Figuring out if you’re on the right life path is one of those big, scary questions that it’s all too easy to put off for another day, or another year, and yet it’s vital for your own happiness and fulfillment. Here’s five simple steps to check now if you’re heading in the direction of your ideal life or need to reset your compass.
For six years I worked with my then partner, building a horse riding center. I was living the outdoor life, farming cows, pigs and chickens and caring for 20 horses. I’ve always loved animals and working outdoors, but there was a major problem for me.
I was miserable.
I thought I should have been happy. I was living in my dream house, surrounded by beautiful countryside, working with animals that I loved. Life should have been good. What could possibly be wrong?
When I took stock and asked myself some serious questions it all became clear.
I also love travelling and, prior to this I’d spent most weekends away from home, visiting with friends, hiking in nature, taking photographs or just partying. And I’d always dreamed of taking long holidays and working while travelling the world.
That all stopped.
When you care for that many animals you have to be there for them, constantly. I was up at 4.30am to feed them before going off to my day job. I never got a day off, and certainly no holidays.
I was never going to have the kind of life I’d dreamed of. I was trying to be happy living someone else’s ideal life, and that just doesn’t work.
Fast forward a few years and I’m building my own business. It’s completely internet based so I have the freedom to travel, work from anywhere in the world and take days off.
I’m so much happier because now I’m on my own life path. Here’s how to check if you’re on course for yours.
1. Revisit your childhood
Take a trip back to your early childhood, long before you learned about jobs and careers and started to pick up other people’s ideas about work and money.
What was it you loved to do, and what did you dream of doing? How did you like to spend your time?
How about your early teenage years? When you first got the freedom to start going out into the world on your own, what did you like to do? And what did you wish you could do if you were only allowed?
Write down everything you can remember. All the wild ideas and crazy dreams. Who told you that you couldn’t do it? What is that person doing with their life? Are they happy? Maybe you’re dreams weren’t so crazy after all.
There can be many clues about your ideal life path in the ideas you had before you became conditioned by school and society and learned the conventional wisdom of how life was supposed to work.
2. Phone a friend
Not literally. This is something better done by email, rather than in conversation, as you want to give people time to reflect and consider.
Send an email to the top 3 or 5 people who you think know you best. Simply ask them what they think:
- Your natural talents and strengths are.
- Your greatest passions are
- Your ideal career / job / business venture would be
Be sure to ask your friends to explain their answers – you can learn a lot about yourself from their insights, and most people will gladly take the time to help you like this.
3. Take a personality test
Get to know yourself better. A personality test, and here’s one of my favorites, will teach you about how you think, how you relate to other people, how you like to work, the type of work you’re likely to be good at, and what you should avoid.
You can save yourself a lot of time, and heartache, by deliberately avoiding things that might think you should be doing but aren’t good at or simply don’t enjoy, and instead focus on your strengths and what you love to do.
4. Know your values
What’s important to you? What really matters? What will you refuse to accept and what are you prepared to stand up for? What do you want your life to be about?
If you’re on a life path that doesn’t match your values, no matter how successful you might appear to the outside world, you won’t be happy, and eventually you’ll sabotage that success.
Know your values and make sure your path is aligned with those values. Here’s the most comprehensive list of values I’ve come across, from the great Steve Pavlina.
If you ever find yourself unhappy, unfulfilled, frustrated or angry with your life – look at your values. Are you living in alignment with your values? Chances are you’re off course.
5. Look at the end game
What sort of legacy do you want to leave? Not necessarily in terms of finances but, as you look back on your life, what do you want to see?
What have you achieved?
What have you created?
What have you enjoyed.
What contribution have you made? Has the world been a better place for you being in it? And what did that look like?
And what will people say about you when you’re gone? Friends, family, co-workers – what did they think of you?
You can’t live your life based on what other people think, or keeping other people happy, but there clues here. What would you like them to think?
People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
~ Thomas Merton
Remember – It’s YOUR life
What do YOU want your life to look like?
How do YOU want to spend your time?
Before you get too caught up in building a “successful” life, take the time to make sure it’s actually the life path that you want to follow. That’s an important distinction.
What you should do now
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