s ok. But stick close to what you love doing—start small—it doesn’t have to be big; and that small thing will transform how you see everything around you.

Incidentally, if you surf fluther, this question seems to pop up in various forms. Here’s one I dug up…
http://www.fluther.com/disc/17431/should-i-do-mediocre-work-for-money/

hitomi's avatar

My mother gave some great advice to my brother and I when we were growing up….“Find what you love, find a way to make money doing it, and get the F*ck out of my house.” – and before people think she’s a horrible woman…we are both still at home because we just graduated from college and law school and are job hunting for the time being.

The next piece of advice is to have no regrets. If you go through life being afraid that you’re making a wrong decision than you might miss the right thing. Now…different people need different things from life. For instance, my brother is a lawyer who is trying to get work in the PD’s Office (once the hiring freeze is off) and I have just gotten home from a 6 month jaunt in London where I moved immediately after graduating from college because it seemed like a good idea at the time (which it was btw) and now I’m trying to get any job I can to pay off my debts before I go off in search of something new…whether it be my true “calling” in life or some other adventure.

The most important thing is to know who you are and then make decisions based on that. If something doesn’t go as planned you just need to take it and accept it and don’t regret it…some (see most) things happen for a reason and once something has happened you can’t do anything to change it…it’s a waste of energy to worry and fret and regret; move on and don’t let mistakes make you hesitate on future decisions.

o0's avatar

You are already on a set path, all you have to do is follow it. What I have learned most about life is that money won’t buy you friends, love, or the wind on your back.

YARNLADY's avatar

I suggest that you meet with an employment counselor or agent and take a general interest evaluation test. There are several online as well, but the personal evaluation is going to be more valuable. Combine that with an honest examination of your own likes and dislikes, and that will give you some direction.

An important thing to remember is to always remain flexible.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction truth from diction. You want a job that (A) provides a steady reliable income so you not only do not have to live hand to mouth but can actually live and enjoy things; (B) that is fun, exciting and not boring; (C) that you won’t have to slave away years to get into it; (C) something that can be secure and self-directed for retirement. What you have described is real estate investing. I cannot remember where the statistic was but more people in the top 5% of society has obtained wealth by real estate than anything else, and if done right can provide a steady stream of income for your retirement.

Most people are taught to go get a job, not to make money, to spend life trying to claw your way to the top. Many never think of real estate because they believe you have to have lots of money or a near perfect credit score. That is OK for those who just want a home and debt. The investor knows there are dozens of not more ways to get property with out a bank or cash of your own. You can get homes by liens, auctions, trade, even barter. Basically you can capitalize off someone else’s misfortune, which happens all the time. Someone losing their home to foreclosure and you hope it is never you another person IS going to get their hands on that property and usually cheaper than the original owner; so there is no feeling guilty needed.

Sometimes you would want to get it and sell it for a profit other times you want to hold on to it, lease it out. When you lease it out whoever has the lease is de factoly working for you! Because you can’t work on the docks like Mr. Smith, or in the school teaching like Ms. Jackson they do the work for you and give you part of the pay for the privilege of squatting on your property. If you got $200 profit off each of them that is $400 you got sleeping, shopping, attending church, taking a shower. That money comes if you are ill or well, on vacation or doing something else. Imagine $200 times even a dozen leasers? That amount is $2,400 you did not have to bust a bead of sweat for. THAT is how the top 5% make money, with leverage. Do not think of how to trade sweat for dollars but how to get dollars you do not have to sweat for.

Coloma's avatar

@kevbo

Excellent sharing, I parrot you 100%

I think this discussion is a wrap…there is nothing to be added to your beautiful and articulate ‘truths.’ ;-)

YARNLADY's avatar

Beware of the real estate ‘get rich’ attitude. I come from a real estate family, and I can tell you stories of people working hours on end with zero money coming in. Owning a rental property means you have to meet numerous zoning regulations and be prepared to go month and months with no tenants, and pay exorbitant repair bills when the tenants trash your place.

Keeping track of income and expenses, and filing taxes is practically a full time job by itself. You need to be able to budget your expenses over the long term, and have the ability to deal with an inconsistent income.

CMaz's avatar

“the best way to decide”

Don’t. Let life take its course. It is always changing. So will your decisions.

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